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Speaker issues 2-hour ultimatum to Health Minister to appear before House

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, on Monday morning gave a two-hour ultimatum to the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, to appear before the House to a answer a question filed by a member of the House.

He warned that failure of Mr Agyeman Manu to appear before the House would cause him to face the necessary consequences.

He explained that the questions were filed, processed and they were sent to the ministers before going back to the Business Committee prior to being programmed for ministers to appear on specific days to answer questions.

“So, the Minister responsible for Health is aware the question has been scheduled for today. The reason he has given for his inability to present himself before the House to answer the question is completely disrespectful of Parliament,” he stated.

At the commencement of business Monday in Parliament, Mr Bagbin said “And I am not going to take that. I direct that the minister appears before Parliament within two hours to answer the questions. Failing to do so, the necessary consequences will be applied. Ministers must take parliamentary business seriously.

“The time is 11.40 a.m. within two hours the minister should appear to answer this question,” he stated.

Why the warning?

Mr Manu was expected to appear before the House to respond to a question by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Sefwi Akontombra, Mr Alex Tetteh Djornobuah, who wants to ask the minister the type of health facility programmed to be constructed in Sefwi Akontombra, when it will be completed and handed over.

But with the absence of Mr Agyeman Manu, who is also the NPP MP for Dormaa Central, to respond to the question, the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, rose to tell the House that the minister called him Sunday to tell him that he had a national assignment outside Accra.

He said the minister therefore requested that the House rescheduled his appearance Tuesday.

Strong reaction

But the Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, expressed strong reservation at the excuse preferred by the minister.

He told the House that the question for Mr Agyeman Manu to answer was not filled Sunday but last week and therefore prayed the Speaker not to entertain excuses by ministers, who considered attending to other assignment outside Parliament more important.

“This is the time around budget when all of the ministers need to be in Accra and need to be in Parliament."

“Mr Speaker, if we relax and allow these things to fester, then all of us will be held responsible for making this House to continuously to be seen to be weak."

We’re in a new era

He, therefore, urged his colleague Majority Whip to send the right signal to the ministers on their side that the business of the House was equally important.

“Ample time is always given ministers of state and they must prioritise the business of the House.

“Mr Speaker, if the minister is not there obviously, we cannot force somebody who is not in the Chamber to answer a question but we will be very grateful if you send the right message to all the ministers that this Parliament is not like the seventh Parliament where they do things and just get away."

“They must wake up to the reality that we are in a new era; we are not going to be allowing ministers to be disregarding this House with the excuse that they have other things that are equally pressing,” he stated.