Politics

Ministers turning Parliament into a joke – Muntaka Mubarak

Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak has expressed his displeasure over the refusal of ministers of state to honour summons from Parliament.

According to him, the ministers by their conduct are turning Parliament into a ‘joke’.

Speaking on the floor of Parliament on Tuesday, the NDC lawmaker noted that, Parliament is a forum for ministers to account for their stewardship, and therefore there is the need for them to be present when invited.

He therefore called on the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin to enforce the compliance of ministers, when they are needed to answer questions before the House.

“Ministers are gradually turning this House, for the want of a better word [into a joke] . Because Mr Speaker, they’ll wait until the morning of asking the questions, then now they’ll run to you that I cannot come because there’s one urgent thing or the other”, he stated.

Mr. Muntaka’s comment were in connection with the failure of the Transport Minister, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah to appear before the House on Tuesday, to answer some nine (9) questions slated for him.

On that note, Mr. Muntaka continued: “For the Minister for Transport in particular, yes he used to be one of those who’ll happily come to the House and answer questions, but Mr Speaker of late, time and time again, there have been excuses.

I can recollect that this is about the third time I am raising concern about his inability to appear before the House. Mr Speaker, we’ll be grateful that you’ll help this House hold these ministers accountable. Because this is one of the tools that is used in holding them accountable”.

He added: “So for the ministers to be picking and choosing when they’ll want to come, Mr Speaker I believe as a House we need to resolve this”.

Meanwhile, the Majority Chief Whip in Parliament, Frank Annoh-Dompreh has also called on the House to name and shame ministers of state who do not honour summons from the House.

According to the legislator, the failure of ministers to appear before the House to respond to issues concerning their ministries is an unhealthy development.

Speaking on the floor, the MP said the inability of the Transport Minister to appear before the House does not augur well for Parliamentary business.

Buttressing earlier sentiments expressed by his colleague, Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, Mr. Annor-Dompreh also indicated his displeasure and called on ministers to be more responsive to summons from Parliament.

“I think it’s a straightforward matter, and I’m in total agreement with what my colleague [Muntaka Mubarak] said. Except to say that I think it’s high time we name and shame. We shouldn’t box all the ministers together. There are ministers who have been doing their work diligently and they take this House serious. I don’t want to mention names”, he stated.

Touching on the absence of the Transport Minister, he continued: “We understand that it’s a human institution they’re manning. But you cannot bring your excuse duty on the same day that you’re expected to appear before this House. That is totally unacceptable. And it’s something we shouldn’t romance at all”.

He, however, assured the House that he will liaise for the Transport Minister to appear before the House and respond to the questions which have been slated for him to answer.

“But having said that, we will reach out to the minister. We’ll let him know that the House is not happy about this, and we will work assiduously to ensure that we re-programme this as soon as possible. So I’ll plead with my colleagues. Maybe we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and probably this will be the last”.

He added that: “We will not entertain this kind of attitude in bringing the notice the very day you’re supposed to take your question. That will not be accepted. And I’m not too happy about it so I’m in total agreement with the worries expressed, especially in relation to the Transport Minister.

“And like you rightly said, he’s one of the ministers who has been very diligent, but these days his attitude leaves a lot to be desired. So Speaker, I’m only going to plead that we’ll try and re-programme him for him to appear and do the needful”.

Commenting on the matter, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin used the occasion to caution ministers of state who fail to appear before the House to answer questions regarding their respective ministries.

Mr. Bagbin said the sector minister used to be punctual, but is now, “negating all the gains he made in the House”. This was affirmed by the two whips from both caucuses.

According to the Speaker, the failure of some ministers to respond to summons by Parliament is becoming a canker which can derail the progress of the House.

In his caution, he stressed that ministers of state must endeavour to respond to Parliamentary summons, to ensure the smooth run of the Legislature.

Making reference to Article 122 of the 1992 Constitution and Standing Order 28 of Parliament, he explained that the absenteeism by minsters may be construed as contempt of Parliament.

“Honourable members, ministers don’t decide when they’ll appear before the House to answer questions. That decision is not for ministers. That decision is for the House and the Speaker”, he stated.

On the absence of the Transport Minister, he said: “I am tempted to refer his conduct to the Privileges Committee. But because of the intervention of leaders, I will resist that temptation and not refer him to the Privileges Committee for today. But the next conduct tantamount this behaviour will be referred to the Privileges Committee.

“I will not accept his request that the question be rescheduled for Thursday. I’ll refer the question back to the Business Committee to reschedule it at the appropriate date for him to answer. We have 20 questions for today and therefore I’ll excuse him for today and ask the Business Committee to reschedule the question”.

Speaker Bagbin further emphasised his non-tolerance for absentee ministers of state.

“If for any good reason, please Chief Directors and Acting Chief Directors should be told in very clear language. We’re not going to entertain any language like ‘the minister is unavoidably absent’. We’re not going to accept that language. There must be a reason. An acceptable reason why a minister is absent. Not ‘unavoidably absent’. What is that to the ministry?”.

He continued: “Please there must be good reason why a minister cannot attend and answer the question. We’re all humans. We’ve all been in this business for sometime. And we’ll understand if the reason is cogent, it’s acceptable, it’s reasonable. But not ‘unavoidably absent”.

Ministers turning Parliament into a joke - Muntaka Mubarak
Transport Minister, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah

Meanwhile, transport fares are expected to go up by some 10% later this week if the unionised operators, Ghana Private Road Transport Union and the Ghana Road Transport Coordinating Council, are able to get the Transport Minister’s blessings on this margin of increase.

The operators and the Transport Minister, Kwaku Ofori Asiamah, are expected to meet at a crunch meeting this Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.

However, at a meeting between the two bodies and the Transport Minister last Friday, June 17th, 2022, there was some agreement that the fares should be reviewed.

But a final agreement was not reached on the margin of increase of petroleum products.

The meeting also concluded that the time has come for some taxes on fuel to be reviewed.

Prices of fuel on the local market increased over 4% on average terms in the just ended pricing-window of June 15, 2022.

For the rest of June 2022, the Institute for Energy Security (IES) projected another sharp rise in the price of the various products on the back of the 0.86% depreciation of the cedi and the international market price increase of 14.81% for petrol and diesel.

In nominal terms, it said petrol price will increase by about 10% to sell above ¢11per litre and diesel by about 15% to sell above ¢14 per litre.

Price of Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG) however was projected to fall further by 5% from its current price.

Market leader, GOIL, has also increased the price of petroleum products at the pumps.

It went up over the weekend. A litre of petrol is going for ¢10.99 which is in line with the current market condition.

However, diesel is going for ¢13.39 pesewas.

Based on the pricing formula for the industry, it is clear that most of the Oil Market Companies have absorbed a fraction of the cost. 

This means prices should have been more than what is presently prevailing.


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