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Ghana: Parliament sets up legal department

The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon Aaron Micheal Oquaye, has disclosed that the Parliamentary Service Board has given the approval for the establishment of a Legal Department within the Parliamentary Service of Ghana.

Hitherto, Parliament has to solely rely on the Attorney Generals Department for drafters and legal advice on matters of legislation.

The establishment of the Legal Department, which is long overdue, is expected to boost Parliament’s legislative functions by providing the much needed technical support to parliamentary committees in their bills consideration process.

Rt. Hon Oquaye made this disclosure during a courtesy call on him by Civil Society Organisations led by the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC).

According to him, one of the immediate things that the newly established legal department will look at is how to admit Private Members Bill, a subject that is paramount to him.

He further disclosed that the new Standing Orders of Parliament that is being drafted has made provisions for a Private Members Bill.

Currently, Parliament does not admit Private Members Bill due to the interpretation placed on Article 108 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana by previous Speakers of Parliament. Article 108 states that, “Parliament shall not, unless the bill is introduced or the motion is introduced by, or on behalf of, the President: (a) proceed upon a bill including an amendment to a bill, that, in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision for any of the following; (i) the imposition of taxation or the alteration of taxation otherwise than by reduction; or (ii) the imposition of a charge on the Consolidated Fund or other public funds of Ghana or the alteration of any such charge otherwise than by reduction; or (iii) the payment, issue or withdrawal  from the Consolidated Fund or other public funds  of Ghana of any moneys not charged on the Consolidated Fund or any increase in the amount of that payment, issue or withdrawal….”

The most famous ruling on the admission of Private Members Bill was that of late Rt. Hon Peter Ala Adjetey, who had indicated that “To the extent that even the paper on which the bill will be printed; to the extent that the paper will be a charge to the consolidated fund, it will be unconstitutional”.

However, Speaker Oquaye is strongly of the view that there are a lot of bills that can be introduce by way of a Private Members Bill, which do not have any financial implication but rather help to shape and improve society.

According to him, the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, is ready and willing to cooperate with Parliament to achieve this purpose.

 

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