The First Deputy Speaker, yesterday made mockery of the Standing Orders of Parliament, when he literally turned into a Chameleon to act as a player and referee to get the controversial 2022 Budget and Economic Policy statement approved by the 138 members on the New Patriotic Party (NPP) side of the House.
Chameleons are famous for their quick color-changing abilities, and Joe Osei Owusu, who has taken over as Acting Speaker of Parliament, could not be far from the characteristics of the insect-eating-fragile-looking reptile.
Alban Bagbin, is in Dubai for a medical review, Mr Osei Owusu, blazingly ignored a key provision in the Standing Orders – the rules governing the House which sternly warns playing a dual role, and proceeded to count himself as the Member of Parliament for Bekwai, who has a voting right, although he was the speaker for the day.
This is in spite of the warning given in Article 109 section 3 of the Standing Orders on Voting in the House that “a Deputy Speaker or any other member presiding, shall not retain his original vote while presiding, and proceeded to count himself as a member”.
Interestingly, the same Mr Osei-Owusu, a lawyer by profession, condemned Mr Bagbin, saying the House he presided over last Friday made up of the 137 members on the side of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which rejected the same 2022 budget, acted illegally because it not represent the 50percent threshold spelt out by the Constitution to carry out the business.
But in the end, the decision to bring back the budget, was done by the 137 members when they were counted, same number as the NDC members who rejected the document over the illegal insertion of the US$1.6 billion Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC)-Aker Energy and AGM deal and the Agyapa Royalties deal as approved when they had not.
The presence of the 1.7% E-levy on Mobile money transactions, was also rejected by the NDC MPs, who had also expressed disquiet of the removal of benchmark values on some imported products, as well as the failure of the Finance Ministry to capture 4000 victims of the Tidal waves in the 2022 budget.
The Minority in Parliament is upset by the decision of the First Deputy Speaker, for counting himself as a Member of the House, while presiding over parliamentary proceedings yesterday.
Mr Osei Owusu, nicknamed “Joe Wise”, had included himself in the total number of MPs in the House before having the motion for the rescission of the rejection of the 2022 Budget moved.
A headcount by the Clerk of Parliament,showed that there were 137 MP, but Mr Osei- Owusu, said he was also present, making the total members in the House 138, but was not counted during the headcounts.
Subsequently, he pushed for the motion arguing that Mr Bagbin erred in overseeing the rejection of the budget by the Minority side last Friday, since there was no clear majority in the House during the proceedings.
He rubbished the purported rejection of the budget and, through a voice vote, overturned the decision that dismissed the government’s fiscal policy for 2022.
But this move, according to the Minority caucus, is not only disappointing, but also in clear breach of the parliamentary standing orders.
“The majority say they respect the constitution and the standing orders of the House, today I am particularly disappointed in the conduct of the First Deputy Speaker having to include himself and to exercise himself in order to meet their mandatory defined 138 without recourse or respect to the standing orders and the 1992 constitution. Standing order 109 is on voting”, Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu said in an address to the media.
The Minority leader, mentioned particularly Article 104 of the Constitution and Order 108 of the standing orders in parliament.
“The Speaker for the day, Joe Osei Owusu, MP for Bekwai, had no locus to count himself among the MPs, therefore as far as we are concerned, today’s vote reflected another 137. The deputy speaker. They were not 138, but 137. They have set a precedent that will come and haunt them in future”, he said.
Order 108 of the standing orders talks about voting in Parliament which specifies that, no question for decision in the House shall be proposed for determination unless there are present in the House not less than one-half of all the Members of the House, and, except otherwise provided in the Constitution, the Question proposed shall be determined by the majority of votes of the Members present and voting.
Also, the Speaker, shall have neither an original nor a casting vote and if upon any question before the House the votes are equally divided, the motion shall be taken to be lost.
A Deputy Speaker or any other member presiding shall not retain his original vote, while presiding.
Parliament approved the government’s 2022 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, presented to the House by the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, on November 17, 2021.
Although, the budget was rejected by the House last Friday by the Minority, the Majority Caucus overturned the decision yesterday and approved the policy document, however, members on the Minority side, were absent during the sitting yesterday.
The Minority MPs, refused to be in the chamber because they and their counterparts on the Majority side could not arrive at a consensus on requests for some amendments to be made to the 2022 budget.
The First Deputy Speaker, had declared as null and void Parliament’s rejection of the government’s 2022 budget and economic policy statement last Friday, arguing that, the rejection of the budget statement by 137 minority members was unconstitutional, and that Alban Bagbin, erred in his ruling.
Mr Osei Owusu, based his ruling on Tuesday on Article 104 of the 1992 Constitution, which forbids parliament from taking certain decisions until it has half of the number of MPs present in the chamber.
“My attention has been drawn to the record, page 10 of the Votes and Proceedings of Friday, which showed that the confirmed numbers of the Members of Parliament at the time the question was presented was less than half of the Members of Parliament. Records show that 137 members were present. That is less than half of the full Members of Parliament. Article 104 and our standing order clearly spell out the process of decision-making in the house. It clearly states that a question shall not be put on any matter unless at least half of the members are present in Parliament.”
“The Speaker appeared not to have paid attention to the Constitution and procedural provision. I’m certain that given his expertise, he would not have made this error if his attention was drawn to it. The consequence of this unfortunate error is that it is void and inconsequential since it was done in violation of Article 104 (1) of the constitution.”
On the absence of Minority MPs, Mr Osei Owusu, had explained that “we clearly agreed that Parliament would sit at 3:30 pm after having lunch. But it’s a pity they are not here.”