This week in Parliament: Dividends of hung Parliament
The third meeting of the second session of the Eighth Parliament started this week (Oct 25), with the first day of the meeting being characterised by occurrences that reflected the true dividends of having a hung Parliament.
Things occurred so fast in the early morning of Tuesday in a manner that mirrored what the current meeting would offer in terms of the power of legislature to check the Executive, contrary to the weakness or shortcoming exhibited by previous Parliaments.
First, even before proceedings began that Tuesday, some over 80 members of the Majority Caucus held a press conference to call on the President to fire the Finance Minister in a bid to restore confidence in the ailing economy.
Fire Finance Minister
Uncharacteristically, the actions by the MPs, some of whom spoke freely and openly, appeared to have occurred on the blindside of the leadership of the Majority Caucus, who reportedly went into a crunch meeting to consider the best way to assuage the anger of members.
The Spokesperson for the aggrieved MPs, Andy Appiah-Kubi, who is also the MP for Asante Akim, had explained that they had been compelled by their constituents to push the President to remove Mr Ofori-Atta, and the Minister of State at the Ministry of Finance, Charles Adu Boahen, from office.
They warned that if the President failed to heed their call, they would refrain from participating in any government business in the House, including the budget hearing in November this year.
“We are by this serving notice and indeed, notice is being served now that if the President fails to act, we will not do business with him," the Spokesperson said.
Vote of censorship
Immediately after the Majority MPs’ press conference, the Minority Caucus also held a similar press conference to express their intention to file a motion for the impeachment of the Finance Minister.
The motion, initiated by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, has so far been signed by all 136 Minority legislators. It, however, would need 183 MPs, which is two-thirds of the 275 MPs, for the Minority to succeed in pushing for Mr Ofori-Attah’s removal.
Speaking on behalf of the Minority, the First Deputy Minority Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, said the Minority action was based on the prevailing poor economic mismanagement, inconsistencies, non-performance and the lack of performing statutory obligations.
Ruling on absentee MPs
When the proceedings in the House started, there was so much anticipation about the outcome of the Speaker’s ruling on the fate of the three MPs.
The MPs — the Dome-Kwabenya MP, Sarah Adwoa Safo; the Assin Central MP, Kennedy Agyapong, and the Ayawaso Central MP, Henry Quartey—were referred to the Privileges Committee for their failure to attend Parliament without permission for 15 sitting days.
Delivering a ruling in respect of preliminary objections raised by the Majority Leader to the report of the Privileges Committee presented for the decision of the House last Wednesday (Oct 26), Mr Bagbin said he found the preliminary objection raised by Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu “untenable”.
“It goes without saying that the preliminary objection of the Majority Leader to the admissibility of the motion for consideration of the report of the committee is hereby dismissed in limine,” the Speaker ruled.
He said only the plenary of the House had the mandate to determine the fate of the trio, a development that stood in sharp contrast to previous situations in the House that often saw the Majority having their way.
He said the recommendation contained in the report of the Committee on Privileges, like all other committees of the House, should be adopted and debated in the plenary for the final decision to be taken on the fate of the three MPs.
He subsequently directed the Table Office to re-programme the report for same to be debated by the House and a decision taken on the trio.
Directive to Attorney-General
On the same day, the Speaker also directed the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General to present the Affirmation Action Bill to Parliament for further consideration and passage into law.
He said given the importance of the bill, he had already written to Godfred Yeboah Dame, the minister, to submit the bill to him in whatever state that bill was currently.
Majority’s preliminary objection
On Thursday, Majority raised a preliminary objection on the motion of censure filed by the Minority Leader for the removal of the Finance Minister.
It had argued no motion was advertised in the Order Paper embedded with allegations as admitted by the Speaker.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, who raised the objection, said the manner in which the motion was crafted was unfair to the respondent, Ken Ofori-Atta, insisting that the full facts needed to be made available to him to properly appreciate the facts and respond appropriately.
Displeasure at Supreme Court’s ruling
The Speaker also expressed his unhappiness with a Supreme Court’s ruling that struck out as unconstitutional a law on the licence to grow cannabis in Ghana.
He said the apex court, in the case of Ezuame Manna vs Attorney-General and the Speaker of Parliament, struck out Section 43 of the Narcotic Control Commission Act 2020 (Act 1019) without “hearing from us”.
The Speaker said he had no knowledge of that suit yet Supreme Court delivered a judgement on the case.
“If the Speaker is party to a suit, at least the Speaker should be served but there was no service on us,” he said.