Parliament Begins Second Meeting Tomorrow

All eyes will be shifted to Parliament from tomorrow as the House begins the second meeting of the first session of the seventh Parliament of the Fourth Republic.

A notice to that effect by the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Michael Aaron Oquaye, has been sent to the 275 legislators.

During the meeting, members will deliberate on pieces of legislation, loans, agreements and scrutinise the business of the government.

The first witnessed a lot of important and interesting events that attracted a lot of attention from the public.

Vetting of ministers

During the first meeting, Members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP) had a tall order as they had to vet the 110 ministers and deputy ministers nominated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Parliament subsequently approved by consensus the nominations of all the 110 ministers and deputy ministers except the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba.

The Minority MPs on the committee boycotted the vetting getting to its last stage, accusing the Majority MPs on the committee of imposing the vetting on them despite an earlier agreement to break and come back in May to continue.

2017 budget

Another important business conducted by the legislators was the approval of the budget statement and economic policy for the 2017 financial year presented to Parliament by the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, on March 2, 2017.

They again approved various sums as budget estimates for Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

Besides, the MPs passed the Appropriation Bill, 2017 which gave the Minister of Finance the authority to withdraw money not exceeding GH¢64,116,793,031 from the Consolidated Fund and other funds for the running of the country up to December 31, 2017.

The House also passed the Energy Sector Levies (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to reduce the energy sector levies imposed on consumers.

State of the Nation Address

President Akufo-Addo was in the House to deliver his address on the state of the nation.

As expected, the Majority MPs touted the President's address as full of hope, while the Minority MPs criticised it for being devoid of hope for Ghanaians.

Bribery allegation

Parliament was dogged by an allegation of bribery against the Chairperson of the ACP, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, and some members of the committee.

The MP for Bawku Central and member of the ACP, Mr Mahama Ayariga, alleged that the Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Muntaka Mohammed-Mubarak, gave each member of the Minority on the ACP GH¢3,000.

He said following rumours that the money was brought by the then Minister designate for Energy, Mr Boakye Agyarko, he confronted Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak about the source and Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak told him that it was Mr Osei-Owusu who gave the money to him with the explanation that the money was from Mr Agyarko. All of them denied the allegation.

Consequently, the House constituted a five-member special committee to investigate the allegation and report to the House.

After two months’ investigations, a month more than its mandated period, the committee presented its report to Parliament exonerating Mr Osei-Owusu, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak and Mr Agyarko.

The committee cited Mr Ayariga for contempt and asked him to render an unqualified apology to the House.

Mr Ayariga raised some legal issues, including the assertion that the committee did not have the powers to cite him for contempt.

Besides, he said once the committee had employed the criminal aspect of investigation, he should have been given the opportunity to cross-examine the other people.

Mr Ayariga then rendered his apology in the following words:" "If you say I apologise, I apologise."

But the apology was seen not to be unqualified one and the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, indicated that he would give a ruling on the matter.

At the last sitting of the first meeting, Mr Ayariga read a written apology, which simply read: "I render an unqualified apology to this Honourable House of Parliament."

Near brawl

The earlier unqualified apology given by Mr Ayariga was met with disapproval by the Majority MPs as they banged their tables and shouted back, resulting in a near brawl between the Majority and Minority members in Parliament.

Some young MPs from both sides moved to the centre of the chamber trying to punch their colleagues for their disagreements.

It took the intervention of some senior MPs to separate the two sides from attacking one another.