Revised Standing Orders: Committee meetings of Parliament open to public — Bagbin

Parliament Revised Standing Orders: Committee meetings of Parliament open to public — Bagbin
FEB 28, 2024 LISTEN

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has stated that the January 2024 Standing Orders of Parliament make the various Committee meetings of the legislature open and accessible to the public.

That, he explained, formed part of Parliament's effort to deepen transparency and accountability in its activities.

It would be recalled that Ghana's Parliament was recently ranked first in the Africa Open Parliament Index, Mr Bagbin said in his opening address at Kwahu during the orientation workshop for the second cohort of Members of Parliament (MPs) and Procedural Staff on the new Standing Orders of the House.

He said: “The old Standing Orders were discovered to have presented certain lacunae, anomalies, lack of clarity, and inconsistencies and the development of the current Standing Orders has been under review since 2002 to ensure that, the Orders are all-encompassing and reflective of evolving institutional needs.”

To achieve this, he stated “In consultation with leadership I constituted a Technical Committee to speed up the review of the November 2000 Orders, consider its coverage and to provide for all the possible governance scenarios provided for in the framework of the 1992 Constitution.

“The committee engaged with leadership, consulted various committees, sought the expertise of specialists in contemporary parliamentary democracy, and researched current best practices in other jurisdictions. The result is the January 2024 Standing Orders,” the Speaker said. To buttress his point, Mr Bagbin quoted the renowned American entrepreneur and scholar, Max Depree, who once said, “We cannot achieve what we desire if we remain stagnant in our current state.”

Mr Alexander Afenyo-Markin, the Majority Leader and a New Patriotic Party MP for Effutu, in his remarks, was optimistic that, the revised Standing Orders of Parliament which included a dedicated segment known as ‘Backbenchers Time’ would foster inclusivity.

This initiative aims to provide MPs situated at the backbench with an opportunity to actively contribute their ideas and perspectives, thereby enriching the Parliamentary practice.

He noted the significance of allowing backbenchers to voice their opinions and put forth proposals that could enhance legislative processes.

“Mr Speaker, then again, the introduction of ‘Backbenchers Time’ for the first time, an opportunity is given to backbenchers who usually do not get the opportunity to have their day to articulate their views and bring meaningful statement proposals to enhance their legislative work,” he said.

Mr Afenyo-Markin emphasised the importance of the workshop and reiterated the transformative potential embedded in the new Standing Orders.

He urged all MPs to actively participate, and he cited the advice of Mr Osei Kyei-Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, a former Majority Leader, who once emphasised the crucial role Standing Orders played in an MP's tenure.

“Mr Speaker, colleagues, leadership, and honourable Members of Parliament, I will conclude by encouraging you to participate diligently in this workshop. As the former Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said to me once, ‘My ability to stay in the house depended largely on how I used my Standing Orders’ and this I share with you the first-timers who may be struggling in your job as MPs. Please make the Standing Orders your friend because, with it, no one can intimidate you in the Chamber. With it, your confidence level will go very high. With it, there will be no disappointment,” the Majority Leader advised.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, the Minority Leader, Mr Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah, the Deputy Minority Leader, said it was indeed an important occasion as the vision for the revision of the Standing Orders which started over two decades ago had been realised. Stressing the relevance of the revised Orders of the House, he stated “Mr Speaker, in any progressive society every functioning institution is governed by rules and without rules there would be mere anarchy. Much more importantly, as the Legislative arm of government, the conduct of business in Parliament needs to be guided by rules.”

In his welcome remarks, Mr Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Clerk to Parliament, said that the hung nature of the Eighth Parliament, which was the first of its kind since the inception of the Fourth Republic, presented several novel situations and challenges that were not provided for under the Standing Orders of November, 2000.

“This state of affairs required, therefore, that action be expedited on the revision of the Standing Orders to provide for aspects of our legislative procedures that were not within the contemplation of the drafters of previous Orders of the House,” he said.

According to him, the orientation programme would allow MPs and Procedural Officers to familiarise themselves with the contents of the revised Standing Orders and provide the platform to seek clarity and understanding of provisions of the Orders to engender compliance with newly introduced procedures and practices of the House.

Standing Orders are essential to regulate the Parliamentary proceedings of a Meeting.