Parliament and Our Laws (Part One)
Ghana's Parliament is a unicameral one, meaning, it is one chamber.
Parliament is an avenue where our elected members congregate to pass or make laws. The laws they make are called Acts of Parliament or legislation.
Ghana’s Parliament is a unicameral one, meaning, it is one chamber. Unlike the USA, Nigeria and Britain that have bicameral, that is a two chamber House: Upper and Lower.
Our current Parliament is the 8th in the fourth Republic.
The 4th Republic is so far the longest Republic since independence. Almost thirty years now. This Parliament is described as a hung Parliament because the two leading political parties: the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have equal number of seats in the House. 137/137.
There is one independent member who comes from the NPP’s stock and who has agreed to work with them, that made NPP the majority Group in the current Parliament.
There are 275 members in the House(Parliament).
A Speaker is elected outside the House.
Two Deputy Speakers are elected from the House.
The Constitution doesn’t allow the Deputy Speakers to come from the same party. They are to help the Speaker and preside in the absence of the substantive Speaker, one of them at a time.
We have the first and second Deputy Speakers.
Functions of Parliament
1 Law making
2 Deliberative : that is to debate on all national issues
3 Representation : Elected members are to represent their constituents or electorates
4 Oversight responsibility, Members of Parliament are to check the performance of the Executive i.e. President and his cabinet and other executive bodies like the police, immigration, prison service, Ghana Education Service etc.
5 Vetting of the Ministers of State and their Deputies, Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court and the Special Prosecutor
6 Can invite Ministers to answer questions on the floor of the House or at the Committee level.
7 Parliament has the power to impose taxes. Eg the E-levy.
8 Approval of loans contracted by the Executive
9 The President must inform Parliament anytime, he is away.
10 All audited accounts of state organizations must be scrutinized by Parliament.
11 Parliament has the power to censure a Minister or Deputy Minister.
Among the three principal organs of the state, Parliament truly represents the entire population and has enough power in managing the affairs of the country by playing an oversight responsibility over the Executive, especially when it comes to safeguarding the public purse.
The main tools used by the Members of Parliament for their tasks are the Constitution, other laws and the Standing Orders of the House.
The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House. He/she normally interpretes the Standing Orders of the House. He acts ultra vires if he decides to interpret the Constitution.
It doesn’t fall under his purview. It is only the Supreme Court that has the power to interpret the Constitution, no other body or authority.
By Ahmed Osumanu Halid