Despite the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, confirming that the Budget is still before the House and has not been passed, the majority in Parliament has asserted that it has been passed.
On Thursday, November 30, the Speaker restated his position that the budget has yet to be adopted, after the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, announced in a press conference that it had been passed.
The Speaker directed the House Business Committee to reschedule Budget deliberations until next week for a final decision, noting that the topic would not be debated on Thursday.
However, in a release signed by Deputy Majority Leader Alexander Afenyo-Markin following the ruling, the Majority side is adamant on the decision, justifying their withdrawal from Parliament on Wednesday.
According to them, the Speaker decided in favour of the Majority in his remarks following a voice vote on the floor, only to reverse his decision after the Minority questioned the voice vote and demanded a headcount.
Read the full statement below
STATEMENT BY THE MAJORITY CAUCUS ON THE APPROVAL OF 2024 BUDGET STATEMENT AND ECONOMIC POLICY OF GOVERNMENT.
Following the conclusion of the debate on the budget yesterday, the Speaker, as per the established protocol of the House, was to put the question regarding the approval of the policy and principles underpinning the budget. After a period of deliberation, the Speaker posed the question and announced that the “ayes” had it. Subsequently, the Deputy Minority Leader, Armah Kofi-Buah, rose on account of Order 113(2) to contest what he (Mr. Armah Kofi-Buah) deemed as a ruling by the Rt. Hon. Speaker. As a result of the challenge, he called for a headcount. This prompted an intervention from the Majority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader. They raised procedural issues in respect of the application brought before the Speaker.
Despite the procedural objections raised, the Speaker declined to acknowledge these concerns and expressed his intention to proceed with a headcount as demanded. At this juncture, the leadership of the majority caucus insisted on their readiness to submit to the headcount that was being sought. The headcount, a process where members indicating “aye” or “no” rise to be counted, typically takes approximately 10 minutes. The results are then tallied by table officers and presented to the Speaker, who announces the outcome.
Instead of sticking to the request of the headcount, the Speaker then said that he was drawing the attention of the House to the possibility of resorting to a division, and indeed the Speaker then called for a division. This came as a surprise to Members of the Majority Caucus, since no such application for a division had been presented to the Speaker.
The decision to call for a division was certainly not the initial application.
Leadership of the Majority, —well aware that under our rules, being absent during a headcount disqualifies a member from being recorded present, whereas in a division, absent members who rush in can be counted asparticipants, even if they were not present when the question was initially put-; moved to halt this process that would have allowed some of the minority MPs who were outside Accra at the time to be able to proceed to Parliament to be counted, even though the Majority was fully aware that it was not going to give the minority any advantage.
This departure from the call for a headcount generated heat and was set to frustrate government business; at the same time undermining the sanctity of the parliamentary processes.
Since 1993, Parliament has never resorted to a division in making decisions.
The Majority concluded the choice for a division was unfair under the circumstance, leading to their decision to stage a walkout.
It is essential to note that despite the Speaker’s indication that the “ayes” had prevailed, and despite a petition presented to him, a petition that hadn’t followed due process, the Speaker’s initial ruling on the “ayes” retaining their advantage stands. Consequently, the budget has been duly passed until the appeal for a headcount is dealt with, not the division that the Speaker had called.
DEPUTY MAJORITY LEADER
HON. ALEXANDER AFENYO-MARKIN