Story: Franklin ASARE-DONKOH
The controversy surrounding Parliamentary business in Ghana’s 8th Parliament under the 4th Republic, especially at the Table’s Office seems not to fade away anytime soon.
Judging from the unforgettable incident that nearly marred the State of the Nation Address by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufu Addo, on the floor of the House last Wednesday 28th, March 2022, but for the timely intervention by the Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin, one was of the view that such unpardonable omission will never occur again at the Table’s Office but what made the Speaker of Parliament to render an unqualified apology to Members of Parliament (MPs) who were registered as being absent in the House on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, the day the E-Levy Bill was passed was just the beginning of the worse to happen.
There was controversy on the floor of the House on Monday, April 4, 2022, when it came to light that the MP for Dome-Kwabenya, Madam Sarah Adwoa Safo has been marked as having been present in the House last Friday, April 1, 2022.
The MP for Adentan, Mr. Mohammed Adamu Ramadan, detected the unusual occurrence and raised concerns over why the Dome-Kwabenya lawmaker has been indicated as present in the votes and proceedings for last Friday.
Speaking on the floor of the House on Monday, Adamu Ramadan said: “Just out of curiosity, page 7, number 225, Sarah Adwoa Safo has been marked as present.
“I don’t know whether the Table’s Office is giving effect to the Speaker’s ruling that you don’t have to be physically present in the Chamber to be captured. I don’t know if Adwoa Safo is back in this jurisdiction.”
According to reports, Madam Safo was not in the Chamber, hence Mr. Ramadan’s contention.
In response, the Presiding Speaker, Mr. Joseph Osei-Owusu, assured that “The Table’s Office will verify and make appropriate corrections.”
The concern sharply divided the legislators over the true interpretation of an earlier ruling by Speaker Alban Bagbin, that MPs can be marked present if they are within the precincts of Parliament.
Discussing the matter, Members of Parliament described the ruling as problematic.
The MP for Ho West, Emmanuel Bedzra, noted that it has been the norm that MPs sign immediately they enter the chamber, hence the ruling that as far as an MP is within the precincts of Parliament, he or she cannot be considered absent.
He called on the House to bring finality to the matter as the current situation would encourage MPs not to enter the chamber.
“It has been Speaker upon Speaker’s conclusion that when you come to the chamber, the first thing you should do is to sign and you Speaker (Joseph Osei-Owusu) have said the same thing that for anybody to come to this chamber and go for a Committee meeting, it should not be recorded as being in attendance in the Chamber.
“So, for a new ruling that you can be anywhere at all within the premises and you’d be counted as coming to Parliament or be in the Chamber, Mr. Speaker, I think this House must make a decision on this matter. Otherwise, we can all be in our offices and claim that we have come to Parliament,” Mr. Bedzra stated.
However, Asawase MP, Muntaka Mubarak, in his submission explained that Rt. Hon. Bagbin said one could only be captured as present when he or she is in the chamber.
“I don’t think the Speaker’s ruling was that members could be absent or present without being on the floor. What he said was that the signing is not mandatory. It is for you to do it on the floor for it to be captured but not that he said you don’t need to be in the chamber, we all know” he stressed.
It would be recalled that the Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin on Friday 1, April 2022 rendered an unqualified apology to some Members of Parliament (MP) who were registered as being absent in the House on Tuesday, March 29, 2022, the day the E-Levy Bill was passed.
The Rt. Hon. during his speech said it was regrettable that on such a day the President was in the House to address the nation through Parliament, the records as drafted did not capture the true picture of the day before.
His apology came after Minority Chief Whip Mohammed Muntaka drew his(Speaker’s) attention.
In his observation, Mr. Muntaka was evidently frustrated by the damage the published omission had done to the members in question.
He was not alone. Other MPs including Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu also raised objections to the error made by the Table Office of Parliament.
They accused the Clerk-to-Parliament and the Clerk at the Table Office of “deliberately” omitting the names of the affected MPs as well as the Minority’s staged walkout in the Votes.
They, therefore, demanded an open explanation and apology from the Clerk-to-Parliament and the Deputy Clerk-to-Parliament.
It is not up to a week and more damming error than before has occurred as a member who has been out of the borders of Ghana is marked present while away from the jurisdiction of Parliament.