Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Minister Designate for Finance, says tighter monitoring and control of the nation’s finances and fiscal policies would reduce leakages needed to protect the public purse.
“When I look at the current state of our country’s finances I suspect we need tighter monitoring and control,” Mr Ofori-Atta told the Appointments Committee of Parliament.
The 57-year- old Economist, Ivy League product and investment banker, was nominated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for the portfolio, and was being vetted at a public hearing of the Committee in Accra for the post.
The Appointments Committee interviewed the nominee largely on how he would protect the public purse amidst current challenges of high economic pressures, unpaid allowances to public workers, labour unrests, and slow economic performance, among others things.
The Minister Designate said the protection of the public purse was key to reboot the country’s economy, stressing to make the Ministry of Finance a place of light that efficiently manages the public purse.
Mr Ofori-Atta was confident that with better strategies and programmes, the country’s economy could do better, saying; “the country may seem broke but actually not broken and that there are ways in which the infrastructure base could be improved.”
On taxes, the Finance Minister Designate recalled that when taxes were reduced from 32% to 25% during the previous New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government under President John Agyekum Kufuor, the base broadened and more people were captured in the tax net.
“We saw a thousand-fold increase,’ the nominee said.
He assured the nation of putting in place a risk management scheme that would track all government businesses and address any outstanding issues that could lead to the payment of needless compensation and judgment debts.
Also, his outfit, when given the nod, would ensure that all the major sectors of the economy received the timely resource support in order to deliver on their programmes without interruption.
“One major focus for the Finance Ministry is to ensure that proper attention is given to all the sectors and empower them to discharge their full mandatory obligations,” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
Mr Ofori Atta, having co-founded and headed Databank, a financial investment bank, for many years, goes to the Ministry with a wealth of experience from the private sector.
He promised to adopt and implement programmes to enhance revenue generation and stop unnecessary expenditure.
He assured teachers and nurses of prompt payment of salaries and allowances, the delay of which has made these professions unattractive in the public sector.
The Minister Designate said he had settled the controversial GHȼ2 million debt allegedly owed Prudential Bank Limited by the NPP.
The bank in 2015 demanded in a letter to the NPP to pay a loan allegedly secured to finance its campaign but reportedly reneged on its repayment plan.
Mr Ofori-Atta, who was the chairman of the 2012 campaign finance team, after a leak in the letter, issued a statement and took responsibility and stated that the loan was purely a private transaction and the NPP had no hand in that deal.
He had said in that statement that: “I am personally liable for any obligation that arises from this transaction and not in any way the New Patriotic Party.”
At the vetting Mr Ofori-Atta answered a query to the effect that he had put closure to the prudential debt so that case was closed.
“It has been fully paid. It was in December,” he said.
However, it appears that the promise by President Akufo-Addo, then flagbearer of the NPP, in the last December election to retrieve monies lost to Bunko bank, DKM and others would not be an immediate priority of the Akufo-Addo Government.
Mr Ofori Atta said: “It’s not in our manifesto to pay God is Love and DKM. I know that there are certain processes going on which I’m privy to…and then I think we are also introducing some protection of deposits which will go structurally to change that problem.
“Ponzi schemes and schemes like that are as a result of when there is lack of legislation and also too many licences approved making it impossible for the regulatory authority to monitor and manage.
“The Central Bank will need to strengthen the supervisory unit but clearly there are too many licences out there,” he said.