MPs cited for absenteeism

BY: Caroline Boateng
Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Ocquaye
Speaker of Parliament, Prof. Aaron Mike Ocquaye

A report on the attendance of parliamentarians has cited 54 Members of Parliament (MPs) who exceeded the number of times a legislator can be absent without permission at the third sitting of the House.

The Minister of Education and New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who was absent from 27 parliamentary sittings without permission in the second meeting, was absent without permission again for 29 times at the third sitting.

Other MPs who absented themselves many times without permission from the Speaker included the NPP MP for Nkawkaw and Eastern Regional Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfour; NPP MP for Krowor and Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye; Abuakwa South NPP MP, Samuel Atta Akyea; and the NPP MP for Sefwi- Wiawso, Dr Kwaku Afriyie.

According to a 50-page report launched in Accra last week by Odekro on the “First session of the seventh Parliament, 2017”, covering results of the absence of members from the House making them unable to actively engage in debates on the floor of the House or other businesses.

Odekro is an advocacy group that seeks to provide citizens with friendly information about the workings of Parliament to enable them to engage better with the institution.

The launch was also held with the support of Strengthening Transparency Accountability and Responsiveness - Ghana (STAR Ghana).

The NPP MPs were the worst culprits, with 45 MPs, while only nine National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs absented themselves without permission.

Ministers of State, who double as MPs were the worst culprits of absenteeism without permission during the first and second sittings of the seventh Parliament, 2017.

Most of the MPs who absented themselves for more than 15 times, out of the 50 sittings, were ministers and deputy ministers.

Per Article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution, MPs who absents themselves from parliamentary sitting for 15 times or more without the written permission of the Speaker must be made to vacate their seats.

Odekro, the advocacy think tank on parliamentary issues that seeks to bridge the gap between citizens and Parliament by providing simple information on parliamentary processes for citizens, issued a caution over the appointment of several ministers from Parliament as that was sure to present a weakened legislature.

It said in the report that there was the need for stiff punishment for MPs who absented themselves from the House without permission.

It noted that the failure of the legislative body to punish MPs in the past for the offence seemed to be encouraging MPs to continue with the trend.

Odekro, therefore, recommended a civil society campaign to urge the Speaker of Parliament to enforce the law on absenteism.

It said if the punishment prescribed by the Constitution was too heavy to be implemented, other provisions had to be explored, such as financial penalties and the forefeiture of part of their salaries.

It also called for the processes of asking for permission to be made easier and duplicates to be provided of the leave of absence forms for the distinction to be drawn between approved and unapproved absence.

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