A Paranoid Minister of Roads and Highways Minister, Kwasi Amoako Atta has been put on the spit after he illegally ordered road tolls to be scrapped even though the Ghanaian Parliament had not ratified the proposal contained in the 2022 budget statement as read by the Finance Minister.
The overzealous minister, who is incidentally a close relative of President Akufo Addo has been gripped with fear and is frantically reversing his bravado order after members of parliament, including the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin descended on him to threaten him with contempt of Parliament for carrying out a statutory policy without waiting for parliamentary ratification.
Shortly, after the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta delivered his budget statement in Parliament, the Roads Minister has organized pomp and pageantry to some toll booths in Accra, ordering them to immediately cease collection of toll.
However, because Ghana is a democratic state with relatively autonomous arms of government when the executive arm proposes policies in the national budget, it first needs parliamentary endorsement before any of them can be implemented.
Earlier, the peeved Speaker of Parliament chided the recalcitrant roads minister and warned the public that the minister’s order for the tolls to cease immediately was an empty boast that must be ignored with alacrity until Parliament passes the budget statement.
In Parliament on Thursday, the Speaker joined MPs, especially from the Minority side to point out that Amoako Atta acted ultra vires when he gave the directive without parliamentary approval.
“I want to clearly direct that what the Minister has released is complete Brutum Fulmen, it means it is an empty boast, it has no effect and therefore I call on him to honourably withdraw that directive. Failure to do so will be a serious breach of the directive of the speaker and that would amount to contempt of parliament,” the Speaker charged.
“I think that it is proper for us to direct the minister, a member of this house, in fact, a senior member of this house, I think that he might have acted wrongly and therefore I call on him to reverse this decision,” the Speaker ruled.
Amoako-Atta who is also a Member of Parliament for Atiwa West, on Wednesday, November 17 directed the cessation of collection of tolls on public roads and bridges effective Thursday, November 18.
A press release issued a few hours after the announcement by the Minister of Finance said the directive will take effect from 12:00 am Thursday.
“Motorists are kindly advised to approach the locations with caution and observe all safety measures that will be put in place,” the press release said.
However, Hon. Bagbin points out, “These are policy proposals that the Minister of Finance has presented to the House. Until they are approved nobody has the authority to start implementing something that doesn’t exist. Does [the road minister’s order] amount to a disrespect of the House? That is where I may differ.
“The Minister of Roads and Highways, because this is not a court of law, might have misunderstood or misapplied the law and so it is for us to draw his attention and tell him that you have no such authority.”
After the reprimand from Parliament, a confused Roads Minister today, November 19, 2021, issued a statement claiming that his earlier statement ordering the stoppage of the road tolls was not as it is being interpreted by the public.
In one of the vaguest press statements ever, the Roads Minister issued a new statement saying: “The Ministry wishes to assure that the action taken was to suspend the operationalization of the collection of the tolls and not to suspend the law [the law that operationalized road toll collection].”