Graphic Online

Graphic Online 

Parliament in retrospect

BY: Musah Yahaya Jafaru
Prof. Michael Aaron Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament
Prof. Michael Aaron Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament

Members of Parliament (MPs) are on recess after 46 sittings of the Second Meeting of the Second Session of the Seventh Parliament.

The legislators are expected to reconvene in October, 2018, to conduct the business for the Third Meeting.

The Second Meeting witnessed the approval of important loan and commercial agreements, tax waivers, budget reviews and passage of bills into law.

There were also occasions of disagreements between the Majority and Minority sides on the appropriateness of some loan agreements.

As anticipated, the two sides occasionally slugged it out over the true state of the economy in terms of inflation, depreciation of the cedi, debt stock and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures.

Major decisions

One of the major decisions taken by the Minority side was the resolve to boycott the national identification card registration (Ghana Card) because voter identification cards were not considered as one of the primary documents for the registration.


The Privileges Committee also investigated the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, for his alleged contemptuous remarks against Parliament and the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.

Although he apologised, the committee concluded that he was in contempt for his remarks that Parliament was cheap and useless.

But the house deferred the decision on whether to reprimand or suspend Mr Agyapong for making those contemptuous remarks of Parliament to the next meeting of the house in October, 2018.

The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, told journalists that at the pre-sitting meeting, the decision was taken that the house should not end the meeting with differences or bitterness.

The expectation that the Right to Information (RTI) Bill, 2018 would be passed during the meeting did not materialise although significant progress was made in the legislative process.

MPs began the consideration of the RTI; they were expected to amend 91 clauses in the bill before its passage into law.

Budget review

The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, presented the budget review to Parliament on July 19, 2018 and the debate on it started last Monday, July 23, 2018.

As anticipated, there was a disagreement as to whether the economic outlook was good or not and whether the economic policies were prudent or not.

Even before the budget was presented, the Minority in Parliament kicked against government's intended decision to increase taxes as it would worsen the plight of businesses and households.

In his presentation, Mr Ofori-Atta announced a policy of changing 2.5 per cent Health Insurance Fund Levy and the 2.5 per cent Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) levy on VAT to a flat levy.

But the Minority in Parliament would not budge as it accused the government of increasing the Value Added Tax (VAT) through the back door.

And on Friday, July 27, 2018, the house approved the mid-year fiscal policy review of the 2018 budget statement and economic policy of government after a gruelling concluding-debate by the Majority and the Minority.

Loans

Some of the loans approved included credit and commercial facilities totalling €47 million to finance expansion works at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC).

The credit facility of €40.6 million is between the government and Bank Hapoalim B.M., while the commercial facility of €6.5 million is also between the government and Bank Hapoalim B.M.

Parliament again approved €93 million loan facilities for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Kumasi Central Market.

The facility agreement is between the government of Ghana, represented by the Ministry of Finance, and the Deutsche Bank AG, London branch, and its affiliates.

Approvals

Parliament unanimously approved the nomination of Ms Jane Cynthia Naa Toshie Lamptey as the Deputy Special Prosecutor.

The approval of Ms Lamptey followed the adoption of the report of the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP), which recommended to the house to approve her nomination.

Ghana card

The Minority Caucus in Parliament threatened to go to court to ensure that the voter identification cards (IDs) were accepted for the national identification registration (Ghana Card).

It said Article 42 of the Constitution specified that citizens of 18 years and above were eligible to register for the voter IDs, and, therefore, removing voter IDs as one of the documents required for the ongoing Ghana Card registration was illegal.

Besides, the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) said the current Legislative Instrument (LI) on the national ID registration made provision for the voter IDs and other similar documents to be accepted for the Ghana Card registration.

Women caucus

During the meeting, the Women Caucus in Parliament also condemned the attack of a police officer on a woman at Midland Savings and Loans and called for a swift action to be taken against the police officer and the financial institution.

It said it would not relent until the woman got justice for the brutal attack on her.

The Deputy Majority Leader and Chairperson of the caucus, Ms Sarah Adwoa Safo, and the MP for Tano North and Deputy Minister of Works and Housing, Ms Freda Prempeh, set the tone by reading separate statements on the incident on the floor of Parliament on July 23, 2018.

Concluding remarks

In his concluding remarks, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, said the house was expected to pass a number of bills, including the RTI Bill during the Third Meeting.

He said Parliament was working on the establishment of a legal and drafting department to aid the law-making process in the house.

Prof. Oquaye said very soon, Parliament would consider a Private Members Bill for: "Parliament will be seen to be responsive to the needs of the people."

The Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the meeting had been fruitful as a number of bills had been passed into law or amended, 97 questions on socio-economic issues were asked by MPs and answered by ministers and deputy ministers.

He expressed the conviction that the RTI Bill would be passed during the Third Meeting considering the work done on it so far.

The Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said the Minority wanted all Ghanaians to register for the Ghana Card, and indicated that the Minority wanted explanation for the $.2 million used for the exercise.

He acknowledged moves by the speaker to improve relations with the Minority side.