Finance Minister justifies GH¢54 million spent on COVID-19 food

Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta, Finance Minister

Finance Minister, has justified the GH¢54 million expenditure on the three-week COVID-19 food as captured in his mid-year budget review presentation last week, arguing that every penny the Akufo-Addo government has expensed, was prudently done.

Ken Ofori-Atta, had last week Thursday, July 23, 2020, thrown the country into a state of shock with claims that, the dry food packs and cooked meals shared in the Greater Accra and Greater Kumasi regions, amid controversy, cost the state a colossal amount of GH¢54.3 million.

"Mr Speaker, the support to households, in terms of supply of dry food packs and hot cooked meals cost Government GHc54.3 million to enable them mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This was in addition to an amount of GHc50.2 million transferred to the 400,000 most-vulnerable individuals under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme", the Finance Minister said to Parliament.

The amount did not sit well with Ghanaians and many took to various platforms, especially social and traditional media to expressed their displeasure over the huge amount.

But a week on, the story has not changed with the Finance Minister "we estimated we'll need an amount of approximately 40 million cedis to provide hot meals to the vulnerable at GHc5 a pack during the lockdown period. However, out of the estimated amount, we spent some GHc12million on hot meals, including the cost of distribution".

However, in his concluding remarks to end the debate on the Supplementary Budget in Parliament today, Ofori Atta, gave the breakdown of the GHc54 million, arguing that every penny government has expensed, was prudently done.

He went on to add that "Government budgeted GHc40.3million for basic and uncooked food items. We spent GHc42.2million, this GHc12million spent on hot meals with the GHc42million spent on uncooked food items that gave the total of GHc54million as stated in the mid-year review."

The President, Nana Akufo-Addo on March 27, announced a partial lockdown in the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in Ghana, but lifted it after three weeks.

Many, including the Minority had questioned the GHc54 million asking for details, following the Minister's presentation.

The dry food packs and the cooked foods, were greeted with mixed feelings by many Ghanaians during the sharing in April. In the selected areas, including Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, where they distributed, some people openly rejected them amid protests that they were unwholesome for human consumption.

While the dry food was made up of a litre of vegetable oil, a tin of mackerel or sardines and a five-kilo bag of rice, the cooked meals were in takeaway packs made up of either jollof rice or rice and stew. Others got a ball of kenkey with fried fish plus pepper.

The recipients had their hopes raised by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to believe they were getting a sumptuous food but it turned out the opposite.

Many places, including East Legon in Accra, earmarked to receive them, could not get them at the time government was lifting the lockdown.

It is unclear, which companies supplied the dry foods or even prepared the cooked meals and whether or not they were selected through competitive process based on value for money.

Meanwhile, Parliament has approved GHc11.8billion supplementary budget.

Source: The Herald