The Speaker of Parliament Aaron Mike Oquaye on Thursday repeated his call for all and sundry to get involved in making laws for the country through the initiation and sponsorship of a Private Members’ Bills (PMB) to the House.
He said: “Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, so far as we are concerned… the Speakership, Majority, and Minority, that we accept at this moment PMB, in fact we have made mistakes in the past.., that we did not see the need to do so.”
He added: “The British who gave us the antecedents, anyway, have long abolished that…They are so flexible and fluid that if you follow some of their laws before you know they would have a convention to modify the old laws. If you follow this throughout the Commonwealth, min New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and others, the United States on board and many of the African countries, PMB is now the order of the day.”
The Speaker, who at his inauguration in January 2017 gave assurance to admit PMB, repeated his call at the Conference on PMBs held at Parliament House, in Accra.
The conference, organised with the support of Star Ghana Foundation, an NGO was on the theme: “Private Members Bill in Ghana: The role of Civil Society Organisation (CSO)” treated topics such as “The Concept of PMB”, Developing a Framework towards PMBs in Ghana and the Role of CSOS in the enactment of PMBs.”
The conference had the objective of strengthening CSO capacity, to among others ensure responsible governance as outlined by the Speaker in his inaugural address.
The gathering had the aim to define the role of CSOs in the enactment of PMBs, agree upon a framework towards the enactment of PMB and sensitise CSOs on PMB.
A PMB is a bill introduced into a legislature by a legislator who is not acting on behalf of the Executive branch.
The current formulation in Ghana’s parliament is to the effect that cooperation between the executive and the legislature is necessary to enable the legislature to use the law as a means for social engineering.
Efforts to ensure the initiation and sponsorship of PMB led to the establishment of the Legislative Drafting Unit as part of the Legal Department in 2018 with the late Justice VCRAC Crabbe as the founding parliamentary counsel.
However, shortly after the office was established, Justice Crabbe passed on.
Subsequently, some other attorneys were recruited, and the legislative drafting unit commenced operation in February 2019.
The unit is responsible for proving legislative drafting services to Parliament including; the drafting of PMBs.
Prof Oquaye said the House wanted legislation to come from “anybody, any institution and everywhere” and suggested that members in the Minority though in opposition could make effective laws through PMBs.
“So you take out an aspect of the law, which you think should be modified or abolished…the virtue of it could even compel a President to sign the bill. That itself should be one of the functions of the opposition. And how virtuous that would be!”
Second Deputy Speaker and MP for Nadowli-Kaleo Alban Bagbin lauded the Speaker for his efforts in promoting PMBs to the House.
Mr. Bagbin, who served the House for close to 27 years since the inception of the Fourth Republic, and in various leadership capacities admitted that the 1992 constitution allowed for MPs to initiate PMBs, but self-imposed doubts and financial constraints in formulating legislation made them abscond that function.
This, he said, made people not to see the relevance of MPs, whose primary function is to make laws.
He said legislators needed money for lobbying, conducting research and drafting laws.
Prof Kwesi Prempeh, Executive Director of Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) urged legislators to embrace the invitation for PMBs, champion, sponsor and co-sponsor them, also and elicit the support of coalitions so that the bills would go through successfully.
He observed that government business took the chunk of parliamentary business time and suggested that certain particular days and time should be given to work on private members’ bills without disruption.
He said members could also venture to work on money bills without interference from the executive.
Dr S.K.B Asante, a Constitutional Law expert urged Parliament to be more assertive in their legislative function and procure the necessary resources to that effect.