Ghana’s Parliament under the Fourth Republican Constitution (1992) is a hybrid system of government, parliamentary and presidential system, in which the Executive President has majority of his ministers appointed from Parliament. Ministers appointed from outside Parliament may participate in debates in the House but cannot vote.
The House works with two main documents, thus the 1992 Republican Constitution and the Standing Orders of Parliament (SOP). Both documents allow for the composition of the Standing, Select and other Committees in the House.
This is done in accordance with Article 103 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 151 (1) of the Standing Orders of the August House.
There are 14 Standing committees as well as 16 Select Committees for the effective conduct of Parliamentary Business. One of the most important committees, Parliament Appointment Committees (PAC) has come under severe attack in recent times for the way and manner it does its work.
Currently, there are two schools of thoughts. The first one which is an ardent critic of PAC argues that the committee has outlived its usefulness hence it should be scrapped. However, the other school is strongly in support of the committee’s existence,
Pursuant to Order 151 (2) of the Standing Orders of Parliament, a Select Committee at the beginning of a new Parliament is put together to form the Business and Appointment committees in accordance with Orders 160 and 172 respectively.
The critics are of the view that some aspects of the current hybrid system of parliamentary democracy being practiced in Ghana must be reviewed with changing trends so that its full benefits can be released.
According to them, an aspect such as the provision that allows the President to pick majority of his ministers from parliament is not the best. Again, the process of vetting by PAC of president’s nominees for the various positions by Parliament before approval is not the best and must be scrapped.
They further argue that the output of PAC over the years has been nothing to write home with. According to the critics, the line of questioning by members, especially those from the government side and same members vetting themselves among other things has taken the shine out of their work, hence the need for the scrap.
The worse part of PAC, the critics say is the wholesale approval adopted by the committee to approve nominees.
The Proponents argue that many of the nominees who had appeared before the committee had had basic problems with their Curriculum Vitae (CVs), which under any circumstances they would have been disqualified.
But the second school of thought insists that PAC should be maintained. They are of the view that the work of the committee goes beyond vetting of nominees. According to them, vetting of nominees is just one of the numerous stages nominees go through.
For example, pursuant to Order 172 (3) of the Standing Orders of the House, the committee in the first instance allows the publication of nominees in newspaper of national circulation, and notice of the Committee’s Public Hearing for the attention of the general public. The publication further seeks Memoranda from the public on the nominees.
PAC, subsequently, obtains Confidential Report on the nominees from the Ghana Police Service and the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) as part of its background checks. Tax Status Report of nominees is also obtained from the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA).
All this work is done on the quiet before the vetting is carried out to determine if a nominee qualifies for the position he or she is being nominated for.
The group further explains that Parliament (PAC) is not acting in isolation but on its constitutional mandate. According to them the national constitution is clear on how the legislature should perform and such is being followed.
In an interview with the Deputy Majority Leader, Madam Sarah Adwoa Safo, who is a Member of Parliament (MP) for Dome Kwabenya constituency, in the Greater Accra Region and a member of PAC agreed with the concerns raised by both school of thoughts. She however, admitted that, there are issues with some aspects of the Standing Orders of the House which need to be corrected.
“There are lots of issues that we are correcting, the Majority Leader, Hon Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, and the Second Deputy Speaker, Mr. Alban Kingsford Sumani Bagbin, have done extensive work on our Standing Orders and we are continuing to work on it. You must know that everything we do in parliament is guided by the Standing Orders,” she stated.
Dr. Francis Dakora, MP for Jirapa, on his part, also agreed that a review of the standing orders of the House was long overdue.
I was told that a Review Committee has been set up and is currently reviewing the Standing Orders. Will the review go in the favour of the first school of thought or the second school of thought?
Source: Franklin Asare-Donkoh || Todaygh