The Majority in Ghana’s Parliament is accusing Speaker of the House, Alban Bagbin of unconstitutionally rejecting government’s Budget Statement and Economic Policy for the year 2022.
The Speaker last Friday announced that the Budget Statement presented to the House on Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta has been rejected as it was put to vote despite a walkout by the Majority side of the House.
But speaking to journalists in Parliament, Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the move by the Speaker does not have a binding effect.
“That whole procedure was unconstitutional. As far as we are concerned, it’s null and void and has no binding effect on anybody. We have cause to believe that at least 2 of the NDC MPs were not in the chamber and yet out of mischief, the Speaker said that they were 137. In any event, even if you go with 137, it is still less than one-half of the 275 members of the chamber so when he puts the question, the Speaker should have known that the number would not support the decision of the House. So that purported decision is a nullity and does not have any effect on anybody”, he stressed.
The Majority Leader and Minister responsible for parliamentary affairs also believed that the action taken by the Speaker is shameful because it smacks of political bias, adding that reports concerning the rejection of the 2022 budget by Parliament must be disregarded.
“So to that extent, the motion that has been moved by the Finance Minister has not been lost. It still stands. By necessary implication, that exercise that was engaged in is a complete nullity, and I believe that whoever presided over this should bow down his head in shame.”
What happened in Parliament
Members on the majority side of Parliament staged a walkout during processes to approve the 2022 budget in the House on Friday, November 26, 2021.
This follows a disagreement over a directive by the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, for non-MPs to vacate the Chamber following a request for a division after a voice vote in the House.
Parliament had through a voice vote rejected a request by the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, to meet the leadership of the House before the approval of the 2022 budget.
Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin, challenged the Speaker’s interpretation of the voice vote and called for a ‘division’.
Mr. Bagbin thus directed that, per orders of the House, non-MPs had to vacate the Chamber during the division process.
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.
Meanwhile, the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy was rejected after the majority staged the walkout.
The Majority in the statement argued that the action of the Minority and the Speaker of Parliament breaches provisions of the constitution and standing orders of the House.
“The Majority Caucus of the 8th Parliament of Ghana hereby notifies the Ghanaian public to kindly disregard the decision by Speaker Alban Bagbin, that 137 members of Parliament have the power to take a decision for Parliament and have consequently rejected the 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the Government of Ghana.”
The Majority Caucus argued that: “Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 109 of the Standing Orders of Parliament are very clear. The two provisions, read together, require that at least 138 MPs needed to have been present in the Chamber at the time of the purported vote. Therefore, 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”.
“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 to on their own, attempt to vote against the Budget in a bid to subject the Government of Ghana to embarrassment for mere partisan reasons.”