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General News of Sunday, 4 September 2016


Ford gift debate: Babgin, Mensah Bonsu square off

After they were denied the opportunity for a feisty debate on the floor, the Majority and Minority leaders of Parliament found a neutral platform to slug out the controversial Ford gift scandal involving president John Mahama.

On Joy FM's Newsfile program Saturday, Alban Babgin led the charge in support of the decision by the Speaker of Parliament Edward Doe Adjaho to throw out the motion brought by the Minority for a Parliamentary enquiry into the scandal..

Bagbin said the Speaker cannot be faulted for throwing out a motion he believes was inadmissible in the first place.

The Minority was hoping the Speaker of Parliament will, at least open the floor for a debate on the controversial Ford gift scandal, even if he will not accept the Minority's call for a bipartisan committee to investigate the matter.

However in less than 12 minutes the Speaker had ruled on the matter, dismissing the motion and adjourning the House sine die.

The Minority quickly organised a press conference to vent their frustration at the Speaker and to accuse both the president and the majority of running away from a probe.

But there are issues still begging for answers, members itching for a debate on the matter and on Saturday, Newsfile offered the platform for the two leaders of the House to discuss the matter.

First, it was a former Clerk of Parliament, SN Darkwa who claimed the Speaker may have erred in his summary dismissal of the motion.

The former Clerk who served Parliament from 1961 to 1997 said Parliament is not only the highest institution responsible for making laws but the highest forum to debate matters; and the least the Speaker could do was to allow a debate on the matter before ruling.

Majority Leader

However the Majority Leader Alban Bagbin disagreed with the Clerk. He said the Clerk was misled into believing the motion was already before Parliament.
"The matter was not before Parliament. The matter was a request to the Speaker. In the request the Minority had to give a reason for the request for the Speaker to recall Parliament and therefore a draft motion indicating the reason for a recall was attached to the request.

"...If the Speaker had admitted the motion that would have been processed through the Clerk of Parliament and would have been brought to me the Chairman of the Business Committee and i will have to submit a draft business statement to the Business Committee which is made up of all shades of opinions in Parliament- Minority and Majority, then we will now program the business, in other words will now decide which day to debate the matter in Parliament," he explained.

He added once the Business Committee sets a date, the matter returns to the table office of the Clerk who puts it on an order paper.
Bagbin indicated that since all these processes were not followed, the motion could not have been said to be in Parliament.

However, in the Minority press conference called shortly after the Speaker dismissed the motion, the leader waved what he said was an order paper which indicated that the matter was seized with Parliament.
But Babgin said the Minority might have shown an order paper but there was no item on the motion because the process he enumerated earlier had not been followed.

"Once this matter was not referred to us [business committee] and we all know that through Order 53 the day-to-day business of the House is done by the Business Committee. I was wondering what was going to happen on the floor," he stated, adding the Business Committee at all times meets first to draw the business of the house after which the plan is sent to the Clerk to be put on the order paper.

Minority Leader

Not long after the Majority Leader hanged up, the Minority Leader called in to straighten what he said was the "bizarre" explanation Alban Bagbin was "inflicting on Ghanaians."

He said at no point in Parliamentary history had a business gone straight to the Business Committee either from the Executive or from a private member's motion.

At all times, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu argued, the Speaker through the Clerk sends a matter to the business committee and wondered why on this occasion the Speaker refused to do same.

He said if both the Speaker and the Majority Leader claimed there was nothing before the House, how then did he, the Speaker run commentary on nothing?
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said the Speaker deliberately failed to send the
Quoting Article 112 (3) of the constitution, the Minority Leader said by law, the Speaker was mandated to recall Parliament and allow members to be heard on the matter.

Between the Constitution and Standing Orders, the Constitution is superior. The Constitution tells you to summon Parliament at the instance of a motion submitted and you tell us you cannot admit and will not allow a debate.
By using his discretionary powers to dismiss the matter, the Minority Leader said the Speaker might in the future disregard the constitution by failing to comply to the impeachment process against the president.

"The danger and the tragedy of this kind of reasoning which I deem to be very weird is that by this rationalization, the Speaker can tell us that even if you went under Article 69 (2) which is on impeachment proceedings, he, the Speaker after receiving the proposal backed by fact can look at it and tell you he will not submit it to the Chief Justice," he said.