Here are the stories from Parliament this week starting Tuesday, May 19th
Speaker Oquaye Opens Second Meeting
After an approximately 3 weeks’ recess at the end of the first meeting, Parliament has started sitting for the second meeting of the fourth session this week from Tuesday. In a prepared statement to the House to mark the official opening of this meeting, the Speaker of Parliament, Right Honourable Professor Aaron Micheal “Mike” Oquaye welcomed MPs back from recess and commended House Committees which carried their duties during the vacation period. The House Committee on Appointments which is chaired by the First Deputy Speaker Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu (MP, Bekwai) conducted a public vetting on the President of Ghana’s nominees to the Supreme Court as Justices, whiles, the special committee to review the Standing Orders of Parliament also met to conclude its work and will present its report to the House for validation in the course of this meeting. However, before the Standing Orders Committee makes its completed work available to the House for the said validation, MPs have been invited to make suggestions to the final draft document which was distributed to them. Bearing in mind the tall order of business before the House at this meeting, Speaker Oquaye used the opportunity in his address to appeal to Chairpersons of Committees to ensure the completion of work on the respective referrals made to them.
The Speaker also used the moment to announce that its “strategic collaboration” project with STAR-Ghana (now Star Ghana Foundation), a local based multi-donor funding organisation, which ended on 30th April 2020. He was grateful for the partnership which according to him, “has largely facilitated the capacity building of our institutional human resources, enhanced our engagement with civil society organisations and last but not the least, our responsiveness.” He went on to say that, “plans are underway to mark the official conclusion of this important partnership to coincide with the official launch of the strategic plan for Parliament of Ghana for 2020-2024 which was partly funded under the programme.” Also under the programme MPs among other activities were engaged in public education in the media on COVID-19 that Speaker Oquaye had personally led its arrangement. He hoped for further collaboration with STAR-Ghana and other interested groups.
The Parliament of Ghana/STAR-Ghana programme which started in 2017 focused on 7 target groups which benefitted from a grant to the tune of GH¢5.4 million to implement their approved action plans. The target groups are made up of The House Leadership, Parliamentary Service, the various Committees on Local Government and Rural Development, Education, Gender and Children, and Government Assurances, as well as the African Parliamentarians Network against Corruption (APNAC).
On the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Ghana, Professor Oquaye indulged the MPs to adhere to hygiene protocols to stop the spread. He continued to emphasize on the need for regular washing of hands with soap under running water and wiping the hands with clean disposable paper, application of approved hand sanitizers, wearing of approved masks in public and observing social distance to keep safe. He then directed the leadership of the House to ensure there is enough space between MPs’ seating, and in the event of an overflow, “the Whips would decide what to do”, he said. The Speaker again directed the Clerk and Parliament’s in-house medical officer to conduct COVID testing for MPs and staff of the Parliamentary Service and admired the efforts of the frontline staff of the Ghana Health Service for their “unwavering commitment” to fight against COVID-19 in the country.
He ended his address with a plea on MPs to be punctual to all official engagements and prayed for divine direction, good health, fraternal love and the peace of mind to work. And entreated the House to “demonstrate in every way we are ready to work like soldiers at war for Mother Ghana. We shall face every emergency. We shall respond to every call to duty. We shall never drawback as we support the Executive in the work of Ghana,” he concluded.
House Minority Leader Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) used his opening remarks to renew calls to the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana to engage with Parliament on their roadmap regarding the general elections because "COVID or no COVID, we are a democracy," he said and that it will be unacceptable of any excuse from EC about its inability to organise elections in accordance with Article 45 of the Constitution. The Minority Leader also pledged their support for the Executive on efforts at containing the spread of COVID-19 infection across the country, he, however, cautioned government against trading human life for economic recovery which he said gave his him cause for concern.
The Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu (MP, Suame) on his part used his opening remarks to recap on what happened in the first meeting and gave a preview of the agenda for the second meeting and what to expect in the course of the meeting.
Supreme Court Gets New Justices
The House on Wednesday approved Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, Justice Issifu Omoro Tanko Amadu, Mr Emmanuel Yonny Kulendi, and Professor Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu as Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana following a 2-day public vetting session from 11-12 May 2020 bringing the number to a total of 17 Justices of the Supreme Court. President Akufo-Addo formally submitted the names of his Supreme Court nominees on 19th March for appointment in accordance with Article 144(2) of the Constitution.
The House Committee on Appointments indicated their satisfaction with the 4 individuals and recommended them for approval at plenary. According to the Committee, “the nominees further demonstrated to the Committee that the Constitution being a living document would not be interpreted with their biases… no evidence of corruption, incompetence or bias in the performance of their respective roles in the legal sector was brought before the Committee”, it wrote in the concluding remarks of its report to the House.
First Reading of Bills
The following Bills have passed first reading and have been respectively referred to the Finance Committee with assistance from the leadership of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal & Parliamentary Affairs, and Works and Housing Committee for consideration: Borrowers and Lenders Bill, 2020 and Real Estate Authority Bill, 2020.
Education Regulatory Bodies Bill, 2019 at the Consideration Stage
The Bill which is currently at the consideration stage seeks to establish regulatory bodies to regulate the education sector in the country effectively & efficiently. The Bill will see the merging of the National Council for Tertiary Education and the National Accreditation Board to form Ghana Tertiary Education Commission. There are 118 clauses in the Bill. Consideration continues next week.
Frank Bruce | PARLIAMENT House, ACCRA