The M.A Development Studies students from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research, (ISSER), University of Ghana on Friday, 8th June, 2018 embarked on a study tour of Parliament to gain insight into the workings of the Legislature.
The study tour was led by Dr Cynthia AddoquayeTagoe, a Research Fellow of the Institute. On arrival at Parliament House, they were received by Ms. Nana Akua Asare of the Public Affairs Department who briefed the team on Parliamentary procedures and structures.
The group was ushered into the House where proceedings of the day had just started with the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Aaron Mike Ocquaye steering the affairs.
It was a day the Minister of Health Mr. Kwaku Agyeman Manu came to Parliament to answer questions regarding his ministry.
After observing the proceedings for a while, the group moved to the Committee Room where it met with Dr. Mohammed Hardi Nyagsi, Director of Budget and Research and Dr Ernest Darfour, Deputy Clerk serving on the Foreign Affairs, Government Assurance and Local Government Committees.
Dr Nyagsi gave an overview of the work of Parliament and the journey of bills and policies until approval is given or otherwise.
The journey begins with the laying of either the bill or policy on the Table Office which is otherwise called the Speaker’s Table. From here the Clerks who sit in front of the Speaker organise them before they are laid. The Clerks liaise with the Hansard Office which keeps all verbatim record of whatever is said on the floor of Parliament.
Dr Nyagsi said the Head of Table, a legal officer links up with the Attorney-General who then undertakes to modify the wording of the bill and later send it back to Parliament to be laid for the first reading. The bill is then referred to the appropriate committee or a joint committee for deliberations. This is the consideration stage after which there is the 2nd and 3rd Reading before a vote is taken on it.
When a favourable response of a yes vote is attained, then it is sent to the President for his signature to become law.
On his part, Dr Darfour described the working relations between the executive and Parliament as collaborative and not antagonistic. This is against the backdrop of the situation where some Members of Parliament are Ministers and such a scenario throws up the question about which body takes precedence Parliament or Executive?
He explained that one of the mandates of Parliament is to fulfil its oversight responsibility of the executive. It carries this out by carefully scrutinising all bills from the executive and indeed any document emanating from there and this is done at the committee level and during sessions of the House.
At the committee stage, Dr Darfour stated that, a three-month duration is given for it to finish its work and report back but when it is not possible to accomplish the task, the committee reports back to Parliament and requests for extension of time.
During question time Mr. Paul Lawer Kenney wanted to know the fate of a bill sent to the President and he refuses to sign it to become law. To this, Dr Darfour stated that the President would refer the bill to the Council of State to consider and advie. If the bill is eventually brought back to Parliament, a committee will sit to consider areas of disagreement. When all the matters are dealt with, the House sits to consider the bill with the amendments and eventually it is sent back to the President for his signature.
But where there is still no agreement, Parliament would vote and if two-thirds say yes, then the bill automatically becomes law.
Ms. Gladys Bawiah Ali also wanted to know whether Parliament could take any actions against the Executive for unduly delaying a bill when it has been dealt with by Parliament.
In his response, Dr Darfour explained that under such circumstances, the Executive indicates areas or portions of concern to Parliament which looks at it again and engages in lobbying, persuasion and dialogue to reach an agreed solution.
At the end of the discussion, Ms. Ali gave the vote of thanks while Dr. Cynthia AddoquayeTagoe presented some publications of the Institute to Parliament through Dr Darfour and also gave Ms Asare her own copy for her insightful delivery when she welcomed the team.