The Member of Parliament (MP) for Ho West, Mr Francis Agbotse, has commended the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes, for the able and non-partisan manner he has conducted the affairs of the House.
He said Mr Sekyi Hughes never on any occasion favoured or took sides with any political party in the course of duty, particularly during parliamentary debates and deliberations on sensitive national issues.
Mr Agbotse made these remarks in response to a question at a public forum on whether the Speaker had been favouring members of Parliament of any particular party during parliamentary debates.
The forum, which was on parliamentary processes, particularly subsidiary legislation, was organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) with sponsorship from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Koforidua.
People from all walks of life were schooled on parliamentary processes, especially subsidiary legislation and the work of parliamentarians by members of the Parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation.
According to Mr Agbotse, who is also chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, any member of the House who caught the Speaker's eye was allowed to speak.
He explained that if so many MPs from both the majority and minority sides stood up to speak as required by parliamentary procedure, the Speaker called equal numbers of MPs from both sides to air their views without taking into account the numerical strength of any of the political parties.
“So far the Speaker has steered the affairs of Parliament without showing any bias or favouritism to any political side and this is what will strengthen Ghana's democracy,” Mr Agbotse stated.
When Mr Agbotse was asked about the difficulties the Speaker faced on reaching a compromise on bills before they were passed, Mr Agbotse said except on sensitive issues such as the Representation of the People Amendment Bill (ROPAB) where MPs from the political divide did not agree on the issue, 90 per cent of all bills were passed with the approval of both sides of the political divide.
With regard to a private member bill, he explained that any person who wanted a bill passed on any issues had to lobby an MP who would present it to the House, adding that the chances of such bills seeing light were slim since a lot had to be done on them.
Mr Agbotse said bills were passed after 21 days in Parliament and that before bills were given parlia0 into consideration the interest of the people.
Mr Agbotse, who cited the recent passage of a bill that renamed the Afram Plains District as the Kwahu North District, said the House took into consideration the request of the chiefs in the area, the effects of the new name and gave it the nod after consultation with the chiefs and other stakeholders.
The Member of Parliament for Wa West, Mr Joseph Yiele Kyiere, said since more time was required for some of the sensitive bills, there was the need to have more time than the 21 days for consideration before a bill was passed after being presented to Parliament.
The Member of Parliament for Abirem, Madam Esther Obeng Dapaah, explained to the gathering the work of an MP and said MPs had to lobby for the approval of all the projects in their constituencies.
She also said all the MPs did a lot of work either in the House or at the committee level, adding that no MP idled in Parliament.
The MP for Biakoye, Mr Kwasi Bandua, in his contribution, said among other things that laws passed were not in conflict with the parent law.
In his contribution, the New Juaben Municipal Chief Executive, Nana Adjei Boateng, called for the inclusion of civil society organisations and other pressure groups in the process of law making since they act as mirrors that help to shape and reshape society.
He also suggested regular fora to discuss issues on parliamentary bills so that the ideas collated should serve as inputs for the bill.
Earlier in a welcoming address, the Governance and Legal Policy Officer of the CDD, Mr Kojo Asante, said for several years, the CDD had been at the forefront helping to build parliamentary oversight and technical capacity. This it did by facilitating workshops, reviewing the functions and roles of selected committees including Government Assurances, Judiciary, Subsidiary Legislation, Local Government and Rural Development, Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Employment as well as Social Welfare and State Enterprises.
He said the CDD also focused on building the capacity of various technical departments of Parliament, organised public hearings and expanded civil society input into law by organising stakeholders and expert review of bills.
Story by A. Kofoya-Tetteh