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COVID-19 impact on business: 19 hard hit SOEs post GH¢ 1.55bn loss …govt offers them payroll support

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The government is to provide payroll support to eight State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) whose operations have been seriously affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and general fall in business.

The Minister of  Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, who disclosed this yesterday, did not identify them but said they were part of 19 SOEs who had been hard hit by the pandemic and projected to post losses up to GH¢1.55 billion for the year.

“More specifically, entities such as Metro-Mass Transport, the Intercity STC Company and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority recorded revenue declines of 62 per cent, 40 per cent and 71 per cent respectively between March and April of this year.”

“The situation has become so dire that the Ministry of Finance is currently finalising plans to provide payroll support to eight SOEs whose operations have been seriously disrupted by the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic,” he said.

Mr Ofori-Atta was speaking at the opening of the 2020 Annual Policy and Governance Forum organised by the State Interest and Governance Authority (SIGA) in Accra, yesterday.

The two-day event is on the theme “SIGA: One year on: achievements, challenges and prospects,” and would be focused on activities of the Authority since its inception in August last year.

SIGA replaced the then Divestiture Implementation Committee (DIC) and the State Enterprises Commission, to oversee state-owned businesses and transform them into profit making entities.

According to Mr Ofori-Atta, despite some efforts being made to achieve that goal, an assessment of the impact of the pandemic on 28 SOEs out of which 19 were found to be hard hit, had revealed that more needed to be done to keep them viable.

“These are truly challenging times, and added that emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring that our institutions are properly managed, as they will be critical for supporting our economic recovery and structural transformation,” he said.

Mr Ofori-Atta offered the support of his ministry to collaborate with SIGA to reposition state businesses to overcome the COVID-19 and improve their contributions to our post-COVID economic recovery.

He charged the SIGA to ensure that public corporations and regulatory bodies do not overstretch their autonomy to engage in activities that would harm the public purse or undermine the efficient use of state resources.

Accounting for his stewardship, the Director-General of SIGA, Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, said a corporate plan and strategic framework, were in their final stages of development to guide their operations.

 He said a framework had been designed to monitor key performance indicators of  underperformance contracts signed  with  SOEs,  whole engagement were ongoing to  develop a charter  to govern their statutory  relationships.

He said SIGA was pursuing the privatisation of 23 SOEs which was started under the divestiture programme to safeguard the interest of the government in the companies.

On challenges, he said, there was a high reluctance of some entities to subject themselves to SIGA’s oversight regime coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic challenges.

While assuring that efforts were ongoing to resolve them, he said the SIGA and its assigned entities had positive prospects to support the economic development of the country and would need the support of all, to leverage them.

BY JONATHAN DONKOR AND BENJAMIN ARCTON-TETTEY

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