Bid to censure Ghana’s finance minister fails in parliament
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.
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.
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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