An attempt to cut down or provide a ceiling for the proposed 2021 estimates of expenditure for the Parliamentary Service, Parliament, Judiciary and the Judicial Service of Ghana by the Executive, has incurred the wrath of the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, with the number three gentleman of the land resisting the Executive control.
Exhibiting the powers that the legislature wields, the Speaker said nowhere in the 1992 Constitution states that the Executive could provide a ceiling for the estimates of expenditure for the Parliamentary Service, Parliament, Judiciary and the Judicial Service, the second and third arms of Government respectively.
At best, he said the Executive could negotiate with the two arms of government for their budgetary allocations.
The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, had through his Executive Secretary, Nana Asante Bediatuo, sent two separate letters to the Speaker dated March 11, 2021, communicating to him and the House “Recommendations of the government on the 2021 proposed estimates on the expenditure” for Parliament, Parliamentary Service, Judiciary and the Judicial Service.
Reading the two separate letters to Members at a sitting on Tuesday, March 16, 2021, the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Bagbin said the estimates on expenditure as requested by the Judiciary and the Judicial Service was slashed by GH₵77,482,591 by the Executive.
The exact amount as requested by the Judiciary and the Judicial Service which falls in line with Article 127 and 179(1)(3) and (5) was not disclosed.
Article 127(1) of the 1992 Constitutions states that “In the exercise of the judicial power of Ghana, the Judiciary, in both its judicial and administrative functions, including financial administration, is subject only to this Constitution and shall not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority”.
Article 179 (1) of the 1992 Constitution states “The President shall cause to be prepared and laid before Parliament at least one month before the end of the financial year, estimates of the revenues and expenditure of the Government of Ghana for the following financial year”.
(3) “The Chief Justice shall, in consultation with the Judicial Council, cause to be submitted to the President at least two months before the end of each financial year, and thereafter as and when the need arises (a) the estimates of administrative expenses of the Judiciary charged on the Consolidated Fund under article 127 of this Constitution; and (b) estimates of development expenditure of the Judiciary”.
(5) “The estimates shall be laid before Parliament under cause (4) by the President without revision but with any recommendations that the Government may have on them.
With regards to Parliament and the Parliamentary Service, the Speaker announced that their budgetary allocations have been reduced by GH₵119,846,911.
“In view of the reduced fiscal space in the national budget as a result of statutory and debt service obligations, we cannot accommodate the request by Parliament”, the letter referencing the estimates on expenditure for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service in part read.
It added “This will enable government contain expenditures within the overall fiscal space for 2021. It should however be noted that the ceilings provided for Parliament and the Parliamentary Service satisfied Section 50(a) of the Parliamentary Service Act, 1993 (Act 460) as Amended”.
However, the Speaker told the House that he was least enthused by the content of the President’s letters and has therefore, responded accordingly by declining to accept those letters.
“Dear Sir, Re-recommendations of the government on the 2021 proposed estimates of expenditure for Parliament, the Parliamentary Service, the Judiciary and the Judicial Service, Please refer to your letters dated March 11, 2021, with reference numbers 0PS/350/21/247 AND 0PS/260/21/248 in which you sought to communicate to Parliament through the Speaker the recommendations of the President on the 2021 proposed estimates of expenditure of Parliament, the Parliamentary Service, the Judiciary and the Judicial Service”.
“Respectfully, as the Speaker of Parliament, I am unable to accept the letters and to communicate same to the Honourable House as the wording and import of the letters do not communicate a recommendation as stipulated by Article 127 and 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 50(a) of the Parliamentary Service Act of the 1993, Act 460”, some aspects of the Speaker’s letter dated March 16, 2021, as read out to Members by himself noted.
Commenting further on the matter, he said “We have the final – how 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. It is not with the Executive to impose ceiling on the Judiciary or Parliament. They have to do the proper thing and so during the consideration of the estimates, Honourable Members, particularly, the Committees concerned, take that onboard. At the end of the day, come and inform us as the negotiated figure not the ceiling that has been given by the President. If you do otherwise, I, as your Speaker, will not attend any letter for submission to the President. I mean what I say. The weakest link in our democracy is Parliament and because of that we have not been able to control things like corruption; we have not been able to hold the Executive to account; and we have not been able to get rule of law going. We are the arm to do that and so far as I am the Speaker of this House, I will insist that the right thing be done”.