PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE NDC CAUCUS IN PARLIAMENT…


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PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE NDC CAUCUS IN PARLIAMENT

ADDRESS BY THE LEADER OF THE NDC CAUCUS IN PARLIAMENT, HON. HARUNA IDDRISU HELD IN PARLIAMENT HOUSE, ACCRA ON THURSDAY, 14TH JANUARY, 2021

Good Morning.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media,

First of all, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Caucus would like to congratulate the Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin on his election as Speaker of the Eighth (8th) Parliament of the Fourth (4th) Republic of Ghana.  We wish to affirm our unflinching support and continuous cooperation with him to enable him succeed as Speaker. We are firmly behind him and we wish him well.

We the NDC Caucus in Parliament have invited you here to address a few issues relating to the 8th Parliament.

Numbers in Parliament

You would recall that a week ago, on 7th January, 2021 the Clerk to Parliament read a letter from the Electoral Commission. The said correspondence indicated that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have 137 seats, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) also have 137 seats and there is one Independent MP. Thus: NDC – 137; NPP  – 137; and Independent – 1

From that official correspondence from the Electoral Commission, clearly neither the NDC nor the NPP has majority seats in Parliament.

The Fomena Independent MP

On the issue of the Independent MP, who has indicated that:

I shall, for the purposes of transacting business in the house, associate with the NPP Caucus in the Eighth Parliament. For the avoidance of doubt, I do hereby affirm that I shall cooperate and collaborate with the NPP Caucus in the Eighth Parliament”.

I am sure he is mindful of article 97, clause (1)(h) of the 1992 Constitution which provides that:

“A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he was elected a Member of Parliament as an Independent Candidate and joins a Political Party.”

So the question is, by that declaration, has the Hon. Member for Fomena joined the NPP?  It was Nana Addo who said he could not work with an Independent MP. It was the General-Secretary of the NPP who wrote to the former Speaker to have the then NPP-MP for Fomena expelled from Parliament. It was former Speaker Oquaye who, on 7th November, 2020 sacked the then NPP-MP for Fomena from Parliament.  Indeed, in his Statement sacking the then NPP-MP for Fomena from Parliament, former Speaker Oquaye, among others, quizzed as follows:

“…how does an elected Independent MP operates both as an elected Independent MP and at the same time, an NPP MP, if he should win the election?”

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have always said that consistency is important in our political discourse.  Is Nana Addo now willing to work with and Independent MP?  What is the position of the NPP General-Secretary now? And what about the ruling of former Speaker Oquaye? I would, therefore, call on the NPP to reconcile their conflicting positions. 

The Caucuses in Parliament

Let me remind you that there is nothing like Majority Caucus or Minority Caucus in either the Standing Orders of Parliament or in the Constitution. Indeed, official records of Parliament would simply record that NDC has 137 seats, NPP has 137 and there is 1 Independent MP. No matter the declaration of such an Independent MP, the records will still reflect that there is an Independent MP in the 8th Parliament. In recent past, Parliament has resorted to determining the composition of Committees by using the numeric strengths of what we term as Majority Side and Minority Side. Hence, elected MPs from “smaller” parties as well as Independent MPs were required to choose which Side they wanted to add to, associate with or transact business with for purposes of determining which Side could have more members on each Committee of the House. So, we saw how PNC, CPP and Independent MPs were treated in previous Parliaments.

Composition of Committees of Parliament

Ladies and Gentlemen, article 103, clause 5 of the 1992 Constitution and Order 154 of the Standing Orders of Parliament provide that:

“The composition of the Committees shall, as much as possible, reflect the different shades of opinion in Parliament.”

Is Parliament limiting “different shades of opinion” to only numerical strengths? We do not think so.  It is on this score that the NDC Caucus will insist that the composition of committees of this 8th Parliament should reflect its very current nature.  The composition should reflect beyond mere numbers and cover other factors including leadership of committees.

We know that the besides the Committee on Selection, which is chaired by the Speaker, the Standing Orders of Parliament provides for 11 Standing Committees and 16 Select Committees. Out of the 11 Standing Committees, the chairmanship of 7 are pre-determined by the Standing Orders. The Rt. Hon Speaker chairs the Committee on Selection (Order 151) and the Standing Orders Committee (Order 157). The Appointments Committee and the Committee on Privileges are chaired by the First Deputy Speaker. The Second Deputy Speaker chairs the Committee on Members Holding Office of Profit. The Majority Leader chairs both the Business Committee (per Order 160) and the House Committee (per Order 168).  Per Order 168, the Public Accounts Committee should be chaired by a Member whose side does not control the Executive branch of Government.

The Standing Orders does not pre-determine the leadership of the remaining 4 Standing Committees, namely:  Finance Committee, Committee on Gender and Children, Committee on Government Assurance and the Subsidiary Legislation Committee. Similarly, the leadership of the 16 Select-Committees are not pre-determined by the Standing Orders.

The NDC Caucus shall therefore insist that in line with Order 154 of the Standing Orders of Parliament and article 103 (5) of the 1992 Constitution, the composition of committees should reflect the nature and character of this very 8th Parliament. The practice of making one side of the House chair all Select Committees is no longer tenable in this current dispensation. Given the current numbers, there must be strict sharing of the leadership of the Select Committees by the two Sides of the House. Out of the 16 Select Committees, the NDC should chair 8 while the NPP would also chair 8. This would be a true reflection of the different shades of opinion in the current Parliament as envisaged in the 1992 Constitution under article 103 (5) and Order 154 of the Standing Orders of the House.

Indeed, regarding the other factors on reflecting the “different shades of opinion in Parliament” we would implore on the leadership of both Sides to endeavour to nominate qualified persons to serve on the committees while considering gender, age distribution, experience, regional balance, among other factors.

Major Reforms:-  New Standing Orders –  An Imperative

Ghana has never experienced a Parliament with equal number of seats on both sides.  There is, therefore, the need for the House to adopt new Standing Orders that will address the current nature and character of these 8th Parliament.  There is some work ongoing in that regard.

The House has no choice than to work with the current Standing Orders albeit with its deficiencies.

Conclusion

Ladies and Gentlemen, without prejudice to the court cases that the NDC has commenced to reclaim the stolen parliamentary seats, particularly that of Techiman South, let us appreciate that the good people of Ghana voted for a particular nature of Parliament. That Parliament has produced 137 seats each for both the NDC and the NPP and 1 independent MP. We the NDC Caucus shall endeavour to do our best by providing the best of representation that reflects the sovereign will of our people.

It is a new dawn in parliamentary democracy in Ghana, therefore, we the elected representatives cannot afford to fail our people.

Long Live the great NDC!

Long Live parliamentary democracy!

Long Live Ghana!

Thank you for coming.


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