The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Bagbin has affirmed his commitment to ensuring that the letter and spirit of the 1992 constitution is upheld and the full authority of the other arms of government are protected at all times, as he has rejects a request by the President to cut the budgets of the Legislature and the Judiciary for the 2021 fiscal year ending 31st December 2021.
“The weakest link in our democracy is Parliament; and because of that we are not able to control things like corruption; we are not able to hold the Executive to account; we are not able to get the rule of law going. We are the arm to lead that. And so far as I remain the Speaker of this House, I will insist that the right thing is done,” he said on the Floor of Parliament on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
A correspondence from the Presidency to the Office of the Speaker on Monday, March 15, 2021, relayed President Akufo-Addo’s request to the Speaker, for a reduction in the budget estimates for the two arms of government due to lack of fiscal space in the economy.
The letters signed by the Presidential Secretary, Nana Asante Bediatuo on behalf of the President, said in part that, “in view of the reviewed fiscal space in the national budget as a result of statutory and debt service obligations, we cannot accommodate the request by Parliament and the Parliamentary Service (the judiciary and Judicial Service).
“We kindly suggest that you operate within this new budget while we explore the opportunity to increase the allocation in subsequent years when revenues improve and debt has stabilized. Parliament is expected to keep the estimates of Parliament (the Judiciary) within the expenditure ceiling provided above. This will enable Government contain expenditure within the overall fiscal space for 2021.”
However, the Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Bagbin, disagreed with the President when he observed that it was not for the Executive to impose a budgetary ceiling for the Legislature and the Judiciary but rather the prerogative of Parliament to determine the budget.
“We have the final power to approve or disapprove and so what the constitution has done is for them to make recommendations and to negotiate during the deliberations of the budget before the House. It is not for the Executive to impose ceilings for the Judiciary or Parliament. We have to do the proper thing,” he indicated.
The Speaker informed the Members of Parliament at the plenary that, he had responded to the President’s letters demanding for the right thing to be done according to the constitution, and he will therefore not adhere to the request made by the President.
The excerpts of the Speaker’s response said, “Respectfully, as Speaker of Parliament, I am unable to accept the letters and communicate same to the Honourable House. As the heading and import of the letters do not communicate a recommendation as stipulated by articles 127 and 179 of the 1992 constitution and sections 15(a) of the Parliamentary Service Act, 1993, Act 460. But an imperative to Parliament to keep within the expenditure estimates which has been set by Parliament.
“Indeed, the provisions of the constitution and sections referred to above, requires the President to lay the estimates of Parliament and the Judiciary before Parliament ‘without revision’ to the estimates but with ‘recommendations that the President may make on them’.
“I note however that in the budget statement and the expenditure estimates made on Friday, the 12 of March 2021, the ‘recommendations of the President were made instead of the original estimates which were submitted by Parliament and the Judiciary.”
The Speaker then gave a directive to the Parliamentary committees concerned in considering the estimates for the two arms of government, to take on board the concerns raised in his response to the President’s letters. Failure to which he would be forced to take a drastic action as the Speaker of the House.
“At the end of the day, come and inform us as to the negotiated figure and not the ceiling that has been given by the President. That is not the intendment of the 1992 constitution. If you do otherwise; I, as your Speaker, will not attend any letter for submission to the President for his assent. I mean what I am saying,” he warned.
Source: Clement Akoloh||parliamentnews360.com