MAJORITY in Parliament yesterday asked Mr Alban Bagbin, the Minority Leader, to apologise to the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, for saying that the Speaker's conduct of Thursday's proceedings “smacks of dictatorship.”
Addressing a press conference on behalf of the Majority in Parliament, Mr Osei-Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, Majority Chief Whip, said Mr Bagbin ought to have exercised restraint in his choice of words especially since he had recently advised his colleague MPs to eschew indispline in the discharge of their official duties.
Mr Bagbin at a news conference in Accra on Thursday, criticized the Speaker for what he described as a violation of the Parliamentary Standing Orders by allowing the Finance and Economic Planning Minister, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, to read “a Mid-Year Review of the Economy,” instead of laying a supplementary financial estimates.
“Assuming that Mr Speaker was wrong in his ruling to the objection raised by Honourable Bagbin, that would still not call for the insulting behaviour and the disrespect exhibited by the NDC MPs,” Mr Mensah-Bonsu said.
“Is Hon. Bagbin saying that anytime anybody does not agree with Mr Speaker, the member would be right in doing what the NDC did? He asked.
“Obviously there would be chaos,” he answered.
The Chief Whip, Member of Parliament for Suame, continued: “We reckon the NDC's fear was that they didn't want Ghanaians to hear the good news the Minister was going to give them.”
Mr Mensa-Bonsu claimed the Minority wanted “a hushed budget” and challenged Mr Bagbin to cite one instance in his 13 years parliamentary experience which budget was laid and just referred to the committee without the Minister speaking to it.
He said, “Mid-year review is not part of our Constitution and the Minister is not obliged to do that in the house.”
Mr Mensah-Bonsu said if in presenting his supplementary estimates, the Finance Minister decided to review the economy, there was nothing wrong with that and Ghanaians are the best judges.
He said nothing barred the minister from reviewing the performance of the economy for the half year.
“If nothing at all, the House and Ghanaians have known how we are doing before we approve of the new estimates.”
On the question of procedure, he said there was nothing wrong as Article 179 of the constitution demanded that estimates for the following year be laid before Parliament.
He said, Article 179(8) required that supplementary budget be laid before Parliament and the Standing Orders of Parliament 138 and 149 regulated the financial procedure.
Mr Mensah-Bonsu said Standing Order 149 stipulated: “Supplementary Estimate shall be regulated by the same procedure as is provided for the budget.”
The budget procedures, according to him was that estimates were laid before Parliament, the Minister moved the motion and the portions of estimates concerning ministries and departments are referred to appropriate committees and the portions that related to revenue and expenditure referred to the Finance Committee.
“What happened yesterday was that the estimates were laid and Mr Speaker offered it to the Finance Committee,” he said.
He said if perhaps the reference ought to have been after the motion had been moved and the minister spoken to it, that was “ a minor slip.”
In another development, the Millennium Development Authority (Amendment) Bill has been passed by the House.
The Bill clarifies certain portions of the Act to make it consistent with the terms of the compact or agreement which will be acceptable to both Ghana and the United States.
It also provides for a clearly established fund into which moneys meant for the authority are to be paid.
A credit agreement between the government and Barclays Bank Ghana Limited for 50,000 dollars for the construction of the Tamale and Sekondi Sports stadia was also laid.
The agreements were referred to the Parliamentary Committee on Finance for study and report.