The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Bagbin, Tuesday reacted again to the capping of the 2021 budget estimates of the House, saying “it’s not for the Executive to impose ceiling on the Judiciary or Parliament.”
The budget for Parliament was reduced by GHC 119,846,911 this year.
The Speaker, at the beginning of the debate on the 2021 Budget and Financial Estimates, urged the House, especially the committees concerned, to take note and inform the plenary on the negotiated figure.
Speaker Bagbin had earlier on Friday, March 12, expressed displeasure about the decision by the Executive to cap the budget allocation for the Legislature and Judiciary, when the Budget statement was presented.
He said the ceiling was very low, describing it as “below the belt.”
He said the Legislature and Judiciary were Arms of Government hence would not take any budget, which was like that of a ministry.
At the beginning of the debate, Speaker Bagbin read communication from Nana Asante Bediatuo, the Executive Secretary to the President, informing the House that the Executive, citing Section 15(A) of the Parliamentary Service Act, Act 460, 1993, as amended, could not accommodate the request of Parliament on how much it put forward.
The letter read in part: “In view of the reduced fiscal space in the national budget as a result of statutory and debt service obligations, we cannot accept the request by Parliament.”
“We kindly suggest that Parliament and the Parliamentary Service operate within the budget while we explore the opportunities to increase allocation in subsequence when revenue is improved and debt has stabilized.“
The communication, the Speaker said, requested the House to keep the estimates of Parliament and Parliament Service to enable the Government to contain expenditure within the overall space for 2021.
Speaker Bagbin informed the House that in view of the urgency of matter, he quickly drew the attention of the Secretary to the President in a letter dated March 16, 2021, that he was unable not accept the letter.
He explained that the wording and import of letter did no convey a recommendation as stipulated by Article 127 and 179 of the 1992 Constitution and Section 15 (a) of the Parliamentary Service Act 1993, Act 460 but was rather an imperative to Parliament to keep within the expenditure estimates by Government.
He said he returned the attached letters for the consideration of the President in the light of Constitutional provisions and that Parliament had the final power to approve or disapprove.
The Constitution, the Speaker said, has made for the Executive to make recommendations and negotiate during the deliberations of the budget, and not for the Executive to impose ceiling on the Judiciary or Parliament.
“We have to do the proper thing,” the Speaker said, and urged the members of the relevant committees to take the matter on board during the consideration of the estimates and inform the plenary to inform the House as to the negotiated figure and not the ceiling given by the President.
“If you do otherwise, I, as your Speaker, will not attend to any letter for submission to the President. I mean what I say,” he said.
“The weakest link in our democracy is Parliament and because of that, we are not able to control things like corruption; we are not able to hold the Executive to account; we are not able to get the rule of law going.”
“We are the arm to lead in that. And so far as I remain the Speaker of this House, I will insist that the right thing is done.”