Africa-Press – Ghana. Parliament has proposed changes to its Standing Orders in relation to the approval of budget statements, the Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin has announced.
He told the lawmakers that the revised Standing Orders will be shared among members next week.
The Speaker explained that given the partisan manner in which lawmakers handle budget statements, a future government that will have a Minority in Parliament will struggle to get its policy document approved by the House. Mr Bagbin indicated that he foresees Ghana having a government with a Minority in Parliament in the near future.
“We have gone through the provisions of the Constitution and the Standing Orders of the House and there is a need for us to take a second look at the at Standing Orders of the House. Definitely, there are more provisions to look at in the Constitution than what we have been referred to. I have taken some time to go through these provisions, particularly when this matter was reiterated last week by some members of this House after we could not take the vote on the budget. The Standing Orders Committee has taken a deep look into the matter and we’ll be proposing for the consideration of this House during the consideration and the adoption of the resolution to revise these standing orders.
“So we have made some proposals therein for your consideration as to how to handle this matter. We have either to pass an Act or in some situations a resolution. Some provisions talk about approval particularly when you are dealing with the capital expenditure of the judiciary, and again when you are dealing with supplementary budgets that definitely talk about approval. At what stage do you give the approval is the other consideration you look at? We all know that it is the Approbations Bill, whether it is supplementary or not is what we usually approve or pass into the law which is also provided for in the constitution.
“We will look at it together, realign them and then see how best to handle such a situation because I foresee, in the near future, this country having a minority government and if you have a minority government and the Standing Orders don’t provide for all these scenarios the minority government will always have a problem in getting its budget approved particularly as members are extremely partisan. I know how brilliant members are.”
Last week Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta advocated an amendment to the Standing Orders of Parliament relative to the approval of budget statements.
He wanted a departure from the current status quo where the speaker’s ruling in voice votes that “ayes have it” is challenged, leading to headcounts to determine the approval or otherwise of the budget.
In his view, the Standing Orders should be changed to allow for the budget to be approved during the initial stages and then when it comes to the estimates and the appropriations stage, the challenges can be mounted and argued out.
Speaking in an interview on Thursday, November 30, Mr Ofori-Atta said “As we sit today I believe the yes have it and I am looking forward to the budget that is essentially looks at macro stability and growth with the various reliefs for the people of Ghana. I don’t see how anybody will be against it.
“I think maybe on a standing orders level it is in my mind to remove the need for the approval of budgets at this early stage because nobody can really be against the principles and then when they get into the estimates and appropriation, at that point in time various challenges could be mounted which will be argued out. But I think it is too early maybe parliament should look at its standing orders to change them.”
His comment came after the Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin directed the business committee to reschedule the headcount for the approval of the 2024 budget to today Thursday, December 7.
The House has since approved the budget after 138 lawmakers said yes against 136 Nos in the headcount.
Parliament could not approve the budget on Wednesday, November 29 after the Majority side of the House boycotted proceedings, making it the second time they are walking out on their own budget after they first did so on the 2022 budget statement which introduced the e-levy.
They disagreed with the way Mr Bagbin was conducting the business. They accused the Speaker of delaying proceedings in order for the Minority to have their full numbers in the House.
“Sam George is not here, Zanetor is not here, Mahama Ayariga, is not here so five of their members are not here. All the speaker is doing is to delay time for their members to come,” Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu told journalists after they walked out.
The Speaker had to suspend sitting.
Ningo-Prampram Lawmaker Samuel Nartey George, however, rubbished the claim that he was not in Parliament.
The Minority Leader Dr Cassiel Ato Forson accused the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of lacking the numbers to approve the 2024 budget statement.
Addressing the press, Dr Ato Forson said “The NPP does not have the numbers to approve their own budget, sensing defeat they decided to walk out. The NDC MPs were ready to vote against the budget.
“Our position is that we can allow the budget to go through in its current form, because the ordinary Ghanaian will suffer. John Kumah is not here, Kennedy Agyapong is not here and sensing defeat they walked out, we will not stop, we will do what we have to do. The Budget has not been approved.”