The Government Assurance Committee of Parliament will begin public sitting by October, this year, to question ministers of state on whether or not they have been able to deliver on their promises and assurances to the people.
Currently, the members of the committee are undergoing training for them to come up with modalities to guide the conduct of the committee’s public sitting.
Briefing members of the Parliamentary Press Corps in Accra Monday, the chairman of the committee and Member of Parliament for Ho East, Mr Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, said the committee would use assurances and promises given by ministers on the floor of Parliament and at public functions, as well as documents such as the budget, to determine who should appear before it.
In addition, assurances made by ministerial and deputy ministerial nominees during their vetting by the Appointments Committee of Parliament would also be pursued by the committee.
The committee would also depend on newspaper and radio reports, as well reports made by Members of Parliament (MPs), on assurances that had been made by ministers of state in their constituencies based on evidence.
The committee will be the third committee of Parliament to be sitting in public after the Public Accounts Committee and the Appointments Committee.
There are signals that the Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises is also preparing to conduct public sittings within the year.
Standing Order (1) of Parliament stipulates that there shall be a committee on Government Assurances which shall consist of not more than 25 members.
Order 174 (2), which gives the mandate to the committee stipulates that “it shall be the duty of the committee to pursue all assurances, promises and undertakings given by ministers from time to time”.
The committee also has the mandate to report to the House on the extent to which such assurances have been fulfilled and make recommendations.
Mr Bedzrah explained further that the citizenry would be sensitised and encouraged to make report of such promises and assurances made by ministers of state on the committee’s website.
He gave an assurance that the committee would not be engaging in witchhunting but would work diligently to hold minsters of state accountable.
Mr Bedzrah said currently, the committee was going through an exercise to codify what constituted assurance and said that best practices from other countries, particularly India, would be used.
He said the committee would be interested in timelines and how and when such assurances would be fulfilled.
Mr Bedzrah explained that even though it would have been ideal to invite the President to give account of his promises, the committee did not have such a mandate.
“To some extent, inviting ministers of state before the committee means inviting the President, since the President has given his mandate to the ministers of state.”
Answering a question on why such a committee was not being chaired by a member from the Minority side to ensure that the government was put on its toes, Mr Bedzrah explained that until provisions in the Standing Orders were reviewed, that could not be possible.
For his part, the Ranking Member of the committee, Mr Joe Badoe-Ansah, said putting the ministers of state on their toes was part of the mandate of Parliament in exercising its oversight responsibility over the executive.
He said even though a report would be made to Parliament after ministers of state had appeared before it, the naming and shaming alone would ensure that they refrained from going about making assurances and promises which could not be fulfilled.
In his remarks, the Director of Public Affairs of Parliament, Mr Jones Kugblenu, thanked Star-Ghana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), for sponsoring activities of the Government Assurance Committee.
He expressed the hope that the committee’s work would stand tall and deepen the country’s democratic credentials.
For his part, the Programmes Manager of Star-Ghana, Mr Amidu Ibrahim-Tanko, said for the survival of the country’s democracy, the work of the committee was very crucial in the survival of the country’s democracy.
He explained that people who had been voting from one election to the other needed to have dividends and the tracking of assurances made by ministers of state by the committee was a step in the right direction.
Story: Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah