Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin on Friday questioned the sincerity of the Minority in Parliament for kicking against the government’s proposed tax for electronic transactions popularly known as E-Levy, accusing them of always changing the rules on the issue in a way that makes success more difficult.
He particularly derided the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, for bowing to pressure from hardline NDC members to abandon his earlier proposition for the government to reduce the rate from 1.75 to 1% in order to gain their support for the passage of the bill.
Responding to criticisms from the NDC MPs on the floor of Parliament, Mr. Afenyo-Markin said Mr. Iddrisu appeared to be too politically weak to defend his stance on the E-Levy and had allowed himself to be manipulated by his party to work against the government’s latest measure to tackle revenue shortfall
The NDC MP for Tamale South had suggested that the Finance Minister was usurping the powers of Parliament by running across the country to undertake sensitisation on the E-Levy at the time the E-Levy Bill was already in the bosom of Parliament.
“As far as we are concerned, a bill known as the Electronic Transfer Bill was introduced in this House and referred appropriately to the Finance Committee. My strong view is that even in the search and elucidation of views and inputs, it does not lie in the Minister, Hon Ken Ofori-Atta. It lies with our Finance Committee,” he asserted.
He continued, “What he ought to do under Article 106 is the explanatory memorandum which accompanies the bill, but [for him to] go around the country in a town-hall [meeting] is not his responsibility.”
“He is not the Parliament and he is not the Finance Committee of Parliament. There is a bill before this House [which is] appropriately referred to our Finance Committee. If there must be an engagement, the engagement must be the Finance Committee of Parliament.”
“This after thought or corrective measures of him…if we had taken through the certificate of urgency he gave it would he be consulting the public?” he quizzed.
The Minority Leader added, “Mr. Speaker, we should get it right. Our rules and the constitution impose authority and mandate in our Finance Committee, and not the Minister for Finance. We will not sit down for him to usurp our small power and authority.”
He again said the Majority was struggling to get the numbers to pass the E-Levy Bill, noting, “As to when you bring E-levy, as I have always assured you, we are ready for you. You are struggling and you won’t let Ghanaians know that you are struggling.”
“This is the first time the Majority walked out on their budget. You bring a bill, two months into it and revenue measure is not passed and then you come for withdrawal. You walk back on amendment because you are searching for numbers. That is not even how parliaments are run,” he intimated.
But in a quick rebuttal, the Deputy Majority Leader, who had stood in for the Leader of the House, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu in reading the Business Statement, scoffed at acting Mr. Iddrisu for allowing himself to be intimidated into submission by the hawks in the NDC.
“This is the same Minority that said the government should engage the people of Ghana. This is the same Minority Leader who said he agrees for 1%.”
“You were ready for 1% until your hardliners attacked you and you gave up. Your hardliners were all over your neck. You were ready for 1% and what did you do? You couldn’t stand on your feet; you ran away. You gave up. Even some of your backbenchers wanted to take your seat by calling for 1%.”
“Now when the Minister of Finance is engaging Ghanaian people he is again saying that we should not engage them; we shouldn’t explain it despite the propaganda around it.”
“Only yesterday, the Minority Leader’s party said they don’t like too much tax and said they would not introduce E-Levy but should they come to power they would introduce different forms of taxation,” he stated.
“Where do you stand? These consistent inconsistencies are unfair to the Minister of Finance. The submissions by the Minority Leader, with the greatest respect, cannot be fair to the Minister of Finance,” Mr. Afenyo-Markin submitted.
He explained that the Minister was not doing that on behalf of Parliament, and Mr. Ofori-Atta and his team were going rounds to educate Ghanaians on the government policy.
“He is saying two things – the roads are bad, and we want to fix the road and we know our revenue sources are not sufficient. We have identified some areas that are hanging fruits and we want to tap into, and that is why we are introducing E-Levy,” he posited.
The Deputy Majority Leader said, “We took a cue from what you said and that the reasons for the amendment are as a result of the listening posture of the government.”
“The contention that the Finance Minister is usurping the powers of Parliament is never true. He is explaining government policy. He is telling Ghanaians that the E-Levy will be used for road works, and also to support the entrepreneurial drive of our young graduates.”
“That is what the Minister of Finance is telling Ghanaians. There was a lot of misunderstanding and confusion,” he said.
On the issue of whether the Minister will withdraw the current bill and replace it with an amended version, Afenyo-Markin indicated that both ways were the same.
“If you bring a bill and you are of the view that you should withdraw wholly and introduce a new bill, it is within your right. You, the one introducing it, can do that.”
“However, if you think you can only amend and proceed, the rules again allow us. So I don’t see how we got it wrong on that,” he intimated.
By Ernest Kofi Adu, Parliament House