Bagbin’s error rectified as Parliament approves 2022 Budget

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Speaker Alban Bagbin

Following the controversial ruling by the Speaker of Parliament last week, which left the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of Government hanging, Parliament yesterday, by a majority decision, approved the document.

Yesterday’s turn of events happened without the presence of the Minority members who boycotted the sitting.

Although the reasons for the boycott were sketchy, it was gathered that the Minority MPs refused to be in the chamber because they and their counterparts on the Majority side could not arrive at a consensus on requests for some amendments to be made to the budget.

“We clearly agreed that Parliament would sit at 3:30 pm after having lunch. But it’s a pity they are not here,” the Second Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, who presided over the sitting, said.

After last Friday’s purported rejection of the budget, the Majority side, led by Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, accused the Speaker, Alban Bagbin, of acting in breach of the 1992 Constitution.  The Speaker had ruled that 137 Members of Parliament had taken a decision to reject the budget, instead of the constitutionally required number of 138 MPs.

Null and Void

The Second Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, presiding over yesterday’s proceedings, declared as null and void Friday’s purported rejection of the budget.

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Mr Osei Owusu based his ruling on Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution, which forbids Parliament from taking certain decisions until it has half of the number of MPs present in the chamber.

“My attention has been drawn to the record, page 10 of the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, which showed that the confirmed numbers of the Members of Parliament at the time the question as presented was less than half of the Members of Parliament.

Records show that 137 members were present. That is less than half of the full members Parliament. Article 104 and our Standing Order clearly spells out the process of decision-making in the House. It clearly states that a question shall not be put on any matter unless at least half of the members are present in Parliament,” he stated.

He added: “The Speaker appeared not to have paid attention to the Constitution and procedural provision. I’m certain that, given his expertise, he would not have made this error if his attention was drawn to it. The consequence of the unfortunate error is that putting the question of the budget into consideration and the question on the Budget Statement and Economic Policy was done in violation…of the Constitution and, therefore, void and inconsequential.”

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Standoff

A walkout by the Majority from Parliament on Friday did not prevent the House from continuing with the business of the day.

Members on the majority side staged the walkout after a disagreement over a voice vote which did not go in their favour.

A last-minute request by the Finance Minister to meet with the leadership of the House was turned down by MPs after the Speaker announced that the ‘Nos’ had won the voice vote.

Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin, challenged the Speaker’s interpretation of the voice vote and called for a ‘division’.

Mr Bagbin subsequently directed that, per the Orders of the House, non-MPs had to vacate the Chamber during the division process.

“As the Speaker, I will do all I can not to allow the government to obstruct or frustrate Parliament in its lawful duty. That is a pledge to the people of Ghana, and there is a reason why the good people of Ghana elected this Parliament. It is a hung Parliament of 137-137, the independent decided to do business with one side of the majority, so there is no majority party in this house. This is a new beginning, where for the first time a Majority has walked out from its own business,” Mr Alban Bagbin stated.

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While vacating the Chamber, the Majority MPs demanded that the General Secretary of the opposition National Democratic Congress, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, who was sitting in the public gallery at the time, must also exit the House. He ignored this request.

This infuriated the Majority MPs who walked out of the Chamber, leaving only members on the Minority side.

The ‘ Ayes’ have it

Yesterday’s sitting was delayed by hours of meetings between the Majority and Minority leadership aimed at exploring how to cure the unconstitutionality committed by the Speaker and the 137 MPs.

Upon a motion by Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and a vote by the House, the Speaker ruled that the earlier decision was in error and in violation of Article 104 (1) of the Constitution, and caused it to be expunged from the record.

Parliament then proceeded to properly consider the motion on the budget and subsequently approved it.

Parliament will now consider the budget estimates in the coming weeks for specific sectors of the economy before the appropriation bill will be passed to give the government the green light to spend according to monies appropriated in the budget.

 

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