General News of Thursday, 14 June 2018
Members of Parliament at a sitting (File photo)
A report on the attendance of Parliamentarians has cited 54 Members of Parliament who exceeded the number of times a legislator can be without permission at the 3rd sitting of the House
The Minister for Education and Member of Parliament for Manhyia South, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who was absent from 27 Parliamentary sittings without permission in the 2nd meeting, was absent without permission again for 29 times at the 3rd sitting.
Other MPs who absented themselves many times without permission from the speaker included Nkawkaw MP and Eastern Regional Minister, Eric Kwakye Darfour; Krowor MP and Minister designate for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye; Abuakwa South MP, Samuel Ata Akyea; and Sefwi-Wiawso MP, Dr. Kwaku Afriyie.
Eric Darfour was absent 36 times during the 3rd sitting.
New Patriotic Party (NPP) MPs were the worse culprits, with 45 MPs, while only 9 NDC MPs absented themselves without permission.
Ministers of State who double as Members of Parliament were the worst culprits of absenteeism without permission during the First and Second sittings of the seventh parliament, 2017.
Most of the MPs who absented themselves for more than 15 times, out of the 50 sittings were Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
Per Article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution, Members of Parliament who absents themselves from parliamentary sitting for 15 times or more without the written permission of the Speaker must be made to vacate their seats.
Odekro, which issued a caution over the appointment of several ministers from parliament over fears of a weakened legislature, said in the report that, there is the need for stiff punishment for MPs who absent themselves from the House without permission.
It noted that the failure of the legislative body to punish MPs in the past for the offence seems to be encouraging MPs’ to continue with the trend.
See the full report here
Among other factors, Odekro noted that partisanship on the part of the Speaker of Parliament prevented him from enforcing the laws against absentee MPs.
“Several factors may account for this, including partisanship on the part of Speakers, Executive dominance of Parliament and appointment of Parliamentarians as ministers,” it said.
“Article 97(1)(c) requires that an MP shall vacate his seat in Parliament “if he is absent, without permission in writing of the Speaker and he is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet.”
“(emphasis added). While this constitutional provision gives the Speakers of Parliament an enormous power to expel absentee MPs from Parliament, the provision appears quite difficult to interpret. For example, it is difficult to specify what a reasonable explanation is, allowing for discretion on the part of the Speaker. How would the Speaker be able to consider as unreasonable an MP-Minister’s explanation that he/she attended other national assignments in his/her capacity as a Minister? What about cases of ill health, where an MP can provide a certificate of hospital attendance? What if an MP attended to an emergency constituency assignment? It appears that MPs will almost always find ‘reasonable’ explanations for being absent from Parliament, hindering the Speaker’s ability to expel absentee MPs,” it added.