2024 Standing Orders to address Ghana’s dynamic, hybrid Parliamentary democracy

The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, says the January 2024 Standing Orders of Parliament offer an opportunity to address the evolving needs of Ghana’s dynamic and hybrid parliamentary democracy.

He said the processes and procedures in the House were challenged with time and practice, exposing the gaps and deficiencies in the November 2000 Standing Orders.

The present composition of the House had brought those gaps and deficiencies into sharper focus, even though those deficiencies surfaced as far as early 2001, he said.

‘We must start aligning the conduct of business in the House with the evolving and changing trends and requirements of our Parliament,’ Speaker Babgin said.

‘We need to know how to apply and cope with the January 2024 Standing Orders, which have replaced the 2000 Orders. These are some of the reasons we are here today. As we say in Africa, when the drummers alter their beats, the dancers must adjust their steps.’

Speaker Bagbin made the statement in his opening add
ress at the orientation workshop for Members of Parliament (MPs) and Procedural Staff on the new Standing Orders in Ho at the weekend.

He stated that the attendant composition of the House had brought to the fore several challenges with the old Standing Orders.

‘These led to diverse interpretations of some procedures and practices, constant and acerbic verbal one-upmanship on the floor of the House, increased tensions, near fisticuffs, and eventually, including the pronouncement of the Supreme Court regarding the November 2000 Standing Orders.’

The current Standing Orders, which came into effect on January 2, 2024, assures for effective and efficient performance of Parliament and Parliamentarians.

The Standing Orders are deeply rooted in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana and drew on the Darwinian Concept of a ‘living organism,’ the Speaker said.

‘It is a dynamic document that continues to evolve and therefore, the metaphorical representation of a ‘living Constitution’ is a testament to its c
apacity to adapt to society’s ever-changing needs, reflecting the evolution of laws, policies and preferences.’

He borrowed the words of Laurent Fabius, the former Prime Minister of France: ‘The revision of legal documents may not be without imperfections, but at least it won’t be rigid. It will be a necessary step towards building the institution and country we desire.’

Mr Bagbin urged the MPs to approach their work with diligence and innovation, given the fact that Parliament was confronted with an increasing level of public distrust, which needed to be tackled through their approach to work.

‘The 2020 general election presented incontrovertible evidence of this and alerted us to the potential future shifts and turns in our country’s socio-political landscape,’ he said.

Mr Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, the Clerk to Parliament, said since the commencement of the previous Orders, Parliaments had been confronted with contemporary challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and institutionalisation of mechanisms
to promote the Open Parliament Concept.

The hung nature of the Eighth Parliament, which was the first of its kind since the inception of the Fourth Republic, presented several novel situations and challenges that were not provided for under the previous Standing Orders, he said.

Mr Nsiah mentioned some of the practices and procedures that had been introduced in the new Orders, including the recital of the National Pledge on the first day of Sitting for each week, and the conduct of a roll call of MPs at each sitting at the behest of the Speaker.

He added that Parliamentary Committees had increased from 31 to 44 to emphasise the new focus and direction of the House, as part of efforts to expand and improve parliamentary oversight of activities of state actors.

Mr Alexander Kwamina Afenyo-Markin, the Deputy Majority Leader and a New Patriotic Party MP for Effutu, who spoke on behalf of Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader, said the only weapon for an MP was the rules book (Standing Orders) and cit
ed himself as an example that when he entered the Chamber in 2013 and found himself fumbling, his only saviour was the rules book.

Advising his colleagues, he said the only way to survive and stand on their feet and make meaningful contributions on the floor of the Chamber amid all intimidation was to stand firm and be within the rules, which they should not take for granted.

‘For the outgoing MPs, do not forget about the rules book as you are likely to come back and for those who would be retained, take the rules seriously,’ Mr Afrnyo-Markin advised.

Mr Kwame Governs Agbodza, the Minority Chief Whip and a National Democratic Congress MP for Adaklu, congratulated the Speaker for spearheading the revision of the Standing Orders and bringing it into operation.

He expressed the hope that the orientation would address members’ concerns and bring them up to speed on the new provisions and the rationale behind them.

Source: Ghana News Agency