COVID-19 expenditures: First Deputy Speaker dismisses Minority's call for probe
The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, has dismissed a private member's motion by the Minority for Parliament to constitute a bi-partisan committee to investigate the expenditure made by the government in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu; the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak; and the Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, filed the motion which sought to constitute a bi-partisan parliamentary committee chaired by a member of the Minority to probe COVID-19 expenditure.
The Private Member’s motion was captured in the order paper for Thursday, November 4, 2021.
It was advertised and admitted by the Speaker, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, a month ago.
When Dr Forson moved the motion on the floor of Parliament yesterday, it was seconded by Alhaji Muntaka.
However, the Deputy Majority Leader, Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, raised a preliminary objection against the motion which he said should not have been admitted by the Speaker.
In his view, the motion was not properly laid as it was not the duty of the House to set up a committee to probe public expenditures.
He said per Article 187 of the Constitution, any probe into COVID-19 expenditures was the duty of the Auditor-General.
In line with such due process, he said the A-G must be allowed to complete his work and report on such matters.
"When that report comes, which will be the property of Parliament, the PAC will have the opportunity to look at that report and if there is any matter to be considered subsequently, then the House can look in accord with Order 191 which is clear that the matter to be considered should be something that none of the select Committees has the mandate to look at.
The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Mensah, therefore, prayed the Speaker to rule on the acceptability of the motion.
Ruling on the preliminary objection raised, Mr Osei-Owusu said per Order 191, a bi-partisan committee was neither a select or standing committee.
He said per Order 191, the House might be called on by motion to appoint a special or ad hoc committee to investigate any matter of public importance and to consider any bill that did not come under the jurisdiction of any of the standing or select committees of Parliament.
"In my view, they fall squarely within the [powers] of the Public Accounts Committee and, indeed, all the committees of the House are bi-partisan and the Public Accounts Committee by nature is designed to be chaired by the Minority.
"My view is that this motion ought not to have been admitted and is improperly laid before the House. I so rule," he said.
Mr Iddrisu expressed worry over the decision by Mr Osei-Owusu to throw "our quest and desire as a people for an open, transparent and accountability to the dogs and to the winds."
He lamented that the Minority's motion was duly admitted and advertised over a month by the Speaker."
" I hope that he (Deputy Speaker) is not impugning the authority and integrity of the Speaker; neither is he undermining the mandate and authority of the Speaker as a subordinate," the Leader said.
Justifying why the Minority moved the motion, Mr Iddrisu said SEND Ghana and Ghana Integrity Initiative have launched a damning report on COVID expenditures.