Gender Minister Blew Whopping Gh¢54.3 Million On Covid-19 Food

Cynthia Mamle Morrison Cynthia Mamle Morrison

The Minister of Finance, yesterday threw the country into a state of shock with claims that, the dry food packs and cooked meals shared in Accra and Kumasi, amid controversy that it was been distributed along partisan lines by the government to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during the three-week lockdown period, 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 GH¢54.3 million to enable them mitigate the impact of the pandemic. This was in addition to an amount of GH¢50.2 million transferred to the 400,000 most-vulnerable individuals under the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) Programme".

Ken Ofori-Atta, disclosed before Parliament yesterday, while presenting the mid-year budget review of 2020 financial year.

The delivery of the food in April, this year, came under heavy criticism amid concerns of its wholesomeness aside the mode of distribution.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Klottey Korley, Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, was under the government and the governing New Patriotic Party's intense bombardment for saying that food and other relief items were being distributed on partisan lines to households, head porters; kayayei etc.

A statement signed by the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Cynthia Mamle Morrison at the time, denied Dr Zanetor's observation, insisting on her ministry's impartiality in the distribution of food and other relief items to the kayayei, but it has emerged there is more to COVID-19 food than just its quality.

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 mealswere 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 Protectionto 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.

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.

During this period, the government decided to provide food and water for the needy and vulnerable in the capital towns of these regions.These included the homeless, head porters, popularly known as "kayayei", and many others in deprived communities.

The Finance Minister told Parliament that, government through the Gender Ministry and NADMO, had also provided 1,827,581 and 917,142 cooked food packs to vulnerable persons within Accra and Kumasi respectively during the period.

He said: In collaboration with Faith-Based Organizations, Government also distributed dry food packages to about 470,000 families. Let me extend my deepest gratitude to the Faith-based organizations for this unique partnership with Government and may the Lord count this as righteousness for the FBOs and Government.

He added that, in response to the plight of an estimated 3,212 Ghanaians stranded abroad due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, the government has also rolled out Operation Return Home Programme.

He said as at end-June 2020, a total of 2,250 individuals had been evacuated with Government bearing the full cost of flight and mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine services for 1,116 persons, most of whom are students.

The Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, has tabled before Parliament a request from government for a supplementary budget of GHS11. 8 billion to support government's expenditure for the rest of the year 2020.

Mr Ofori-Atta, said the supplementary budget is to assist government to implement various initiatives to strengthen various sectors of the economy due to the revenue shortfalls and budget deficitcreated by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

"Mr. Speaker, this Mid-Year Fiscal Policy Review and its programmes draw us closer to our collective aspirations. Whilst this pandemic requires us to exceed the limits imposed by the FRA, Act, 982, we have had to make these major expenditures to protect lives and livelihoods of Ghanaians and sustain businesses. We, therefore, request a supplementary budget of GH¢11,896,477,566.00 to enable us to continue this extraordinary task", he requested.

According to the Minister, the country, has been hit with a double shock: a health pandemic and a global economic recession.

The situation he says has resulted in revenue shortfall of GH¢13.6 billion and unanticipated, but necessary expenditures of approximately GH¢11.7 billion.

This, therefore, leaves the country with a projected fiscal deficit of 11.4percent of GDP, a figure which is above the 5percent limit as stated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2018 (Act 982).

The Minister, also explained that "the overall fiscal deficit will increase from the programmed GHȼ18.9 billion to GHȼ30.2 billion, which will be 7.8 percent of revised GDP."

The minority in parliament, has described the Mid-Year Budget statement presented as a manifesto and not a review of the mid-year budget.

But reacting to the budget statement read on the floor of parliament, former Deputy Finance Minister, Cassiel Ato Forson, tagged the 2020 mid-year budget as a document filled with manifesto promises.

"The mid-y budget review is not for manifestos. It is for him to review the existing budgets, not for him to come and read to us a new budget, what he has done actually means that he has introduced manifesto promises into the official document," the MP for Ajumako Enyan Essiam said.

He urged Ghanaians to disregard the budget review presented by government because it's contains nothing.

"I'm surprised and I'm actually urging the ordinary Ghanaian to be mindful that this mid-year budget review brings about nothing," Ato Forson stated.