General News of Monday, 6 February 2017
In a vetting that has taken more than three hours for some nominees, Parliament made an exception for the Majority leader Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu who has been nominated as minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
He completed his vetting in under 30 minutes – a record time for any of the 26 nominees.
In a testament to the saying ‘monkeys play by sizes’, only five Members of Parliament (MPs) posed questions and/or engaged the President’s representative in Parliament
They are Akuapem South MP, Osei Bonsu Amoah, Yileh Chireh and the three leaders – Minority leader, Haruna Iddrisu; Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak and Chairman of the committee, Joe Osei-Owusu.
His short stay is part of a parliamentary culture that takes its foot off the peddle when it is vetting leaders in the House.
Mr Bonsu touted as one of Ghana’s finest MPs under the 4th republic has been Majority leader and Minority leader – a feat he shares with his National Democratic Congress (NDC) counterpart Alban Bagbin who is now Second Deputy Speaker.
The man who has described himself as ‘Suame Messi’ has been in parliament since he first won the Suame seat in the Ashanti region in the 1996 general elections.
He became the Secretary of the Minority Caucus (1997-2000), Deputy Majority Whip and later Majority Chief Whip (2001-2004), Deputy Majority Leader and a Member of the ECOWAS Parliament.
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu turned 60 on February 3, 2016.
Of the four different interactions he had with the Appointments Committee, two were a showering of praises from the Minority Chief Whip Mubarak Muntaka.
He testified to the nominee’s deep understanding of the rules of parliament and expressed delight to have had the opportunity to work with the Suame MP.
He was joined in by the Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu who also walked the nominee through his CV to make some minor corrections – the task of checking CVs temporarily taken from the designated MP – North Tongu MP, Okudzeto Ablakwa.
It was OB Amoah who posed a question that invited Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu to lecture on the shortcomings of parliament. OB Amoah wanted to know nominee’s recommendations for changes in the Standing Orders.
Nominee recommended changes in the mode of appointments like the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC). Under the current provisions in the 1992 constitution, the president is charged to make the appointment in consultation with the Council of State.
Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said under the law, nothing stops an overly partisan president from choosing a party man to head the commission and other state institutions which require the president to appoint heads after consulting the Council of State.
He recommends that changes be made to require the President to present his nominee for parliamentary approval as it happens in other jurisdictions.
It approval requires say two-thirds majority it could check the possibility of the president choosing party men for sensitive positions.
He also wants changes in the Standing Orders of Parliament to limit MPs to one committee instead of serving on about three committees. This will help the MP to be more effective instead of hopping from one committee to the other.
The chairman’s question was subtly ‘over-ruled’ by the nominee who said the chairman Joe Osei Owusu was asking a speculative question which the rules do not permit.
The First Deputy Speaker wanted to know what happens to his Majority leadership position should the president decide to drop him as minister for Parliamentary Affairs.
The position of Minister for Parliamentary Affairs goes to the Majority leader by virtue of the fact that he is the leader of government business in Parliament.
He serves as the Executive’s link to Parliament and therefore needs to be in the thick of affairs at the Presidency. New bills authored by the Executive will be pushed in parliament by the Majority leader.
Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu explained he does not necessarily have to be a Cabinet minister. But he must be in the thick of affairs helping to ‘tighten bolts and nuts’.
It was Yileh Chireh who triggered a discussion on the need to create the position. Under the previous NDC government, no such position existed. But it has become a feature under the NPP government which first created the position in 2001.
Within 30 minutes, the questions were exhausted, the praises were showered as a 26-member committee watched on for the nominee to sail through as part of a parliamentary courtesy for their leaders.