Outlook and evaluation of the third meeting of the seventh Parliament


Parliament reconvened in October 30, 2018, for the third meeting of the Second Session of the Seventh Parliament. Members of Parliament (MPs) are on recess after thirty-nine sittings including three Saturdays in the month of December.

The house is expected to reconvene on January 29, 2019, to conduct the business for the fourth meeting of its third session.
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 thirty-nine sittings, an average number of 201 MPs were present in all the sittings, representing 73.1 percent of the total number.
The number of MPs who sought permission to be absent either for other related or urgent calls were 34, representing 12.4 percent of the total number of MPs.
Members of Parliament who were absent without any permission from their respective leaders were 40, representing 14.5 percent of the total population of legislators.
In the third meeting of the second session, Parliament had always  had 70 percent of legislators for a quorum, to transact business except on two occasions, where members were less than 70 percent to consider the Right to Information Bill, 2018, and the approval of the report on the Referendum (Creation of new Regions) Regulations, 2018 (C.I. 109).
The issue of quorum pursuant to Order 48 of the Parliamentary Standing Orders and Article 102 of the 1992 Constitution, was raised by some MPs during business transactions on the floor of the House.
On the RTI Bill, 2018, Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, Mr. Kobina Tahir Hammond, raised an issue of a quorum in one of the consideration stages of the bill. His request was granted and the House was adjourned.
On the report of the Referendum (Creation of new Regions) Regulations, 2018 (C.I. 109), Member of Parliament for Adaklu, Mr. Kwame Agbodza Governs, attempted to raise an issue of a quorum but his objection was shot down by the Speaker of Parliament who continued with the proceedings with only 64 members, to approve the report on the C.I. 109.
Bills on the floor of the house 
During the third meeting of the second session, 5 new bills were presented for the first time. These were the Intestate Succession Bill, 2018, Chartered Institute of Human Resources Management Bill, 2018, Holiday (Amendment) Bill and the Appropriation Bill, 2018.
Other existing Bills under consideration and reading are the Minerals Income Investment Fund Bill, 2018, Excise Tax Stamp (Amendment) Bill, 2018, Payment Services System Bill, 2018, Company’s Bill, 2018, Chartered Institute of Bankers (Ghana) Bill, 2018 and the Right to Information Bill, 2018.
At the end of the thirty-nine sittings of the third meeting, the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed into law.
The objective of the Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was to amend the Value Added Tax Act, 2013 (Act 870) to zero-rate the Value Added Tax on the supply of locally manufactured textiles and to provide for related matters.
The Value Added Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018 is divided into two clauses.
Clause one of the Bill amends Section fifty of Act 870 by empowering the Commissioner-General to refund the excess credit attributed to locally manufactured textiles.
Clause two amends the second schedules to Act 870 by adding to the list of zero-rated supplies, the supply of locally manufactured textiles by a local manufacturer who has been approved by the Ministry of Trade and Industry by December 31, 2021.
Legislative Instruments on the floor
11 Legislative Instruments were laid on the floor of Parliament to guide the operations and regulations of some agencies and assemblies.
The Deputy Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Mr. Augustine Collins Ntim, laid nine Legislative Instruments at the plenary to create five new Assemblies out of some existing Assemblies.
The Legislative Instruments laid were to create two new Municipal Assemblies and three new District Assemblies from the Greater Accra, Northern and Eastern Regions.
The Legislative Instruments presented by the Deputy Minister included the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018, Korle-Klottey Municipal Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018, Ayawaso Central Municipality Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018, East Gonja Municipal  Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018 and the Keta Municipal Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018.
Thereafter, Mr. Ntim laid North-East Gonja District Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018, Birim South District Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018, Achiase District Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018 and Anloga District Assembly (Establishment) Instrument, 2018.
Also, the Minister for Defence and Member of Parliament for Bimbilla, Mr. Dominic Bingab Aduna Nitiwul laid the Office of the Special Prosecutor Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2373) and Office of the Special Prosecutor (Operations) Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2374) on the floor of Parliament.
Mr. Nitiwul presented the LIs on behalf of the Attorney General on Monday, November 26, 2018.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2373) is to regulate the Management of Human Capital and Discipline of employees of the Office while the Office of the Special Prosecutor (Operations) Regulations, 2018 (L.I. 2374) is to regulate the investigations and the overall activities of the Office.
Constitutional Instruments on the floor
For the period of the Third Meeting of Seventh Parliament, one Constitutional Instrument was laid on the floor of the House.
The Referendum (Creation of new Regions) Regulations, 2018 (C.I. 109) was presented to Parliament by the government through the Minister for Regional Reorganisation and Development, Mr. Dan Botwe.
C.I. 109 was to pave way for the Electoral Commission to conduct a referendum for the creation of some six new regions.
Loan and service agreements approvals
A financial agreement of US$ 646,637,879.74 between the government and the Sinohydro Corporation Limited for the construction of Priority Road Infrastructure Projects Phase one under the Master Project Support Agreement (MPSA) was presented on the floor and approval was given in a unanimous vote.
The House again unanimously, approved a financing agreement between Ghana and the International Development Association (IDA) for an amount of US$30,000,000,000 to finance the proposed Financial Sector Development Project.
Also, a financial agreement between Ghana and a consortium of banks and financial institutions for an amount of US$300,000,000 to finance cocoa bills for the 2018/2019 crop season was approved.
Another approval was the service agreement between the government and the Fly Zipline Ghana Limited for the delivery of emergency health blood products to public health facilities through drone technology.
Parliament again approved a loan facility agreement between the government and the Ceskoslovenska Obchodni Bank for an amount of €47,500,000 for the design, supply and installation of 50 small and medium steel bridge components in the country.
A financing agreement between the government and the International Development Association (IDA) for an amount of US$ 20,000,000 to finance the proposed Ghana Energy Sector Transformation Initiative Project was approved.
Supplier’s credit agreement between the government and the Federal Republic of Brazil for an amount of US$ 95,495,000 to finance the establishment and the strengthening of Agricultural Mechanisation Service Centres (AMSECs) was also approved by Parliament.
Budget approvals from the House
Parliament unanimously approved the 2019 Budget Estimates of GH¢117,914,300 for the Ministry of Information, to implement its programmes and activities for the year 2019.
Parliament again approved GH¢250,000,000 Budget Estimates for the Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources, for the year 2019.
The House further approved the 2019 Budget Estimates of GH¢3,200,000, to the Ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation for its programmes.
Parliament unanimously approved a total amount of GH¢1,206,240,000 for the Ghana Revenue Authority for the 2019 financial year.
The Ministry for Justice and Attorney General was approved of GH¢136,000,000 for its 2019 programmes and activities.
Parliament through unanimous vote, approved the 2019 Budget Estimates of GH¢180,160,231 to the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), for the execution of its planned programmes.
Parliament approved the 2019 Budget Estimates of GH¢40,617,423,468 for other Government obligations in its statutory payments.
Parliament approved the 2019 Budget Estimates of the Ministry of Energy with the total amount of GH¢500,964,480 for the implementation of its programmes and activities.
The House again approved the Budget Estimates of the Finance Ministry with the total amount of GH¢563,808,391 for its operations.
The Budget Estimates of the Ministry of Trade and Industry was also approved with an amount of GH¢306,641,873.
Parliament further approved the annual Budget Estimate of the Ministry of Railways Development with the total amount of GH¢636,109,790, for its programmes.
Parliament also approved the Budget Estimates of the Ministry of Education with an amount of GH¢12,878,043,145 for its programmes, including the Free Senior High School policy.
The Budget Estimates of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources was again approved with the total amount of GH¢525,916,941.
Other approvals for the other Ministries include the Ministry for Local Government and Rural Development, Ministry for Employment, Ministry for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ministry for Roads and High Ways.
Parliament also approved the Budget Estimates of the various Agencies and Departments under the sector ministries.
Nomination approvals
Parliament unanimously approved the four nominated justices to the Supreme Court after going through vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament.
Parliament approved the nominations of Professor Emmanuel Nii Ashie Kotey, Justice Samuel Kofi Marful-Sau, Justice Agnes Mercy Abla Dordzie and Nene Abayaateye Ofoe Amegatcher, as the Committee on Appointments recommended their approval in their report.
The House again approved the nominations of some two sector ministers, two regional ministers and two deputy regional ministers.
The House approved Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and Mrs. Cynthia Morrison as substantive Sector Ministers.
Mr. Evans Bogie Opoku and Ms. Paulina Tangoba Abayage were also approved by the House as Regional Ministers.
The House again approved the nominations of Mr. Samuel Nuertey Ayertey and Mr. Martin Oti Gyarko as Deputy Regional Ministers.
The Minority in Parliament boycotted proceedings on the floor, following the failure of the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye to recognise Member of Parliament for Adaklu, Mr. Kwame Governs Agbodza after rising up to speak.
The Minority accused the Speaker for being biased after Mr. Agbodza stood on the floor of Parliament for almost twenty minutes, wanting to comment on a Constitutional Instrument (CI) that was laid by the Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, Mr. Mahama Ayariga.
Mr. Agbodza was not recognised and subsequently, the Speaker proceeded to pose the question for the adoption of the report pursuant to the Standing Orders of Parliament.
Describing the action of the Speaker as unconstitutional and tyrannical, Mr. Agbodza emphasised the Standing Orders and the Constitution that mandates the formation of a quorum in the commencement of government business at the Plenary.
Member of Parliament for Ningo-Prampram, Mr. Samuel Nartey George, almost engaged in a banta with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchway, over the price of a chancery for Ghana’s mission abroad.
Mr. Sam George objected to the price of the Chancery, Oslo Gaté, and stated that the price was outrageous.
Hon. Ayorkor Botchway was outraged and exchanged words with Mr. Sam George, which nearly turned into a fight after the agreement was discussed on the floor.
The Minority in Parliament objected to the Zipline agreement when the Committee on Health’s report was laid at the plenary for the first time.
The agreement was first shot down by the House due to objections and technical issues raised by the Minority in the agreement.
Press statements and counter statements
On the eve of the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, the Minority in Parliament organised a breakfast meeting, indicating that Ghanaians should expect tough times in the year 2019.
The Minority pointed out that there is no indication that there will be a change in government’s policy direction but rather, Ghanaians would be burdened with tax.
The Minority anticipated that there would be an upsurge in government expenditure and populists policies  as well as an issuance of a century bond which, is above the absorption capacity of the economy.
The Minority again held a press conference and demanded the publication of the Justice Brobbey’s Commission of Inquiry Report on the creation of the proposed new regions.
The Minority stated that the content of the report is, however, shrouded in so much secrecy that even Parliament, as a co-equal branch of the government has been denied access to the report.
The Minority also held a press briefing on the Zipline agreement and indicated that the deal is dangerous for the country since, huge financial cost is involved without any returns.
The Majority in Parliament, in a counter statement pointed out that the agreement is only based on service cost and not the drones being procured for the project.
Another strong objection by the Minority through a press statement was the price of the proposed chancery, Oslo Gaté for Ghana’s mission abroad.
The Minority held that the facility was sold by an unknown individual, and that the price of the building was extremely expensive.
The Minority averred that the transaction was not transparent to ensure accountability.
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 fourth meeting.
Mid-year Fiscal Review
The Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, presented a 174 page 2019 Budget Statement and economic Policy of the Government to Parliament on November 15, 2018. Debate on the Budget Statement started on November 20, 2018, and ended on November 30, 2018.
Mr. Ofori-Atta stated that the government will ensure irreversibility of the macroeconomic gains Ghana has made, and that Ghana has completed the International Monitory Fund (IMF) programme.
He further stated that the Office of the Special Prosecutor would be allotted an amount of GH¢180 million for its operations.
In the presentation, the Finance Minister indicated that Ghana’s total debt has shot to GH¢170.8 billion, comprising external and domestic debt of GH¢86.6 billion and 84.1 billion respectively.
Mr. Ofori-Atta disclosed that Ghana has achieved a trade surplus of at least GH¢1.1 billion, the first in the past twenty years.
He again noted that a seed money would be allotted for the construction of the National Cathedral.
Mr. Ofori-Atta informed the House that the Income Tax Band of 35 percent was reviewed by the government and has been brought down to 30 percent, to cover salaries of GH¢20,000 and and above.
Speaker’s concluding remarks 
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, informed the house that February, 2019, has been set as new deadline for passage of bill after Parliament couldn’t approve the bill by end of year as promised despite huge public pressure.
Speaker of Parliament Prof. Mike Ocquaye also urged civil society groups not to interfere with its work on the Right To Information (RTI) Bill.
Prof. Oquaye stated that perception created that Parliament has refused to pass the Bill is fallacious, and that the media should  correct the wrong impression created.
Source: GhanaJustice/S.Ayisi


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