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Rejection Of 2022 Budget: The Majority Failed To Demonstrate Real Leadership

Feature Article Rejection Of 2022 Budget: The Majority Failed To Demonstrate Real Leadership
NOV 27, 2021 LISTEN

Last night, social media was bussing with various arguments as to whether the process leading to the rejection of the 2022 budget was in tandem with the law or the Speaker was doing the bidding of the minority in Parliament. One of the critical arguments was whether Parliament had a quorum to vote on the budget. I had serious arguments and defended the NPP even before I could watch the Parliamentary proceedings. The truth is, I chose to watch the NSMQ, knowing that the budget approval was going to be a walk in the park, considering that we have the numbers to get the budget approved.

Let me begin by briefly taking us through the process of approving a budget before Parliament for my analysis. The budget is a government business and the motion to vote for approval or otherwise must be moved by the President or on behalf of the President (Article 108 of Constitution of Ghana). Sometimes, the majority leader, who is the leader of government business, may move such a motion on behalf of the President. In this case, the Minister of Finance was in the Parliament House to move the motion.

Having established the above, let’s read the Constitution of Ghana together with the Standing Orders of Parliament to understand whether Parliament had the quorum needed to sit and also vote on the motion to accept the budget. Article 102 of the Constitution states that ''A quorum of Parliament, apart from the person presiding, shall be one-third of all the members of Parliament.'' This article relates to the quorum of Members of Parliament needed to begin parliamentary business at a sitting. This means that there should be at least 92 MPs out of a total of 275 MPs present before sitting can commence. However, if it becomes necessary to vote on a particular matter or a question in the course of proceedings, the presence of 92 members of parliament is not enough to start voting, and this is provided in Article 104(1) of the Constitution, which states that ‘‘Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, matters in Parliament shall be determined by the votes of the majority of members present and voting, with at least *half of all the members of Parliament present’’* This provision has been echoed in the Standing Order rule 109 of Parliament which also states that *‘‘ No question for decision in the House shall be proposed for determination unless there are present in the House not less than one-half of all the Members of the House, and, except otherwise provided in the Constitution, the question proposed shall be determined by the majority of the votes of the Members present and voting’’*

Reading from the provisions above, it is not possible for the minority side, which is 137, to vote to accept or reject the budget since they do not constitute at least half of all members of Parliament with a total of 275 Members. Again, the Speaker can't call for a vote on the budget unless a motion has been tabled by or on behalf of the President.

To see whether the rejection of the budget was lawful, let’s find answers to the following questions.

  1. Did Parliament meet the quorum of one-third of all members of Parliament, that is, 92, before the commencement of proceedings?
  2. Did the Finance Minister Move the motion on behalf of the President for Parliament to vote on the budget?
  3. Before the Finance Minister moved the motion, did Parliament have more than half of all members present? That is 138 or more members.

If the answers to all the above questions are ''YES'' then the Speaker did no wrong, and the rejection of the budget was rightfully within the law. Since the majority side decided to stage a walk-out after the motion has been tabled, their actions can only constitute a decision to ''abstain from voting''. We must understand that you can abstain from voting by siting in the plenary or walking out. In other words, the vote will be carried if the majority of the MPS present vote either in favour or against a question. It is not the first time a group has walked out before a vote and the vote was carried.

I am laughing as I am typing this piece, not out of joy but out of a burning anger and frustration imposed on loyal members and sympathisers of the NPP, a party I belong to. Our MPs are causing us too much pain. By recognizing our faults in selecting Bagbin as Speaker, which has been so hurtful to our party and government, I thought we were placed in a good position to understand the full implication and to be able to find appropriate solutions in managing the intransigent minority moving forward. It seems there has been no examination of our weak inabilities which could serve as help and provide us with certain toughness for struggle. It appears our MPS have just endorsed a statement by Henry Ford that ‘‘the only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.’’ Indeed, it’s not a mistake to make a mistake, but it’s a mistake to repeat the same mistake.

Is the majority's leadership saying they didn't know they could not have the number of MPS on our side needed to approve the budget in a vote before tabling the motion? Seriously? If we had the numbers, why did we decide to walk out with the flimsy excuse that our request to get General Mosquito moved from the public gallery was not heeded? The minority only asked non-MP ministers seated in the chamber to go out before the voting to prevent them from participating in the voting and an attempt to counter this, by asking Asiedu Nketia who was sitting in the public gallery, also to go out was utterly irrelevant.

However, I must admit it was, unconstitutional for the Speaker to request the non-MP Ministers to vacate the chamber in the procedure of division. The speaker has become too partisan and arrogated to himself powers he doesn’t have thereby becoming a dictator instead of an unbiased moderator. Regrettably, Rt. Hon. Bagbin has been holding the Speakership like a child who has just received his first Christmas toy and instead of being magnanimous to Father Christmas goes about fledging his muscles and rubbing it in. The position has entered the head of Mr Bagbin too much and it is about time somebody told him. He should know his place in the Parliament House.

Fellow Patriots, we must understand that our MPS staged that walk-out, having realised that they couldn't get the budget approved. This is shameful, and we must not defend them. They cannot continue to make such grave mistakes and still be hailed as heroes. Our MPs are too experienced to allow themselves to be outplayed and outsmarted by the NDC whenever it mattered most. For how long are the MPs going to water down the hard work of the president with such unforgivable manoeuvring and tactical bankruptcy? I have never felt embarrassed in my life as a member of our great party to see our budget rejected by Parliament.

But wait, why was the NDC so confident that even if we had all the MPS on our side present, they could still get the budget rejected? Who are the moles in our party who are always doing the bidding of the NDC? Sacrificing the Speakership was bad enough but to embarrass our party and government with the unenviable record of getting our budget rejected first time in the history of the Fourth Republic is heinous and completely unacceptable.

Parliament would have to review and make exceptions for voting on the budget statement and the Economic policy in the future. In future, there should be a way to separate controversial issues of the budget so that the rest of the budget can be approved in order not to obstruct the smooth running of the country.

As I write the Speaker has sought leave of Parliament to go on holiday after superintending on a historic commotion. This means that if parliament reconvenes on Tuesday, the Independent MP will sit as Speaker and if he decides in an unlikely situation to put the budget to a vote again, there will be point since each side will have 137 votes and reading from Article 104 (3) where the votes on the motion of the budget are equal it shall be taken to be lost. The NDC planned and have managed to outsmart our MPs. Nothing new will happen on Tuesday. Now did we go or did we come? At this point, every member of the NPP must be worried and demand accountability from our MPS. We need answers. The majority's leadership must demonstrate real leadership and not act as if we are instead the minority.

*James McKeown*

Vice Chairman

NPP-Finland

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