The Majority and Minority caucuses in Parliament have expressed varied opinions on the validity of a statement issued by the Roads and Highways Minister, Kwasi Amoako-Attah.
The Minister, in a statement issued on November 17 directed that payment of road tolls on public roads in the country, should cease with effect from 12:00am on Thursday November, 18, 2021.
The directive was pursuant to an announcement by Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta during the presentation of the 2022 budget that government proposes to scrap road tolls.
“Government has abolished all tolls on public roads and bridges. This takes effect immediately the Budget is approved,” he said.
However, in less than 12 hours, the Roads and Highways Minister issued a statement directing the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) to ensure the halting of toll collections at the various toll booths across the country.
“Following the presentation of the 2022 Budget by the Hon. Minister of Finance on behalf of His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Ghana on Wednesday, November 17, 2021, the Ministry of Roads and Highways hereby directs the cessation of the collection of road and bridge tolls at all locations nationwide.
This directive takes effect from 12am on Thursday, November 18, 2021,” part of the statement read.
The said statement has generated a debate between both sides of the House.
The Minority is of the view that the Roads and Highways Minister has contravened the law which mandates the House to approve laws and levies before implementation.
The Minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu arguing on the floor of Parliament described the action of the Minister as undermining the authority of the Legislature.
“Mr. Speaker the Honorable Minister for Roads must be told that this action and conduct of his is in excess of his powers as Minister and an attempt to dilute the mandate and authority of this August House,” he said.
Reacting to the argument by the Minority, the Majority Leader Osei Kyei -Mensah-Bonsu noted that the Roads Minister’s directive was to save the violent confusions that had arisen at the various toll booths after the announcement by the Finance Minister.
“I agree with the Minority leader that we have not even started the debate on the policy let alone to vote on it so the matter has not been concluded. My understanding is that yesterday after the delivery of the budget, confusion arose at the various toll booths and to avoid further escalation of the confusion and chaos at the toll booths, the Minister in other to save the situation came with that directive. Mr. Speaker that really is what happened, the Minister wanted to save the situation,” he said.
The Speaker of the House after analyzing arguments from both sides of the House directed the Roads Minister to, with immediate effect, withdraw his statement announcing the cessation of road tolls.
But the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance, John Kumah speaking on Joy FM on Thursday, justified the Roads Minister directive.
“If you want to introduce or reduce the fees, you need parliamentary approval but if you are scrapping the toll, the Minister can do it,” Mr. Kumah said.
Ranking Member on Transport Committee in Parliament, Governs Kwame Agbodza in an interview on Top Story also argued that the unilateral decision by the Roads Minister is incongruous with the law.
He urged the Minister to withdraw the statement and do the needful by allowing Parliament to approve before implementation.
“The Finance Minister actually read out the intention of the government to remove the collection of road tolls on the roads but qualified it by saying after Parliament approves the budget, so how come the Minister in less than 24 hours of presenting the budget, which we haven’t even started to debate took a unilateral decision to break the law by deciding on his own that he can grant tax cancellation or waivers or suspension, it is totally wrong,” he argued.
Meanwhile, Deputy Majority Chief Whip and MP for Tolon, Habib Iddrisu in an interview with Evans Mensah on Top Story, although agreed that the Roads Minister erred in his action, opposed the Speaker’s order for the Roads Minister to reverse the directive.
He noted that the speaker should have referred the matter to the Roads Committee.
“Simply, what the Speaker ought to have done was that after the Minority Leader rose under order 42, was to say that since this is of public interest, I have referred this matter to the Committee on Roads and Transport to be able to report back to the house if actually it has happened,” he defended.
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