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Parliament in retrospect: Unprecedented developments overshadow Third Meeting of Second Session of Eighth Parliament

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman
Parliament in retrospect: Unprecedented developments overshadow Third Meeting of Second Session of Eighth Parliament

The Third Meeting of the Second Session of the Eighth Parliament was adjourned on December 21 last year amid unprecedented occurrence’s that played out right from inception of proceedings on October 25 till the last day.

Even before the House could commence its meeting, out of the blue some 86-plus Majority members of Parliament (MPs) initiated an agenda to push for the dismissal of the Finance Minister, a development that took place on the blind side of their leadership.

The dismissal chorus the MPs sang gained strength when the Minority Caucus hinted of its decision to impeach the minister yet lost the motion when the Majority abandoned them at the 11th hour during a vote on the censure motion.

Other developments were a ruling by the Speaker of Parliament to allow the plenary, not the Privileges Committee, to decide the fate of three absentee MPs as well as the approval of two Supreme Court nominees.

Demand for Finance Minister’s dismissal

First, even before the House could commence the meeting on October 25 last year, the 86-plus Majority MPs held a press conference to call on President Akufo-Addo to remove the Finance Minister from office to restore confidence in the ailing economy.

The group had warned that it would not do business with government, including the hearing of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government, if the President failed to heed their call.

“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 group’s spokesperson, Andy Appiah-Kubi, said.

Minority’s demand

Not long after that press conference, the Minority Caucus also held a press conference to give a hint into the intention by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, to move a motion for impeachment of the Minister of Finance.

The First Deputy Minority Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, who addressed the media, said the move was based on the poor economic mismanagement, inconsistencies, non-performance and the lack of performing statutory obligations.

Speaker’s ruling on absentee MPs

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, hinted of his decision to give a ruling on the report of the three MPs who absented themselves from Parliament for 15 sittings without the permission in writing of the Speaker.

Delivering the ruling the following day based on the report submitted by the Privileges Committees that probed the three MPs, Mr Bagbin ruled that it was within the rights of the House to receive and consider the report of the Privileges Committee and make the final determination arising from its recommendations.

He said it was the plenary that had to consider the reasonability of the excuses given by the absentee MPs to the Privileges Committee for their absence from Parliament.

Delivering a ruling in respect of a preliminary objections raised by the Majority Leader to the report of the Privileges Committee presented for the decision of the House on October 26 last year, 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,” he said.

Why preliminary objection?

During the Second Meeting of the Second Session of the current Parliament on July 28, 2022, the Majority Leader raised the preliminary objection as to the listing of one motion on the Order Paper of that day.

The motion was for the adoption of the report of the Committee on Privileges on the alleged breach of article 97(1)(c) of the constitution.

The Majority Leader alluded that the motion should not have been listed on the Order Paper and thus same should be withdrawn, arguing that the determination of the committee was conclusive and same should not be subjected to the House in plenary for a debate and determination.

“The Privileges Committee has presented its report and, in my considered opinion, based on the constitution and not sentiments, is that there should be that automaticity, once the committee makes a determination. I disagree that the decision should be taken by the House,” he said.

Referred MPs

On April 5, 2022, on the conclusion of an attendance audit by the Table Office, based on a number of petitions, the Speaker referred the three absentee MPs to the Privileges Committee for their failure to attend Parliament without the permission in writing of the Speaker for 15 sitting days.

The MPs are the MP for Dome-Kwabenya, Sarah Adwoa Safo; the MP for Assin Central, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, and the MP for Ayawaso Central, Henry Quartey.

They were referred by the Speaker to the Privileges Committee to explain reasons for their absence.

We won’t support censure motion

Ahead of the day the Minority Leader was to move the censure motion on the floor on November 10, 2022, the Majority Caucus expressed its unwillingness to support the Minority Caucus’s motion on the vote of censure to impeach the Minister of Finance.

They claimed the seven grounds of allegation against the minister were “premised on falsehood and propaganda”.

Ad hoc committee

The following day—November 11—saw the Speaker referring the Minority’s motion on the vote of censorship against the Minister of Finance to an eight-member ad hoc committee to probe the allegations against the minister.

The committee investigated the veracity or otherwise of the allegations made by the Minority and afforded Mr Ofori-Atta the opportunity to put up his defence.