The Majority Group in the Parliament of Ghana has expressed worry over the voting rights of the First Deputy Speaker who per the provisions of the Standing Orders of the House, chairs the Appointments Committee.
At a press conference on Wednesday, January 20, 2021, Leader of the Majority Group, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said it is illegal for the Chairman of the Appointments Committee who represents the Speaker of the House to vote on an issue during committee sittings.
Instead, he said the Chairman per Standing Order 211(5) shall have a casting vote in the event of a tie.
The sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Majority Leader were espoused by his deputy, Hon. Alexander Afenyo Markin at a sitting on Tuesday, January 19, 2021, when the House was considering the Report of the Committee of Selection on the composition of the membership of the Business Committee and Appointments Committee of the House.
The Committee had relied on the ratio 138:137 to select members from both sides to serve on the Appointments Committee. Per the Committee’s report, each side had 13 representatives.
However, Hon. Markin raised a preliminary issue concerning the ratio and the number of representatives on their side. To, the 13 representatives per the ratio does not reflect a true representation since in his view, the First Deputy Speaker who chairs the Appointments Committee is a member of their Group.
Therefore, he is not entitled to original voting rights per the dictates of the Standing Orders of the House, specifically, Order 109(3) and Order 211(5).
With this, he argued that there will be a deficit of one member from their side and therefore pleaded with the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Alban Kingsford Bagbin to have a second look of the reconstitution of the Appointments Committee to exclude the First Deputy Speaker from the ratio.
Order 109(3) states “A Deputy Speaker or any other Member presiding shall not retain his original vote while presiding.
Order 211(5) also states that “The Chairman shall not have an original vote, but in the event of an equality of votes he shall give a casting vote”.
However, the Minority Chief Whip, Hon. Mohammed Mubarak-Muntaka contributing to the discussion of the floor of the House dismissed the argument raised by the deputy Leader of the Majority Group.
According to him, even though the provisions in the Standing Orders are clear, by convention and practices, all First Deputy Speakers who have chaired the Appointments Committee over past sixteen years of which he was a member of the Committee, have exercised their original voting rights.
He supported his claim by Order 200 (1) of the Standing Orders which states that “In Committees, the Standing Orders of the House shall be observed so far as may be applicable”.
That notwithstanding, “Parliament is a master of its own business”, hence, could vary the Standing Orders where applicable.
The Speaker, having listened to both sides of the House, called for a voice vote on the motion of which majority voted Ayes.
He told Members that the measure was an interim one and urged them to fast-track the review of the new Standing Orders of the House so it could be considered and passed next week.
However, Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu commenting further said the conventions and practices does not make it legal for a First Deputy Speaker to have original vote when chairing the Appointments Committee.
He therefore demanded that the right thing must be done.