THE Seventh Parliament of Ghana has been hit by some controversies of late. From alleged bribery to approval of ministerial nominees who are not qualified to hold public office.
The law-making House has enacted and amended a couple of Acts such as: Labour Act –Act 2003, Rent Act of Ghana (Act 220), National Service Act – Act 426, etc., to guide our ways of doing things as a civil society.
For instance, I recall that the Sixth Parliament vividly received and passed 75 Bills into Laws and 66 Instruments. Notable among these Bills were Ghana Geological Survey Authority Bill, 2015, Maritime Pollution Bill, 2015, Chartered Institution of Taxation Bill, 2014, Revenue Administration Bill, 2016, National Disaster Management Organisation Bill, 2015, Technical Universities Bill, 2016, Land Use and Spatial Planning Bill, 2016, University of Environment and Sustainable Development Bill, 2015, Ghana Export-Import Bill, 2015, and Bank of Ghana (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The House spends huge sums of national resources and man hours before one bill can is passed into law. It is an undeniable fact that lots of efforts are put in by our law makers and other stakeholders which help in making our nation a better place to live.
With this background, it is very disheartening to see the very same people who spend sleepless hours to fine-tune such bills into laws and later turn round to do things that defeat the purpose of such Acts.
The recent approval by Parliament of some ministerial nominees who did not undertake the mandatory one-year National Service has raised loads of concerns by the public, with some asking the use of our parliamentarians if they fail to adhere to Acts enacted by them.
Failure by any Ghanaian who completes tertiary education to undertake the mandatory one-year national service is a clear breach of Section Seven (7) of the National Service Act – Act 426, yet majority of offenders of the same Act are the people who made the law.
The Ghana National Service Scheme Act 426 section 7
The Ghana National Service Scheme Act 426 section 7 states that a person who has not commenced and completed his or her period of national service shall not;
(a) Obtain employment outside the Scheme; or
(b) Be employed by any other person outside the Scheme; or
(c) Be engaged in any employment outside the Scheme, whether self-employed or otherwise, without the prior permission, in writing, of the Board.
(2) It shall be the duty of every employer to ascertain from every employee, upon his appointment, whether or not he is liable to national service and if he is, the employer shall notify the fact to the Board forthwith.
During the recent ministerial vetting, it emerged that the current Minister for Gender and Social Protection, Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku, and Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Foreign Affairs Minister, did not do their mandatory one-year national service after their tertiary education, yet the House went ahead and approved them.
Section 7 (2) of Act-426 gives some sort of responsibility to employers to ensure that people who fail to abide by the law are brought to book. So the question is what due diligence did the appointing authority do to save Parliament, especially the Majority side, from this embarrassment?
Ironically, when issue of illegality was raised on the floor by the Minority Leader, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, some members from the Majority side openly challenged the constitutionality of the Ghana National Service Scheme Act 426.
Chapter Four of the 1992 Constitution states clearly on (1) the sources of our governing laws -the laws of Ghana shall comprise the following- (a) this Constitution; (b) enactments made by or under the authority of Parliament established by this Constitution; (c) any Orders, Rules and Regulations made by any person or authority under a power conferred by this Constitution. (d) The existing law; and (e) the common law.
Per their argument, the qualification for someone to become a minster does not include National Service. But the mandatory one-year National Service for all persons (Ghanaians) after their tertiary education is spelt out black and white in Act 426 of the National Service Scheme which was enacted by Parliament.
Another issue raised by Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. Sarah Adwoa Safo, was on morality. She opined, ‘the Minority has no moral right challenging the approval of nominees who did not undertake their National Service because some National Democratic Congress (NDC) ministers including the former Deputy Minister for Local Government, Hon. Oti Bless, equally failed to meet that criteria but was approved by a majority decision when the party was in power.
Again, you see how the laws of the land are being butted and butchered by the very same people who enacted these laws for us on the altar of politics. I always feel bad when I hear the kind of unpalatable words used to describe Parliament because of its failure to stand up to be counted on most occasions.
In my candid opinion if Parliament is seen as ‘weak and ineffective,’ it is because it has deliberately or unconsciously opted to be so. I believe it’s a matter of choice and Parliament has itself to be blamed. Wherein lies the strength of Parliament if it will always kowtow to the whims and caprices of the executive arm of government? If this is how things will continue, then it will be better if Parliament is scrapped because if its duty is to “rubber stamp” whatever the executive brings before them then it’s as good as not having it at all.
Parliament is and should be very powerful because constitutionally it should be so. In the wisdom of the framers of our constitution, they deliberately created Parliament and armed it with all the necessary constitutional powers to effectively oversee and check the excesses of the executive arm of government.
Considering the powers conferred on it by the constitution, Parliament has no reason or excuse to fall flat for the executive. The following articles in the constitution give the August House strong legs to stand on to discharge its mandate.
For instance, Article 93 (2) invests the Legislative powers of Ghana in Parliament, Article 106 (10) allows Parliament to pass Bills into Laws even when the President declines to give his assent. Article 144 mandates Parliament to approve the appointment of the Chief Justice and the other Supreme Court Justices, Articles. 68 (3,4) and 71 (2) empower Parliament to approve the President’s salary; and Article. 69(2) authorises Parliament to facilitate the removal of the President from office, if necessary
Also, under Article 82 of the constitution, a minister can be censured by Parliament which may lead to resignation or dismissal of the minister, under Article 78 (1) ministers can only be appointed by prior approval of Parliament, Article 75 (2) empowers Parliament to ratify international treaties, agreements and conventions entered into by the Executive, Under Articles. 174, 175 and 181, Parliament exercises control over the public purse, taxation and loan agreements, Parliament by Article. 187 (6, 15) exercises supervisory role over the Auditor-General and his office, Police Service and an armed force can only be raised by an act of parliament under Article 200 (2) and 210 (2), Under Article. 278 (1 c) Parliament can request the President to appoint a commission of inquiry into any matter of public interest, Article 298 has given Parliament residual powers that allow Parliament, by an act of Parliament not inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution, to deal with any matter for which provision has not been made in the Constitution and Under Article. 289, subject to the constitution and by an act of Parliament, Parliament has power to amend, through due process, any provision of the constitution.
So with all these provisions made available by the constitution, why is it that Parliament can’t stand up to the executive arm of the state? I think the manipulations and twists of things to suite the executive are long overdue. Couldn’t Parliament, for once, stand on its grounds to reject the trio: Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba, Hon. Catherine Abelema Afeku, and Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey knowing how fiercely the then Minority Leader, Hon. Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, and his lieutenants fought against the approval of Hon. Oti Bless on this same national service issue. I believe what was wrong cannot be right today.
Yes, one may argue that there are exemptions to every law, but it should be used in its right context. For instance, what prevented the trio from going for the waver before appearing at the committee but rather waited for people to raise concerns before going for it? All these afterthought decisions are not helping matters.
By: Franklin Asare Donkoh/Today In Parliament