The Majority Caucus in the 8th Parliament used a precedent set by the Speaker of the 6th Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, to overturn a decision by the current Minority Caucus, through the Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin.
In 2015, the then Speaker, Adjaho, relying on Order 109 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, overturned a decision the House had taken.
Yesterday, the House reconvened after rising last Friday with a decision that the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy had been rejected.
Meanwhile, the Majority, without their colleagues on the other side, raised the matter when the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, was in the Chair, leading to proceedings that nullified the Friday decision and approved the motion on the 2022 Budget, which question was put again.
Doe Adjaho’s Cane
Addressing the media after the day’s proceedings, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, expressed shock that the Speaker, Alban Bagbin, could not avert his mind to that precedent.
He recounted that a decision had been taken by the House, and that Rt. Hon. Adjaho came with a statement to nullify it.
He explained that though the then First Deputy Speaker, Ebo Barton Oduro, relying on Order 109, had nullified a voting process, the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Doe Adjao, made a formal statement to affirm the decision of his deputy.
“…Later in the day, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Edward Kobi Doe Adjaho, again ruled on the same matter as follows. Hon. Members, you are aware that this House is not supreme. We are subject to the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. The rule is that where the Constitution has made a provision for the regulation of the business of the House, they take precedence over any order. Indeed, the Standing Orders of this House, there is [a] quorum to do business, and that is one-third of the House, and there is [a] quorum to take a decision. So, we need to draw a distinction between the quorum to do business and the quorum to take a decision. The quorum to take a decision is regulated by Article 104 (1). The fundamental question is this: at the time that the vote was taken, did we have, at least, half of the honourable members present? It is a Constitutional issue which has been captured by Standing Order 109(1) of our Standing Orders. If we go by the results of the head count, by adding 67 to 66, we will get 133. Therefore, there is a serious constitutional issue here. So, at the time that the votes were taken, this House lacked the legal, in fact, the constitutional capacity to take a decision. So, I entirely endorse the position of the First Hon. Deputy Speaker that we do not have the numbers, constitutionally speaking, to take a decision. Therefore, in respect of this, no decision has been taken,” the Majority Leader quoted the former Speaker Adjaho, adding: “So, nobody is manufacturing this from anywhere.”
On the Floor
The press briefing by the Majority was preceded by the last sitting of the day, which commenced six hours after the advertised time of 10:00GMT.
The House, which began and adjourned with only the Majority Caucus, went through all its private matters, and just when the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, directed for public business to commence, the Majority Leader raised an issue on the votes and proceedings of Friday, November 26, 2021.
Majority want decision un-turned
He stood on Order 50 (1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament to have the House correct what he described as an illegality.
The order permits a member to, at the time appointed for order of business, with the prior approval of the Speaker, move a motion on a specific matter of urgent public importance.
He prayed the Speaker while referring to the votes and proceedings that it could not be the case that the 2022 Budget was rejected, as the records indicated that a headcount was conducted and only 137 members were present at the time of the vote.
Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu read Article 104 (1) of the Constitution, and Order 109 (1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament, which states that a question can be put if half of the entire members of the House are present.
“…So, Mr. Speaker, I invite you to uphold the motion and, indeed, by inference, set aside the impropriety. Because, as I’ve argued, what happened that day is a nullity, because it does not meet the test established by Article 104. So, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move,” he ended.
The motion moved by the Majority Leader was seconded by the Deputy, Alexander Afenyo-Markin. In doing so, he raised some issues to further fortify the prayer of the applicant.
The first was whether or not the First Deputy Speaker was clothed with powers to rule on the motion. He quoted Order 13, which permits a deputy to take charge when the House is informed by the clerk that the table that the Speaker is unavoidably absent.
The said subsection 2 of the order states that the first deputy speaker shall perform the duties and exercise the authority of the Speaker in relation to the proceedings of the House.
“So, Mr. Speaker, you are fortified to consider this application,” he said, adding that the constitutional provision the majority leader relied on clearly indicates the numbers required.
He said that half of the 275 was 138, but the records showed that at the time of the decision, 137 members were present.
Further relying on Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution, he stressed that the threshold of 138 should have been met.
He also indicated that the said provision further demands that even if the minimum number is present, a majority of them must take the decision.
Based on that, he argued that the motion was well-rooted and that the invitation to the Speaker was right, and needed his full consideration to set aside that which took place.
The First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei Owusu, said it was regrettable that none of the minority caucus was in the chamber to respond to the issues raised.
He stated that the leadership of both sides had been in a meeting from morning to afternoon and agreed that proceedings would commence at 1530GMT. He said he had no information on their absence.
“So, it’s a pity that there is nobody here so I could hear their views on the motion before me,” he remarked.
The First Deputy Speaker then read order 109 (1) of the Standing Orders, saying that before he took any decision, he would want to be sure the right numbers were present.
He directed the clerks at the table to count the members who were present, during which non-MPs, the ministers for Finance and National Security had to leave the Chamber.
After the counting, the Speaker said that the number presented to him by the clerks at the table was 137, “plus me, MP for Bekwai, 138.”
Having satisfied himself that the minimum numbers were present, the first deputy speaker explained that by the provisions of order 109, a majority of half of the members present and voting can take a decision.
He said that his attention had been drawn to the records, and clearly, the numbers present were not half the total number of members, and such a decision could not have been taken.
He said that the Rt Hon Speaker appeared not to have averted his mind to the provisions, and may not have fallen into that error if his attention had been drawn to them.
Setting that background, he put the question for the motion to set aside what happened last Friday, and the ayes had it, overturning the previous decision.
The First Deputy Speaker said that last Friday, the Finance Minister could not wind up the debate as had been the practice. He said what happened was that the Minister prayed for an opportunity to engage the Minority, which request was denied, but the same did not take his right to sum up.
He gave him the opportunity yesterday. The Finance Minister said that issues of the minority would be addressed at the committee level, including that of Aker Energy.
On the Agyapa, he said consultations had not ended as the Attorney General was still working on that and any such issue would be brought to Parliament.
He mentioned the Brekusu in the Volta Region and said that the government would quickly move to address the issue. The minister mentioned the issue of the benchmark and defended why it should be allowed to be taken off.
The minister further held that the E-levy was very important to the government at this critical moment in the economy when it wanted to create jobs.
He said that the government was in consultation with the telecommunication companies to scale back to moderate the impact of the 1.75% e-levy.
2022 Budget approved
After listening to the Finance Minister’s concluding remarks on the budget, the Speaker put the question on whether or not the 2022 Budget statement and economic policy should be approved, a question the House answered in the affirmative.
Minutes after their decision was thrashed out, the Minority spoke to the press, through its leader, Haruna Iddrisu, and said the Majority had also committed an illegality, as they also had 137 members.
The Minority argued that the First Deputy Speaker could not count himself because he was in the position of a speaker and not an MP.
They said that going forward, cooperation between the other sides is lost because the government did not listen to their concerns on the E-levy, victims of the tidal waves, Aker Energy, and the Agyapa deal.