The Executive Director of the African Centre for Parliamentary Affairs, Dr Rasheed Draman, says the Speaker of Parliament could cause the arrest of the Health Minister for failing to honour his summons.
He argued that per the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Speaker has the power to cause the arrest of anyone who disregards the Legislature’s invitation.
Speaking to Israel Laryea on JoyNews Prime on Monday, Dr Draman said Parliament must decisively address the issue of sector ministers refusing to attend to Parliament when ordered.
“The minister could be cited for contempt of Parliament and in that case, the matter could be referred to the Privileges Committee.
“The second weapon in the arsenals of the Right Honourable Speaker is that he could cause the arrest of this Minister. He could issue a warrant and the police will go look for the minister and arrest him and bring him to Parliament,” he revealed.
Order 103 of Parliament’s Standing Orders, states that “if a person fails to appear before the House or a Committee as ordered or when a person fails to produce documents ordered, except in so far as the production of the document is certified by either Mr Speaker or the National Security Council as being injurious to the public interest or prejudicial to the Security of the State, Mr Speaker shall have the power to issue a warrant to arrest the person and bring him before the House or the Committee. Such warrant shall be executed by a Police Officer.
Health Minister, Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, was due to appear to answer a question filed by a Member of Parliament (MP) but failed to show up.
Although Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, informed the House that the Minister was engaged in an equally important assignment elsewhere, his excuse did not sit well with Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak.
The Asawase MP described the conduct of the Minister as unacceptable and requested for the Speaker’s intervention, insisting the reasons provided were not satisfactory.
The Speaker, Alban Bagbin, described the Health Minister’s action as disrespectful and issued a two-hour ultimatum or risks being sanctioned but Mr Agyeman-Manu never showed up before the House adjourned.
Dr Draman said: “It is just unfortunate that this hardworking minister at this time who is very busy dealing with COVID-19 and I believe in this era health ministers are some of the busiest people, is, unfortunately, caught in this age-old problem that confronts our Parliament.”
He said the Speaker may be forced to crack the whip on erring ministers to deal with what he described as an age-old problem that has bedevilled the House.
“I can foresee a minister being arrested. I don’t think the Right Honourable Speaker is issuing an empty threat. We just have to wait and see. I foresee something like that happening in our Republic; Maybe not in the too distant future,” the expert on parliamentary affairs reiterated.
The Executive Director of Parliamentary Affairs, however, urged ministers to attach more seriousness to Parliament’s summons as they would do when the President calls.