Bid to censure Ghana’s finance minister fails in parliament


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ACCRA — A bid to censure Ghana’s embattled finance minister Ken Ofori-Atta failed on Thursday when ruling party members walked out of parliament, depriving the opposition of the two-thirds majority it required to pass the motion.

Members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Ghana’s main opposition party, accuse Ofori-Atta of illegally using the government’s consolidated fund to finance a national cathedral project.

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They also accuse him of deliberately misreporting budget deficits to parliament, and of maintaining conflicting ties to commercial banks that allowed him to benefit from the country’s heavy debt burden.

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During censorship hearings last month, Ofori-Atta said he was “truly sorry” for the country’s economic hardship but denied accusations of wrongdoing.

The censorship motion requires a two-thirds majority in Ghana’s hung parliament to pass.

“The vote is accordingly lost,” parliament speaker Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin said after the vote.

By staging a dramatic walk-out at the end of the five hour session, ruling party lawmakers made securing such a majority impossible, even in the event of a secret ballot.

A ruling coalition of MPs in October suspended demands for Ofori-Atta to be removed from office over the allegations, saying they wanted the minister to oversee negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a support package.

The minister has been heavily criticized among the general public for his handling of what has become Ghana’s worst economic crisis in a generation. Calls for his resignation have been consistent features of recent protests.

Ofori-Atta is leading negotiations with the IMF for a relief package of up to $3 billion. He is also the driving force behind a recently announced domestic debt restructuring scheme that spurred credit ratings downgrades. (Reporting by Cooper Inveen and Christian Akorlie; Editing by Bate Felix and Josie Kao)


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