MAJORITY LEADER Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has urged Speaker Alban Bagbin to respect the country’s Constitution and avoid breaching it in his ruling on the Dome-Kwabenya MP, Sarah Adwoa Safo, whose seat is expected to be declared vacant.
Mr. Bagbin, on July 28, 2022, deferred for further study a decision on Adwoa Safo’s fate regarding her absence from the sittings of the House for more than 15 days without written approval of the Speaker.
The Privileges Committee of Parliament, by a majority decision, recommended the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP’s seat to be declared vacant, intimating, “the Dome-Kwabenya seat is automatically vacant by operation of law.”
The committee said by the provisions of Article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution, the onus was on Sarah Adwoa Safo to provide a reasonable explanation to the Privileges Committee on why she shall not vacate her seat, for having absented herself for 42 sittings of a parliamentary session. This is because the MP failed to take advantage of the numerous opportunities and facilities offered her to provide reasonable explanation.
The Majority Leader, whose side has suffered the blunt of Adwoa Safo’s continuous absence in the House, said the constitution is clear on what should happen to a lawmaker who absents himself or herself from parliamentary sittings without permission and also fails to avail himself or herself to a process to deal with the situation.
He told TV3 yesterday that he was hoping the Speaker would do what is constitutional, adding, “I am not happy what the possible consequences will be. Adwoa Safo served as my Deputy.”
He accused the Minority of reframing their position on the matter of Dome-Kwabenya MP, and “shifting the goalposts” always as a way that may make it easier for them to claim a face-saving victory.
“The Minority keeps shifting the goalpost on this matter. When the Speaker ruled and referred the matter on 5th April, the Minority Chief whip rose and said he disagreed with the Speaker.
“His disagreement was that the Speaker could not, on his own, refer that matter to the Privilege’s Committee. That was the position he took initially. I said I disagree with him, [and that] the speaker can do that,” he noted.
Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said they have suddenly changed their position, and wondered what that meant.
On April 5, 2022, Sarah Adwoa Safo of Dome Kwabenya; Henry Quartey of Ayawaso Central; and Kennedy Ohene Agyapong of Assin Central were referred to the Privileges Committee for allegedly absenting themselves from the House for more than 15 sitting days without permission.
The Speaker, who made the referral, said evidence made available to him by the “table office indicates that three of the Hon. Members have so far absented themselves in this meeting for more than 15 sitting days without permission as recorded in the Votes and Proceedings.”
“I trust that the Committee of Privileges will consider this matter with the urgency and seriousness it deserves as the public interest in this matter is amazed. More importantly, we make the law and we must be seen to be obeying and complying with the laws we make,” he added.
The Speaker said the Legislature has to set leadership by example, and “I strongly believe this is one of the cases we must show commitment to what the people have elected us to do.”
He indicated that a search on the attendance of members from the commencement of the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic, conducted by the table office on the First Session, was interesting and revealing, and said MPs needed to take the attendance to Parliament more seriously.
“The First Session of the House has already expired, and unfortunately this issue of absenteeism was not addressed in any of the three meetings of that session. I consider that it will be improper,” he noted.