A formal communication from the Rt. Hon Speaker Sumana Bagbin to members of parliament, Tuesday 22, Feb 2022 reminds parliamentary committees and clerks of those committees that speedy execution of their duties are the main pillars of parliamentary work.
He pointed out that parliamentary committees have become slow in their delivery of work and this has generally affected the functionality of parliament as a whole. He was unhappy that a new session has begun yet no committee has submitted reports for consideration in the house. “We are in a new session; no report whatsoever has come to the house. There is no reason given to us as to why there is a delay for us to consider the referral on what to.”
Parliamentary committees are required by law to comply with reporting timelines to facilitate smooth running of parliamentary business and not to carry-forward matters referred to them, into a new session, unless leave has been sought and granted by the house. “We must be guided at all times that, our commitment to our democracy means we are doing diligent work in a manner that is efficient and timely.” Speaker Bagbin told the house.
The speaker explained that apart from bills introduced by or on behalf of the president, which must not be delayed for more than three months, the constitution does not provide a specific period, within which a committee must complete its work. However, the standing orders does say, “… every committee to which a matter is referred, shall report to the house before the end of each session of Parliament. If a committee finds itself unable to complete any investigations, enquiries or other matters referred to it before the end of the session, it shall so report to the house.”
Another source of worry to the Speaker is clerks neglecting their duty of taking minutes at parliamentary committee proceedings. He cautioned committee clerks to be sure to take minuets of committee proceedings or be ready to face the law.
“The minuets are as important as the reports of the committee. Absence of minutes of committee meetings will be regarded as dereliction of duty. It obstructs the work of parliament and obstruction of parliament is equal to contempt of parliament. Clerks must be mindful of timelines of reporting to parliament and take steps to provide the minuets together with the report of the committee.”
The Rt. Hon. Speaker touched on what he describes as the growing trend of members of the various committees raising new objections to committee reports on the floor of the house instead of at the committee levels. He instructed members to ensure to be present at committee meetings to be able to register their opinions at the committee levels.
He also acknowledged the heavy workload on the Public Accounts Committee and called for an increase in the number of its membership and the formation of sub committees to lighten the weight of work on the Public Account Committee.