The parliament of Ghana has many functions, but one of its main mandates is to discuss and approve budgets.
Every year according to the constitution, the Finance Minister must introduce its Budget in Parliament. When the budget is presented before the house, it is discussed, debated in the House, and a vote is taken to approve or to reject.
One may ask… what is budget? A budget has two sides: revenue (income) and expenditure (what will be Spent). A Budget in a simple definition, is an annual plan for what government wants to achieve, and how it will spend money to achieve those goals; (making sure, that the state has the resources it needs to do its work, creating conditions, which stimulate economic growth, clearly indicating the priorities of government and many more.
The constitution of the Republic of Ghana gives Parliament the FINANCIAL CONTROL (power of the purse, or power to control of all public funds). In a specific term, this means no tax can be imposed on the citizens without the prior approval of Parliament, as stated in Article 174 of the constitution.
It also means apart from monies charged directly on the Consolidated Fund by the Constitution, no monies could be withdrawn from the Fund without the prior approval of Parliament (as stated in Article 178 of the constitution. Parliament has the power and duty to monitor the expenditure of public funds, to ensure, that the monies it has authorized are used for the purposes for which they are intended.
On Friday, 26 November, 2021 during the 2022 budget debate in the floor of Parliament, the Majority caucus in parliament (NPP members) walkout from the chamber, leaving only the Minority (NDC Members)in the house.
This came following a hot disagreement over the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Honourable Alban Bagbin’s order, that non-MPs should vacate the Chamber.
It turned out that, after the NPP majority’s walkout of the chamber, the Speaker, after some attempts to bring them back failed, proceeded with the business of the day; and so the 2022 budget, by the Finance Minister was rejected by the NDC minority; which according to the constitution, is rejected by parliament.
After the budget was rejected by parliament in the absence of the Majority, some of the NPP MPs who granted interviews, has stated on camera, that the budget was not rejected constitutionally, and that they will be taking it up in the next sitting.
Honourable K.T. Hammond, Member of Parliament for Adansi Asokwa, speaking on JoyNews said that “The matter is alive. Parliament has not constitutionally rejected our budget. Meet us on the floor on Tuesday to deal with the question of the constitutionality of what has happened. The budget has not been rejected and we will revisit it”.
The debate, after the happenings in parliament is getting hotter and hotter, and causing Ghanaians to once again divide in opinion. While some Ghanaians believe that parliament rejected the 2022 budget constitutionally, others do not.
When do we say a budget approval is constitutional or not? What did the constitution say about budget approvals in the floor of parliament? The answer according to the constitution is simple.
By the constitution, 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 Expenditures of the Government of Ghana for the next following financial year.
As clearly outlined in the constitution, the Budget shall be presented to the House of Parliament by the Minister of Finance, on behalf or on the authority of the President and in such form as the House may determine; and then the House shall debate the Budget.
The constitution again made it clear, that the presence of at least one-third of all the Members of Parliament (besides the person presiding), shall be necessary to constitute a quorum of the House. One-third of the current parliament (275) is about 92. Remember the NDC members in the house are 137, the NPP also 137 plus one independent, which is 138 for the NPP.
If a quorum is not formed, according to the standing orders of parliament, the person presiding shall suspend the Sitting of the House for a period not exceeding one hour and if upon resumption, and still, there is no quorum formed in the House, the House shall be adjourned until the next sitting day.
On the process of voting in the house, the standing orders say the House shall be made up of not less than one-half of all the Members of the House, and When the Question has been put by Mr. Speaker at the conclusion of the debate, the votes shall be taken by voices “Aye” and “No”. The majority of the votes of the Members present shall carry the day.
One-half of the current parliament of 275 is 137; and the Minority NDC in the House , as at the time of voting, got their full number of 137.
Now if all these procedures were respected… and the standing orders obeyed yesterday by the Speaker Alban Bagbin, why are some people saying the 2022 budget was unconstitutionally rejected.
In your view, did parliament fulfill all these requirements before rejecting the 2022 budget?
Please share your views on the comment box below.
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