The immediate-past Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who has once again been designated for the same position, Ken Ofori-Atta, has so far released at least GHS1.2 billion as part payment for COVID-19 relief covering the free electricity and water supplied to Ghanaians since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The free electricity and water is two of the many social interventions rolled out by government to cushion Ghanaians against the hardships imposed by COVID-19.
To ensure that many Ghanaians do not suffer disconnection because of their inability to settle their electricity bills in the midst of the pandemic, at least GHS1 billion has been released to the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG) as part payment for the free power it supplied to the public upon the instruction of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
In the same vein, the part payment made to the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL) for providing free water to the general public since the outbreak of COVID-19 is in the region of GHS180 million.
Finance Ministry sources indicate that the total amount budgeted by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning for the provision of free electricity and water is at least GHS1.8 billion
Deviation of GHS632 million
This means that the Finance Ministry has to cough up a balance of more than GHS632 million if the budgeted amount tallies with the final invoices to be raised by the two utility service provider.
However, in the event that the final bill from the two utility companies exceeds the over GHS1.8 billion budget, the government would have to look for the additional money to pay.
Massive decline in government revenue
Government is making all these expenditure despite a massive drop in revenues, including a significant decline of $1.6 billion in crude oil export receipts on the back of low prices.
As a result of the impact of COVID-19, the GHS47,253.95 million Ghana Revenue Authority GRA was tasked to collect was revised to GHS42,769.50 million in the mid-year budget review.
At the end of the year, GRA, with the support of Mr Ofori-Atta, implemented initiatives that resulted in the collection of GH₵45.3 billion (GH₵45,338.69 million), indicating that the original target was missed by over GH₵1.9 billion (GH₵1,915.26 million).
Despite the sharp decline in revenues, Mr Ofori-Atta continues to find the resources to help the country battle the pandemic.