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137 MPs can’t reject budget …Bagbin’s ruling unconstitutional says Majority

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According to Article 104 of the Constitution of Ghana as well as Order 109 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, it would amount to an unconstitutional act for some 137 members of Parliament to say they have voted to reject a national Budget in a Parliament that has 275 constitutionally elected Parliamentarians, the Majority Caucus of the House has cautioned.

The cautioning Caucus was emphatic, in a press statement dated Friday November 26, 2021,  that the “claim that the Budget has been rejected by 137 Members of the House is null, void and of no effect because same is unconstitutional” and therefore should be disregarded by Ghanaians.

The said Article 104 (1) reads: “Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, matters in Parliament shall be determined by the votes of the majority of members present and voting, with at least half of all the members of Parliament present.”

The Majority Caucus explained further that in a Parliament that has 275 members, it amounts to an illegality for 137 of them, in the Minority, to say they have on their own voted to determine a rejection of the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy tabled by the Government.

It also accused the Speaker, Alban Sumana Bagbin, of bad faith in the way and manner he presided over proceedings in the House last Friday which eventually resulted in a walk-out by the Majority Caucus, leaving behind only the Minority Caucus.

It said “The Majority Caucus finds it unfortunate that after making requests to the Finance Minister to reconsider some items in the Budget Statement, the Minority Caucus assisted by Speaker Bagbin, who had earlier indicated his ability to obstruct Government business, refused to give the Finance Minister an opportunity to accommodate their requests and instead hurriedly moved on to their own, attempt to vote against the Budget in a bid to subject the Government of Ghana to embarrassment for mere partisan reasons.

“For the record, the acts of the Minority and the decision of the Speaker to endorse it, constitute an unconstitutionality and an illegality and should be disregarded, as same is void and of no effect whatsoever.

“We assure the good people of Ghana of our resolute willingness to ensure that the 1992 Constitution is respected to the letter by Speaker Bagbin and the Minority”, the statement noted.

Speaker Bagbin is out the country with his wife and two others to seek medical treatment in the United Arab Emirates. However,  but the Parliamentary Service has issued a feeble-worded statement to water down the allegations of bias leveled against him.

The Majority Caucus staged a walkout last Friday after disagreements with the Speaker during a scrutiny of the Budget when it was tabled for an acceptance or a rejection.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta had prayed the Speaker and the House to grant him time to meet with leadership of the House before the approval or otherwise of the 2022 Budget and Policy Statement.

Mr. Speaker said the Minister’s request should be put to a voice vote after which he ruled that the ‘NOs’ had won the votes therefore the Minister’s request had been rejected.

But Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Effutu Constituency, Alexander Afenyo-Markin sprang to his feet and challenged the Speaker’s interpretation of the voice votes.

It was agreed there should be a  ‘division’ for the voice votes to be retaken.

Speaker Bagbin then ordered that all non Parliamentarians, including the Finance Minister, who were present, should leave the Chamber before the voice votes is retaken. The Speaker said the order was supported by the Standing Orders of Parliament.

The Majority side argued back that the lobby was what was to be cleared and that the Finance Minister was not in the lobby.

They pointed out further that the Finance Minister has a Constitutional right in Article 111 to be in Parliament although he lacks voting rights. Moreover the subject matter was a Budget statement the Finance Minister had presented therefore asking him to leave the Chamber was rather queer.

Speaker Bagbin insisted the Finance Minister must leave the Chamber and even threatened to order the Marshalls to throw him out if he disobeyed his exit-order any further.

The Minister, perhaps to avoid being thrown out with force, calmly walked out himself.

The Majority, after the exit of the Finance Minister,  then requested that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia also be made to leave the Public Gallery.

This was fiercely opposed by the Minority side resulting in a rather chaotic situation while Mr. Speaker looked on and continued to ask what was happening.

The melee  resulted in a walkout by the Majority and the Speaker, unperturbed,  went ahead to take his voice votes with the Minority side alone and presided over them to vote to reject the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy tabled by the Government.

That rejection by the 137 members is what the Majority has described as unconstitutional quoting Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 109 of the Standing Orders of Parliament.

 

Story by Halifax Ansah-Addo

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