The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament for the first time broke parliamentary protocol on Tuesday when he vacated the Speaker’s seat for a while after defying the Minority’s insistence to defer the approval of a commercial agreement that will authorise the government to access a 27.8 million Euro loan for the supply of heavy duty equipment like bulldozers, graders and trucks to Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies.
The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) was saying that the ministerial memorandum covering the agreement was signed by the coordinating director of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development instead of the Minister, and that the memorandum was not properly dated.
The Minority also argued that the original agreement was between the Republic of Ghana and GP Guenter AG, Germany, for the supply of the equipment, but a Ghanaian company had also been added to it in the commercial agreement.
The argument of the Minority members was that because of these ‘serious’ omissions, the memorandum should be returned to the Ministry of Local Government for the proper thing to be done before presenting it back to Parliament, but the First Deputy Speaker, Ebo Barton Odro, insisted that those corrections be made in the House after which the Majority National Democratic Congress (NDC) approved the commercial agreement.
In the course of the protests, Mr. Odro quickly announced that he was vacating the seat to be taken over by the Speaker, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho himself.
Mr. Doe Adjaho later resumed his seat, prompting the Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, to stand up on point of order to express his utter disappointment at the behaviour of Barton Odro.
“Mr Speaker, I am so sad and worried about the future of this Parliament,” he said, stressing that never in the history of the Legislature had a Speaker left the seat vacant while Parliament was in session.
“My speaker, what we know is that immediately a Speaker leaves the seat, another Speaker takes over and it is never left vacant for sometime as it has happened today, which is contrary to the rules and procedures of the House,” he pointed out.
Mr. Doe Adjaho agreed with the Minority Leader and expressed the hope that it would not happen again.
Mr. Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu, in his closing remarks just before recess, said it was unfortunate that Parliament, which ought to operate on consensus building, was becoming more polarised.
“Either side is suspicious of the other in the conduct of most businesses that come before us. Transparency is being sacrificed on the altar of political convenience as meetings after meetings are held on the blind side of others,” he bemoaned.
The Minority Leader also expressed concern about individual motions that had been filed by some of his party members but had not seen the light of day.
He referred to a motion relating to fire outbreaks in the markets and other public places; one other motion on the arrest and detention in the USA of the person in charge of aspects of security at the Kotoka International Airport and another motion seeking a review of the approval of the agreement in respect of the major upgrading works at the Ridge Hospital.
He said the refusal of government to release funds to Parliament for its operations had seriously affected the oversight roles of the House, especially Committees.
The Speaker of Parliament, in his remarks, assured that the private motion seeking a review of the approval of the agreement in respect of the major works at the Ridge Hospital would be considered.
He also told the MPs that by the end of the year, works of the Job 600 building would have been completed.
Parliament is now on recess and would be reconvening on Tuesday May 27.