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$100m oil cash is too much ‘to go’ on the blind side of Finance Minister – Ricketts-Hagan

Cape Coast South lawmaker Kweku George Ricketts-Hagan has said the laws manning petroleum funds in Ghana stipulate that the cash should be deposited into the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF), not any other.

He said although the Finance Minister may have been exonerated by 8-member committee after it was established that he did not instruct that the money should deposited into an offshore account, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta still has questions to answer because it should not have been done without his notice.

“$100million is too much of money to go on the blind side of the minister, that was wrong,” he said on the Key Points on TV3 Saturday November 19.

The 8-member committee that is investigating the Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta dropped two out of the seven charges against him.

This was after the Ghana National Petroleum Commission (GNPC) which was called upon by the committee to testify on Thursday did not say that the Finance Minister authorised payment of oil revenues into offshore accounts.

During proceedings on Friday November 18, Co-chair of the committee Dr Dominic Ayine said “…They also did not say anything to the effect that you gave the instructions with respect to that payment. On account of the evidence adduced which kind of contradicted the evidence that was led by the proponent of the motion, the committee has taken the view that you will not be called to deal with this matter.”

He added “…So in essence, there are now five grounds that you will have to deal with. Those are grounds 2, that is the unconstitutional withdrawals in relation to the national cathedral, then we have ground 5, 6 and 7 to deal with.”

Mr Ofori-Atta appeared before the committee on Friday November 18 to answer the charges against him.

In his initial submission, he told the committee that “I am certain Ghanaians will have amore balance view of what has led us here.”

The Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC) said that the decision to pay $100million oil revenue to safe haven rather than the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF), a fund that established under Section 2 of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act (PRMA) as the designated public fund at the Bank of Ghana to receive and disburse petroleum revenue due the Republic of Ghana being held offshore at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York as the Bank of Ghana Petroleum Holding Fund Account, was contrary to the law.

Vice Chair of PIAC Abdul Nasir Alfa Mohammed said this when he appeared before the 8-member ad hoc committee on Thursday November 17.

He said “We explored all the laws, in our opinion, that border around this issue and we still came to an independent opinion, which we stand by on any day, that those revenues ought to have formed part of the petroleum revenues of Ghana and ought to have been deposited in the Petroleum Holding Fund and not in any other account.

“So, for us, it was contrary to law for that money to have been deposited in any accounts, if at all.”

The GNPC officials who also appeared did not say the Finance Minister authorized this move.

The Minority had accused the government of inability to account for over $100 million of oil funds that accrued to the state relative to petroleum lifting in the first quarter of 2022.

Yapei Kusawgu lawmaker John Jinapor who is also a ranking member of the Mines and Energy Committee of Parliament, in a statement Thursday, 29 September 2022, said “The decision by the current NPP government to transfer revenues accruing from about 944,164 bbls of crude lifting in the Jubilee and TEN fields to a company established in a safe haven (outside Ghana) without parliamentary approval, amounts to a gross violation of the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2011 (Act 815) and Public Financial Management Act (Act 921)”.

“We have become aware that following the acquisition of a 7-per cent interest in the Occidental (Oxy) transaction in respect of the Jubilee and TEN fields by the government, ostensibly for GNPC in 2021, the Minister of Finance has clandestinely ceded the shares to an offshore company known as JOHL (a company set-up in the Cayman Islands) in a very surreptitious and opaque manner”, the statement said.

The minority said it is “very much alarmed” that contrary to requirements of the PRMA, revenues accruing from the nation’s oil fields “are not being paid into the Petroleum Holding Fund (PHF), which has been confirmed in the 2022 semi-annual report on petroleum receipts by the Public Interest and Accountability Committee (PIAC)”.

“As if this is not enough, the report further reveals that Capital Gains Tax was not assessed and collected by the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in the sale of the 7% interest by Anadarko in the Jubilee and TEN fields in 2021”.

“This NPP government is proving by the day, that the nation’s oil resources cannot be entrusted in their care because not long ago, the PIAC, under the chairmanship of Dr Steve Manteaw, accused them over their inability to account for about GHȼ2 billion of Ghana’s oil cash for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 fiscal years”.

Meanwhile Mr Ken Ofori-Atta will be appearing before the committee today Friday November 18 to respond to all the allegations against him.

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