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Pres. Akufo-Addo signs E-levy bill into law despite Supreme Court Suit

The President, yesterday, surprised many Ghanaians and assented to the Electronic Transaction Levy (E-levy) bill into law two days after it was passed by a one-sided parliament under controversial circumstances after a Minority walkout and subsequently rushed to the Supreme Court.

Nana Akufo-Addo’s action, effectively paves the way for the implementation of the levy, although three members of the Minority NDC in Parliament, have challenged the passage of the levy, insisting that the Majority NPP side, did not have the numbers to pass the bill after its second reading.

Many had thought that the suit and stay of execution filed by the Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa of North Tongu and Mahama Ayariga of Bawku, was going to stop President Akufo-Addo, from assenting the bill into law, but it did not, as the lawyer and self-acclaimed apostle of rule of law, failed to live up to his adulations, including having once stopped the late Jerry John Rawlings’ government from passing the Value Added Tax (VAT) into law in 1995 with the “Kume Preko” protest.

Hours before a picture of President Akufo-Addo signing the bill into law on a dinner table emerged yesterday with a glass full of wine, eight Members of Parliament (MP) on the side of the Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) heavily descended on the Clerk of Parliament, Cyril Nsiah for recording them absent during Tuesday’s proceedings that saw the passage of the controversial E-Levy.

They were Abdul-Latif Dan (Ablekuma Central), Abdul-Salam Adams (New Edubiase), Amankwa Nicholas (Amenfi East), Avoka Cletus Apul (Zebilla), Boateng Joseph Appiah (Afram Plains South), Ofosu-Adjare Elizabeth (Techiman North), Quayson James Gyakye (Assin North) Safo Sarah Adwoa (Dome/Kwabenya) Sukparu and Adam Mohammed (Sissala West).

Ofori-Atta hints of plans to review E-Levy to ensure compliance
The Minority side, was also not happy about the inability of the Clerk to capture their walkout from the chamber on the day, saying he was being partisan with the Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, cautioning him against any display of political affiliation.

The Asawase MP noted that “it is true that people may have their party affiliation but what we expected from them are fairness and accurate reporting.”

In his view, marking the Minority MPs absent was a calculated attempt by the clerk to court public disaffection for the Minority side “and that purpose, unfortunately, has been achieved out there.”

Interestingly, the bedridden Minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs and MP for Ahanta West, Ebenezer Kojo Kum, who was incapacitated and brought to Parliament in an ambulance, and failed to enter the chamber of the House, was rather recorded as present.

Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu, said due to the misreporting of the said MPs being absent, their political fortunes will be on the line, adding there are already media reports that the said MPs were absent and their constituents will be betrayed in relation to their stance on E-Levy.

The political fortunes of my colleagues who have been mistakenly misreported as absent… We endangering even their lives to constituents who may feel betrayed by them for not standing with them in their objection to this matter (E-Levy). We want it published… and Mr Speaker in the world of social media which has become a toxic source of misinformation I fear for the life and political standing of my members who have been misreported as absent”.

But the Speaker intervened and asked for the said errors to be corrected. He further apologized to the MPs who were mistakenly captured as absent, while the Defense Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, defended the clerk of parliament, and warned the Minority against tagging the clerk as partisan.

The levy, which was amended from 1.75 percent to 1.5 percent on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, will be a tax on electronic transactions, which includes mobile-money payments.

The charge will apply to electronic transactions that are more than GH¢100 on a daily basis.

Critics of the law had warned that this new levy will negatively impact the Fintech space, as well as hurt low-income people and those outside the formal banking sector.

The levy has been the source of tension in Parliament since it was introduced in the 2022 budget.

The tensions culminated in a scuffle between lawmakers in Parliament in December 2021.

The government has, however, argued the levy would widen the tax net and that could raise an extra GH¢6.9 billion in 2022.

There are also concerns that the government may securitize proceeds from the e-levy to raise extra revenue.

The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, revealed on Wednesday March 30, that deductions will start in May this year.

He said that is the assurance he has been given by the Controller and Accountant General (CAGD) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), who will be the revenue collectors.

“We had some meetings with Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) and the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) and they have said right at the beginning of May they should be able to put their system together,” he told TV3’s Roland Walker in Parliament after President Nana Akufo-Addo delivered the State of the Nation Address.

During the debate on the policy in Parliament on Tuesday, Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, said the poor had been exempted from paying due to the less than 100 cedis threshold.

He also denied claims that the E-levy will kill the Mobile Money (MoMo) industry. He noted that this same argument was made when the Communication Service Tax (CST) was introduced to the effect that it was going to kill the telecom industry.

The Ofoase Ayirebi lawmaker, said contrary to the fears, the telecom industry has grown even with the tax.

He said “Mr Speaker, there is a claim that has been made that it will kill the MoMo industry so don’t tax MoMo.

“This same claim was made when the Communications Service Tax was being introduced, it has never killed the industry. In fact the industry has grown.

“Mr Speaker, finally, the poor have been taken out of it with the threshold implemented so that those who transfer less than 100 cedis a day will not pay this levy.”

Since the passage of the bill, there are reports that, massive withdrawals have hit the various mobile money vending outlets in the Ashanti Region.

Some mobile money vendors who spoke to Class News’ Ashanti regional correspondent, Elisha Adarkwah, on Wednesday, 30 March 2022, said the withdrawals started on Tuesday, right after parliament passed the e-levy bill.

According to the vendors, the majority of those who have come to transact business with them are making withdrawals

Some people admitted to Elisha Adarkwah that they went to withdraw their money solely because of the passage of the bill. Some customers, Elisha Adarkwah reported, cashed out as much as GHS5,000 from their e-wallets.

The vendors have, thus, called on the government to exempt mobile money transactions from the e-levy.

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