The Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the Parliamentary Services Board, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has received a draft Parliamentary Transition Bill from the Center for Democratic Transitions (CDT). The draft bill was presented to him in Accra by Professor Kwamina Ahwoi and Nana Ato Dadzie, both consultants with the CDT.
Transitioning from one parliament to another under the Fourth Republican Constitution has had gaps and doubtful legal validity, that have created challenges from one parliament to another in particular, and for democratic governance in general. The purpose of the draft bill therefore is to ensure a smooth, seamless and peaceful transition for the legislature.
The draft bill is similar to, but different from the Presidential Transition Act, which was passed for the executive for a similar purpose. The Parliamentary Transition Bill focuses on the peculiarities of the legislature in periods of changeover, and what the experience has been so far. The idea of enacting legislation in the nature of a Parliamentary Transition Bill dawned on Rt. Hon. Speaker Bagbin immediately he assumed office after the nasty and acrimonious election process on January 7th 2021. The idea was shared with the Parliamentary Service Board, which commissioned the drafting of the Parliamentary Transition Bill
Speaking after a presentation on the draft bill and related documents, the Rt. Hon. Speaker said the Parliamentary Services Board commissioned the drafting of the bill to help bring closure to some of the unregulated and contestable aspects of what have been the processes, procedures and practices when it comes to parliamentary transition.
He spoke about instances where there have been certain expectations of the Speaker or the Clerk to Parliament, when in truth that mandate does not exist, and said the draft bill takes a retrospective look at what has happened in the past, considers today’s hung parliament, anticipates what could happen in the future and provides direction and guidance.
Rt. Hon. Bagbin commended Professor Ahwoi and his team for the deep thoughts that went into the proposals and recommendations. He looked forward to sharing the proposals and recommendations with the Parliamentary Service Board so that together, they could chart a path that will sustain parliamentary democracy in Ghana.
Presenting the draft bill to the Rt. Hon. Speaker, Professor Ahwoi gave examples of the gaps the bill will help close. He said the election of the Speaker of Parliament has hitherto been done by elected Members of Parliament who have not been sworn into office. That, he said, was problematic and could raise legal issues.
The bill therefore proposes that election of the Speaker should be by constituting elected MPs into an electoral college to conduct that business. That would help circumvent the current challenge.
Professor Ahwoi also suggested that to avoid unnecessary complications and complexities in the future, consideration should be given to requesting the Electoral Commission to be responsible for the election of the Speaker of Parliament. The Speaker, once elected and sworn in, will then supervise the election of the deputies. These, he said, would have to be done at least two days before the Speaker presides over Parliament for the swearing-in of the President-elect of the Republic, in consonance with the Presidential Transition Act.
When validated, considered and passed, the Parliamentary Transition Act will govern how the offices of the Speaker, Leaders of the House, and MPs transition from one person to the other to ensure continuity, sustainability and ultimately enhance parliamentary democracy in Ghana.
Present during the presentation was the Clerk to Parliament, Mr. Cyril Nsiah and other officers of the Parliamentary Service.