Parliament fails to reach decision on Privileges Committee’s report on absentee MPs

Adwoa Safo

Parliament failed to reach a decision on the Privileges Committee’s report on breaches of Article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution and Order 16 (1) Standing Orders by three Members of Parliament (MPs).

Speaker Alban Bagbin said he would give a written ruling to an objection raised by Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader, that the report of the Privileges Committee on the three MPs should not have been captured in the Order Paper of the House as a motion for consideration of the House.

The Majority Leader was of the view that once the Committee had made a determination of the three persons, the imperatives of Article 97 of the 1992 Constitution would automatically be triggered.

“Mr Speaker, so, my thinking is that even what is captured here as a motion, the purpose of a motion is for the House to make a determination, and I am thinking that really this is not for the House. It is not plenary to make a determination. Mr Speaker, so, I think that even locating it on the Order Paper itself is unfortunate and indeed, unnecessary, it should not have been listed on the Order Paper. What information comes from the Committee should be submitted to us as a paper and Mr Speaker, that is where we are, we have to talk to the issue before we adjourn sine die.”

Mr Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader, who disagreed with the Majority Leader, noted that it was appropriate for the report to be captured in the Order Paper of the House as a motion for consideration by the House, stating that there had been precedence in the past.

He said the Parliament of Ghana was well constituted with 275 MPs, elected thereon to exercise legislative power on behalf of the people, and that the House must be guided by precedence.

He said that in 2005, Eric Amoateng was arrested on criminal charges in the United States for possession of cocaine, and that Privileges Committee of the House was called upon to exercise a duty, which was similar to the duty they were exercising today.

“In November 2005, Parliament took a decision on Eric Amoateng through the Privileges Committee report.”

He noted that this was not the first time the Privileges Committee was making a recommendation to the Parliament of Ghana.

He cautioned that the House should not set precedence that tomorrow, the Privileges Committee would come and submit a report and on the basis of that report an elected MP would be asked to go home and his seat declared vacant.

The Speaker after listening to both the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader and other contributors such as Mr Kobina Tahir Hammond, MP for Adansi Asokwa, who was on the side of the Majority Leader, whereas Mr Ibrahim Ahmed, Deputy Minority Chief Whip/MP for Banda and Mr Mahama Ayariga, MP for Bawku Central, who were on the side of the Minority, suspended sitting for two minutes to enable him to make some consultations.

Upon resumption, the Speaker said: “I have consulted the old lady, the old lady has given me an advice, and I think that advice is correct, because the issue raised by the Majority Leader is both substantive and procedural law. And I need time to submit to this House a reasoned written ruling, I cannot in the haste of today give you the ruling.”

“In the circumstances, I will urge this House for us call it a day; on return, I will deliver a written ruling.”

The Speaker on May 4 referred Madam Sarah Adwoa Safo, MP for Dome-Kwabenya; Mr Henry Quartey, MP Ayawaso Central and Mr Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, MP Assin Central to the Privileges Committee for absenting themselves for 15 sittings of the House without his permission during the First session of the Eighth Parliament.

The Committee failed to achieve a consensus in its recommendations on whether absenting Madam Adwoa Safo for more than the mandatory 15 days without permission warranted her seat being declared vacant.

Again, the Majority wants the Dome-Kwabenya seat declared vacant without delay in line with stated Article 97 of the Constitution.

The Committee, however, determined that the excuses from Mr Agyepong and Mr Quartey for absenting themselves were reasonable.

The House has since adjourned sine die.

Source: GNA

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