Parliament boils over $510m AMERI deal

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…Minority: We are fed up with the Speaker’s ‘bias’

… But Majority defend Speaker Oquaye

There was total confusion in Parliament yesterday, when the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Prof Mike Aaron Oquaye, turned down the Minority’s call on him to debate a motion moved by Mr K.T. Hammond, seeking a review of the controversial Africa and Middle East Resources Investment Group Llc  (AMERI) deal.

The Speaker had argued that there were no documents before the plenary regarding the motion moved by Mr Hammond, and that the appropriate forum to deal with the issue was the committee level, and subsequently referred the motion to the Mines and Energy Committee.

The Minority, led by their leader, Haruna Iddrisu, did not, however, take kindly to the decision, and after conferring with the Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Bagbin led his group to walk out of the Chamber.

The Minority later told the media that they would commence impeachment processes against the Speaker, as they could not contain his ‘conduct’ in the discharge of his official duties any longer.

Just last week, the Minority, led by its Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak, addressed a press confab complaining bitterly about the conduct of the Speaker.

The Member for Asawasi, again told journalists in plain language in Twi yesterday, which has been translated into English as: “I can bet you that, unfortunately, we are rising tomorrow (today); we will come in October; when we come back, and he [Speaker] continues with what he is doing, we will start the process of impeaching him.”

Order 107 talks about the procedure to be followed to impeach a Speaker from office. Order 107(1) says: “A motion for the resolution to remove from office Mr. Speaker or a Deputy Speaker shall be moved in the following manner:

“(a) seven days’ notice, signed by one-third of all Members of Parliament, shall be given,” (b) “the motion shall be debated in Parliament within fourteen days of its receipt by Mr. Speaker, and shall be supported by votes, in secret ballot, of not less than three-quarters of all the Members of Parliament.”

One-third of the 275 MPs is 92, and the Minority is made up of about 106 members. This means they have the numbers to initiate the impeachment process, but would find themselves wanting when it gets to the final vote to impeach the Speaker.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Adansi Asokwa, Kwabena Tahir Hammond, had moved the urgent motion for the House to rescind its decision for the approval of the controversial Build, Own, Operate and Transfer Agreement between AMERI and the government of Ghana by the previous Parliament. The deal is for the installation of 10 GE TM2,500+ aero derivative gas turbines, operate, maintain, transfer and provision of support services, and was approved by the previous Parliament on March 20, 2015.

According to the motion, which was seconded by the Procurement Minister and Deputy Majority Leader, Sarah Adwoa Safo, there was gross misrepresentation in the said deal, thus, the motion to rescind the decision. The Speaker then referred the motion to the Mines and Energy Committee to invite the Member, KT Hammond, and the parties involved, to give their side of the issue and then report to the House.

However, after the motion was moved and seconded, the Minority Leader raised preliminary issues, which the Speaker ruled him out of order, following a call from Mr KT Hammond, who argued that Mr Haruna was debating on information which was not before the House.

It is normal practice that members are allowed to debate on such motions, but, this time, the information pertaining to the said motion was not yet before the House, thus, the decision of the Speaker.

After leading his group to walk out of the Chamber, Haruna Iddrisu spoke to the press, saying that the democracy of the country was revolving, and that it was about time the Speaker of Parliament respected the Minority members.

“A motion which has not been debated, and a motion for which no decision had been taken. This is a House governed by procedure and a House governed by rules and standing orders.

“Nowhere, and I challenge you to peruse the standing orders and give us basis and justification of the referral.

“We [Minority] had initially signalled that we wanted to raise this constitutional objection to the motion referring to a Supreme Court ruling in the of Ndebugri vs Attorney General and two others, where it was decided by the Supreme Court, even though on a matter relating to natural resources, once Parliament gives approval, the matter now is in the realm of the Judiciary, where there is a contract in force, and that the matter is in the realm of the Executive.

“We had raised this constitutional objection, one, to seek proper interpretation of Order 93(3) whether any Member of Parliament can wake up any day and want to rescind an action of a previous Parliament…The Speaker was not ready to interpret the Standing Orders, even though he is vested with the powers to do so.

“More importantly, even as I was on my feet, I referred to the Ndebugri vs Attorney General and two others, he did not allow me to refer to the particular quote. He only responded to a point of order by the Hon. KT Hammond, and again, went into his bizarre conclusion on the matter.

“Under the circumstance, we have no option than to protest the manner in which he’s endangering Parliamentary democracy and its practice. The other day, it was about questions, and I’m challenging the Ghanaian public and the media, and persons who are familiar with parliamentary work and the Hansard, to go into the records; everywhere the Minority must have its say, not its way.

“I have been in Parliament long enough, both in opposition and government, to appreciate we cannot have our way. But we will jealously protect and demand that our right of say is respected, because that’s why every country has a government; but it’s only democracies that have opposition,” he stated.

… But Majority Defends Speaker

The Majority Leader and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has freely advised the Minority in Parliament to subject themselves to the right procedures in Parliament to register their grievances, if there were any.

Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, Member of Parliamentary of Suame, could not fathom why his colleagues on the other side of the political divide tried  to seek audience through ways and means, which he said, was contrary to the rules of the House.

He had since concluded that, his colleagues are not following the rules of Parliament, whilst advising them to use the right process.

Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who was reacting to the issue raised by the Minority before walking out of the chamber, explained that when a motion was not moved and seconded, by the rules there was nothing before the House, “So you can’t just get up and say that you are arresting the motion, when the motion has not been moved.”

According to the Majority Leader, the Minority, at the pre-sitting meeting ahead of yesterday’s sitting, indicated they would not participate in that particular motion.

He said they later amended their way to say that they would raise preliminary issues against the motion, when it is moved.

“So, we wanted further and better clarity on what indeed they wanted to do, then they said we will participate in the debate, but we will not participate in the voting. So, there was that confusion within their ranks.

“They entered the Chamber and we saw what happened. After the motion had been moved, the Speaker in his wisdom said that given what he had seen on the face of the Order paper that the Member, a former Ranking Member of the Committee, had indicated that Parliament had acted on the basis of misrepresentation, if you like fraudulent claim by the partners, he thought if the information that he [K.T. Hammond] had before him had been known by Parliament, Parliament would not by a resolution  approve the agreement, so he was calling on Parliament to rescind the decision that we took.

“Now, the Speaker having listened to him [K.T. Hammond] said on account of what you have said he [Speaker] thought the matter was too weighty to be continued and so the member should go to the Committee on Energy and then submit the report or what information that has come to him,” he said.

This directive by the Speaker would allow the parties involved, Ameri and others to provide the Committee with whatever information available.

On the floor, the Minority Leader stood up to debate the motion but Mr K.T. Hammond rose on a point of Order, that he had not furnished Parliament with the information he had, so the Minority Leader could not have debated on what was not before the House, whilst calling on the Speaker to rule Mr Haruna out of order, a petition the Speaker adhered to.

“And by our rules, if the Speaker rules on a point of Order it takes effect immediately,” Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu continued, explaining that “If the implication is that after the ruling you can continue, you continue, but if the implication is that you can’t continue, you resume your seat. That is the procedure in Parliament,” he noted.

He subsequently quoted Order 91 which states that; Debates may be interrupted by a point of Order being raised, adding that “so that was what KT Hammond did.”

“91(2) says when a point of Order has been stated the Member interrupting shall resume his seat and except by leave of Mr Speaker, no other Member shall rise until Mr Speaker has decided the matter.

“So K.T. Hammond invited the Speaker to rule on the matter. He said the Speaker should rule him [Haruna] out of Order by what he said. Then continues that when effect has been given to the decision, where necessary, the Member who was speaking shall be entitled to proceed with his speech, unless the decision prevents him, and the Speaker said he was not to continue. He agreed with KT Hammond and ruled him [Haruna] out of Order.

“So, what was the point in the Minority Leader getting up and making wild gesticulations at the Speaker,” he quizzed.

He further noted that in the event of disagreement with the Speaker, the process was for the Minority to come with a motion.

“I think my colleagues are not subjecting themselves to the rules of Parliament and they want to be granted exemptions of the rules, that certainly cannot be accommodated,” he concluded.

Earlier, Mr Haruna had referred to a Supreme Court ruling in the matter between ‘Ndebugri vs Attorney General and two others’, saying that a current Parliament could not rescind a decision of a previous Parliament.

Meanwhile, in a quick rebuttal, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said: “I don’t know where that is coming from. We are not there yet, when we get there we will litigate that sufficiently for Ghanaians to know that they (Minority) have no footing at all, they are on wobbling legs.”

Source: Maxwell Ofori || The Chronicle.


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