Parliament reconvened in May 15, 2018, for the second meeting of the Second Session of the Seventh Parliament. Members of Parliament (MPs) are on recess after 46 sittings including a Saturday on the last day.
The house is expected to reconvene in October, 2018, to conduct the business for the third meeting but the house would be called in September for a one-week business.
The total number of MPs expected to be present during business on the floor of the house is 275 from both the minority and the majority sides.
At the end of the 46 sittings, an average number of 212 MPs were present in all the sittings, representing 78 percent.
The number of MPs who sought permission to be absent either for other related or urgent calls are 33, representing a 12 percent of the total population.
Members of Parliament who were absent without any permission from their respective leaders were 30, representing 10 percent of the total population of legislators.
In the second sitting, Parliament had always had 70 percent of legislators for a quorum to transact business expect in just one occasion, where members were less than 70 percent to approve a loan facility for the construction of a satellite campus of University of Environment and Sustainable development at Bunso.
Bills on the floor of the house
49 new bills were expected to be presented on the floor for the first time. 8 bills were also at the committee level. 25 instruments were expected to be presented.
At the end of the second sitting, the Legal Aid Commission Bill, 2017 and the Witness protection Bill, 2017 of the 8 bills at the committee level were passed into laws.
The Right to Information Bill, 2018 and other bills are at the consideration stage.
97 questions on socio-economic issues were asked by MPs and answered by ministers and deputy ministers.
Approvals from the house
Commercial laon facilities for the various sectors infrastructure development and other projects were presented on the floor of Parliament.
The house approved a credit and commercial facility agreement of €47 million for expansion works at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC).
Parliament approved $1.3 billion laon facility for the purchase of cocoa for the 2018/2019 crop season. Ghana acted as the guarantor in the agreement.
Again, $80 million United Kingdom Export Finance and commercial agreements were approved for the design and construction of the second phase of the Tamale International Airport.
A loan agreement from the EXIM Bank of Korea with the total amount of $90 million was approved to finance the establishment of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development satellite campus at Bunso in the Eastern Region.
Another €27 million facility agreements were approved for the completion and rehabilitation works at Bekwai Hospital.
A credit facility of €40.6 million and a commercial tied facility of €6.5 million was approved between the government and Bank Hapoalim B.M.
€93 million loan facility agreements for the redevelopment and modernisation of the Kumasi Central Market was approved by the house.
For the transport sector, $150 million laon agreement was approved to finance the proposed Transport Sector Improvement Project.
On July 27, 2018, the house approved the Mid-year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government.
Parliament unanimously approved the nomination of Ms. Jane Cynthia Naa Toshie Lamptey as the Deputy Special Prosecutor.
The approval of Ms. Lamptey followed the adoption of the report of the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP), which recommended to the house to approve her nomination based on the satisfactory responses she gave during her vetting.
The Privileges Committee, chaired by Mr. Joseph Osei-Owusu probed into the alleged contemptuous comments of Parliament being “useless” and “cheap” by the Assin Central MP, Mr. Kennedy Agyapong.
The 31 member committee found out that Mr. Agyapong indeed uttered those comments according to evidence submitted by the complainant, Mr. Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka.
There was a split vote at the committee level on the sanctions for the Assin Central MP.
The decision on either a suspension or a reprimand was deferred to the house. The house is yet to vote on the specific sanction for the Assign Central MP.
The Minority in Parliament boycotted the registration of the National Identification Card. They raised an objection that the Voters’ Card should be included in the registration.
In their submission, they indicated that about 75 percent of Ghanaians do not have passport or birth certificate to do the registration.
The majority insisted that registration can be done without necessarily justifying identity as a citizen with a passport or a birth certificate. Non of the minority members registered for the card.
Press statements and counter statements
At the eve of the Mid-year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, the Minority in Parliament organised a breakfast meeting, indicating that the government will increase Value Added Tax (VAT) from 17.5 to 21.5.
The minority again stated that the government is struggling with finance and the best way to support its “pro-poor” policy of free Senior High School is to cap finance from the Ghana Educational Trust Fund (GETFund) and the oil sector.
The minority further added that the government will tax luxury cars with the engine capacities of 3.0 litres
The Mid-year review on the other hand did not increase VAT and capping of the GETfund. Tax on luxury cars of 3.0 litres of engine capacity was rather introduced.
The minority issued a press statement on the season closure of fishing by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture on August to September.
The minority indicated that August is the bumper harvest for fishermen. On the other hand, the minority failed to provide any empirical and scientific proof to counter the research by the ministry on the rationale behind the closure.
The minority threatened to go to court over the rejection of Voter’s Identification Card for the registration of the National Identification Card.
The minority pointed out that the current Legislative Instrument (LI) on the national ID registration made provision for the voter’s IDs and other similar documents to be accepted for the Ghana Card registration.
The expectation that the Right to Information (RTI) Bill, 2018 would be passed during the meeting did not materialise although significant progress was made in the legislative process.
The RTI is at the consideration stage and the leadership of the house assured that the RTI Bill would be passed in the third sitting. 91 clauses are supposed to be amended in the bill before it is passed into law.
Mid-year Fiscal Review
The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, presented a 61 page Mid-year Fiscal Policy Review of the 2018 Budget Statement and economic Policy to Parliament on July 19, 2018. Debate on the Mid-year review started on July 23, 2018 and ended on July 23, 2018.
The Finance Minister stated that the gross public debt stock in nominal terms stood at GH¢154 billion in end May 2018, representing 63.8 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as compared to 66.8 percent in same period of 2017.
He emphasized that the external debt at end of May 2018 amounted to GH¢81.7 billion whilst domestic debt amounted to GH¢72.6 billion representing, 53.0 percent and 47.0 percent of the total public debt stock respectively.
On Eurobond Issuance, Mr Ofori-Atta informed the house that the government raised a total amount of US$2 billion in a 10 year and a 30 year Eurobonds of US$1 billion each from the international capital market.
He reiterated that the Medium Term Debt Management Strategy (MTDS) has been prepared and published in accordance with the Public Financial Management Act, 2016 (Act 921) and in line with the macro-fiscal framework for the period spanning 2018-2021.
In his presentation, Mr Ofori-Atta announced a policy of changing 2.5 percent Health Insurance Fund Levy and the 2.5 percent Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund) levy on VAT to a flat levy.
Speaker’s concluding remarks
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, informed the house that plans are underway to establish a legal and drafting department to aid the law-making process in the house.
Prof. Oquaye added that Parliament will consider Private Members Bills to address the needs of people.
He added that members should desist from lateness in the coming third sitting of the house to aid in fast tracking business on the floor.