Privileges Committee has no Authority to Declare Adwoa Safo’s Seat Vacant – Bagbin Rules

The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Bagbin has ruled that the recommendation by the Privileges Committee for the Parliamentary seat of Honourable Sarah Adwoa Safo to be declared vacant, is not final and that the entire plenary has to decide on the fate of the Member of Parliament for Dome Kwabenya and 2 others for absenting themselves for more than 15 days.

The Speaker’s ruling was as the result of a preliminary objection raised by the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, against the presentation of the Report of the Privileges Committee to Parliament for the entire House to take a decision on the recommendation of the Committee.

It would be recalled that, in the last meeting during the consideration of the matter concerning some three Members of Parliament including Sarah Adwoa Safo, Kennedy Agyapong, and Henry Quartey, the Majority Leader took an exception to a motion being laid.

The said motion was for the adoption of the report of the Committee on Privileges on the alleged breach of article 97(1)(c) of the Constitution of the Republic. Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu took the view that the motion should not have been listed on the Order Paper and thus same should be withdrawn. His submission was that the determination of the Committee was conclusive and same should not be subjected to the House in plenary for a debate and determination.

“The Privileges Committee has presented its report and, in my considered opinion, based on the Constitution and not sentiments, is that, there should be that automaticity, once the Committee makes a determination. I disagree that the decision should be taken by the House,” he said.

However, the Speaker has categorically stated in his ruling that the position of the Majority Leader on the matter is untenable and that, just like any other committee, the report of the Privileges Committee is subject to the consideration of the whole House.

“I find the position canvased strongly by the Majority Leader as untenable. For the simple reason that, where the framers of the constitution intended that a committee be clothed with exclusive jurisdiction on a matter without reference to the House, it has expressly as in the case of Article 106 (13) and 107 indicated in the text of the constitution.

“Pursuant to Article 110 of the constitution, my understanding is that, where the constitution does not provide a procedure, Parliament may regulate the procedure within that space as long as it does not offend the constitution. It is in accordance with these power that Parliament captures the dictates of Article 97(1)(c) and Order 16 (1) which is to the effect that once a Member is alleged to be in breach of the provisions, his conduct is referred to the Committee on Privileges for enquiries.

“For the purpose of reiterating my own ruling, once a referral is made, the report of a committee does not complete the enquiry into the matter. The report of the Committee on Privileges is just like any other committee subject to the constitution and the Standing Orders,” the ruling said.

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, registered his disagreement to the ruling of the Speaker and referred to it as unfortunate. He also served notice that he was going to come by a substantive motion to challenge the ruling.

The Rt. Hon. Speaker Alban Bagbin, took exception to the fact that the Majority Leader referred to his ruling as unfortunate. When he was asked to withdraw the word and apologize because it was unparliamentary, he argued that he did not see any offence in using the word “unfortunate” but obliged and withdrew the word reluctantly.

Source: Clement Akoloh||

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