2022 Budget proceedings unconstitutional – Majority 

By: Bubu Klinogo

Reports indicate that Parliament last night voted in an attempt to reject the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the  government, however the Majority has deemed the procedure Null and Void and therefore unconstitutional.

 

Our Parliamentary Correspondent Bubu Klinogo reports that the whole process was characterised by drama, and for the first time in Ghana’s history the majority staged a walk out.

The Minority Leader, concluded the debate from the Minority side and reiterated their resolve to vote against the Budget if the E-Levy was not taken out and no financial allocation made for Sea Defence Projects in communities in Keta, Ketu South and Anlo Constituencies in the Volta Region which were recently ravaged by tidal waves.

Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, in his concluding remarks acknowledged some of the concerns of the Minority.

He however maintained that the E-Levy is the lifeline of the 2022 Budget and cannot be taken out of the budget.

In line with Article 179 of the Constitution, the Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, on Wednesday November 17, moved a motion for the approval of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government for 2022.

The motion was on Tuesday, 23rd November seconded by the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kweku Kwarteng. Since then, members of the House commenced a full debate on the motion, with the leaders of both sides scheduled to conclude the debate on Friday, 26th November, 2021

Even though, sitting was scheduled to start at 10.00am, no MP from the Majority was in the Chamber as at that time, whiles all the 137 Minority MPs were all seated.

The Speaker came into the Chamber at around 1pm to commence proceedings, however he was compelled to suspend sitting for 30 minutes to give more time for MPs from the Majority to come into the Chamber. It was not until after 3pm, that sitting eventually started.

At the commencement of business, both leaders were given chance to conclude their side’s debate on the Budget, starting from the Minority Leader and ending by the Majority Leader.

At the conclusion of the debate, the Speaker Alban Bagbin, gave opportunity to the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Atta, to make some remarks before the Budget was voted on. The Minister requested that he be allowed to engage the leadership of the Minority outside to Chamber to iron out some issues before the vote.

The Speaker put the request to a voice vote, after which he ruled that the Nos had it and the request was thus rejected. What it meant was for the vote on the Budget to be taken.

However, before the Speaker would put the question, the Deputy Minority Leader, Alex Afenyo-Markin, invoking the standing orders of Parliament, challenged the ruling of the Speaker in respect of the voice vote on the request of the Finance Minister and had called for a division.

The Speaker accepted the challenge and directed that the vote be retaken but by division as demanded by the Majority.

The Minority Chief Whip then moved that, since there was going to be a division, everyone who was in the Chamber, who was not an MP and did not have a voting right should leave the Chamber.

The Speaker upheld the request and directed all non MPs including the Minister of Finance to leave the Chamber. However, the Finance Minister continued to stay in the chamber for a while, until the Speaker indicated that, based on the standing Orders, he would have to call the Marshal of Parliament to march out those who were still in the Chamber. It was then that, some Majority MPs accompanied the Finance Minister out of the Chamber.

The development infuriated MPs from the Majority side, who were banging tables and demanding that the General Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Johnson Asiedu Nketiah who was sitting in the public gallery should also leave there.

In the midst of all the cacophony of noise going on, the Speaker asked if the leadership could tell him what the problem was but there was no response and the noise continued.

At a point, one of the MPs spoke into the microphone and asked all the MPs from the Majority side to move out. And one after the other, they all walked out, including the First and Second Deputy Speakers of Parliament, leaving the Speaker and MPs from the Minority in the Chamber.

The Speaker then indicated that, the Standing Orders provided that in situations of such confusion and breakdown of order, he had two choices, either to adjourn sitting without putting the question or to suspend sitting. Under the circumstances, the Speaker chose to suspend sitting for five minutes.

In about an hour’s time, sitting resumed with the Speaker in the chair, but with no MPs from the Majority. The Speaker then again put the question on the Finance Minister’s request for a meeting with the Minority leadership.

The House rejected the request through a head count, with 137 MPs voting No, and with no member voting Yes. The Speaker then put the question, on the motion for the adoption of the Budget as moved by the Finance Minister on Wednesday, the 17th of this month, and by a voice vote, the House rejected the motion, hence the Budget.

The Majority has since described the move in Parliament by the Speaker, Alban Sumana Bagbin as Unconstitutional.

The House has since been adjourned to Tuesday, the 30th of November.

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