Speaker Alban Bagbin entering the Post-Budget Conference in Ho
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has criticised the executive arm of government in the way and manner he claims they don’t look out for the legislature, and said he can even remove the President and the President cannot remove him from office.
“Let me re-emphasise that the 8th Parliament is properly positioned not to allow itself to be bullied into playing second fiddle to the executive (spontaneous applauds from the MPs). Parliament can remove His Excellency the President. His Excellency cannot do that to Parliament. As Speaker, His Excellency cannot remove me but I can through Parliament get him removed,” he said.
The Speaker of Parliament made the declaration at the post-budget workshop held at Ho in the Volta Region over the weekend for Members of Parliament following the reading of the Budget Statement and Economic Policy of the government for 2022 financial year last Wednesday.
He said that “when I call on the government to look favourably to the two arms of government i.e. the legislature and the judiciary, we through our grace supports (sic) the legislature through the formulas, the Common Fund, the GETFund that we have been approving for the construction of their residences and court houses, and so we support their budget through those lines.”
“Look at your budgets, whether you do that for Parliament. Go back and look at the formulas. That is not done! To the extent that all these years, all the laws we have been passing benefitted the executive,” he claimed.
The Speaker said further that “even we forget about Parliament in the language we use. This is self-inflicted. It is not a deficiency in the constitution. It is a deficiency in Parliament itself and we must correct it,” adding “and so please, holding back on our budgetary requirements amounts to preventing Parliament and the judiciary from carrying out their mandate as provided for in the constitution.”
On Wednesday, November 17, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta had to delay the budget presentation because the Speaker reportedly demanded for more than twice of budgetary provision for Parliament.
The Speaker together with Parliamentary leadership were locked in a meeting in Parliament with the Finance Minister and other members of the Economic Management team of the state to negotiate a last minute deal.
As a result of the last minute demands by the Speaker, the presentation was delayed by over two and a half hours of negotiations aimed at getting government to double the allotment of budgetary support to Parliament.
Before the crucial meeting with the Finance Minister ahead of the budget, the Speaker had said that the legislature will not go begging the Finance Ministry to release its estimate for the year 2022 and said he would ensure Parliament was ‘treated fairly and equally’ just as the other arms of government.
“Parliament after the approval will have to go cap in hand to the Ministry [of Finance] for the release of its budget estimate. There is no way I will tolerate that. We won’t go to the Ministry of Finance to beg for the release of our estimate. It must be done like is done for others,” he had told Joy FM.
“It is refreshing to note that the issue that we are raising, particularly dealing with public goods and services for the citizenry, is so crucial at this time. Where the people of Ghana are looking up to us for hope. I can tell you that the word politics or politician sounds so sour in the mouth of many Ghanaians. They don’t want to hear it. But we cannot do without it.”
At the post-budget workshop over the weekend, Mr. Bagbin admitted the demands he made before the budget reading and said the allocation was necessary to adequately resource Parliament.
“We proposed the paltry sum of the 2% of the total revenue of the State to be allocated to Parliament next year. The Minister vehemently disagrees with us, but he wants us to approve his budget. It is not a threat, it is just a reminder [to the Finance Minister]. We have been fighting for this for some time now,” he said.
Earlier this year, Alban Bagbin threatened to stall processes towards the approval of the 2021 budget estimates if the executive goes ahead with its plans to cap budgetary allocation to the legislature.
The Executive Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante in a letter to Parliament, informed the House of the executive’s decision to reduce their budget by over GH¢190 million and that of the judiciary by over GH¢70 million, citing the lack of fiscal space as the reason for the plan.
But according to the Speaker, this is legally wrong and a step towards weakening the oversight duties of Parliament.
“The budget is not for the Executive, we have the final power to approve or disapprove and so what the Constitution has done is for them to make recommendations and to negotiate during the deliberations of the budget before the House,” he said.
“It is not for the Executive to impose a ceiling on the Judiciary and Parliament, we have to do the proper thing and so during the consideration of the estimates, particularly the Committees concerned, take that on board. At the end of the day, come and inform us as to the negotiated figure, not the ceiling that has been given by the President,” he had said.
By Ernest Kofi Adu