Parliament, an arm of government through its regular meetings plays roles that are crucial to our democracy, well – being as a people and the country’s relationship with the outside world.
The parliamentary system practiced in Ghana was modeled entirely after the Westminster system, with a prime minister, who was head of government and a president who was head of state. With time changes have been made; consequently the fourth republican parliament is characterized by the multiparty, hybrid system which allows the appointment of more than half of the ministers of state from parliament, a role in governance among other features.
FUNCTIONS OF THE GHANAIAN PARLIAMENT
Parliament plays a host of functions but notable among them is the law making function. The legislative function is considered to be the most important function of parliament. According to article 93(2) of the 1992 constitution, the legislative power of Ghana is vested in parliament and is exercised in accordance with the constitution. Parliament also exercises control of all public funds. No tax can be imposed without the authority of parliament.
Article 178 of the constitution states that apart from moneys charged directly on the consolidated fund by the constitution or by an act of parliament, no moneys can be withdrawn from the fund without the authority of parliament. Parliament exercises other financial powers as provided for by articles 181,174 among others. Parliament scrutinizes the performance of the executive. They play this oversight role in other to ensure that the implementation of public policy conforms to the approved developmental agenda of the state and that expenditure incurred is in accordance with parliamentary authorizations. In parliament grievances are vented with the aim of seeking redress.
It serves as a forum with the Member of Parliament serving as the communication link between his constituents and government. He is able to draw attention to socio-economic challenges dogging his constituents through motions, debates, questions etc. Parliament also plays deliberative functions in which it debates an array of policy issues some of which result in the passage of resolutions. Deliberations may throw light on underlying tensions in society and help foster consensus building and reconciliation. All these roles as stated are achieved through parliamentary proceedings, otherwise referred to as parliamentary business. Parliamentary business is conducted in plenary and in committees.
The Business committee determines the business of the house. The constitution vests in the speaker the responsibility of summoning parliament. Most matters in parliament are determined through votes of the majority of members present and voting. Matters cannot be determined unless half of all the members of parliament are present. The speaker has no vote. Where votes on a motion are equal, it is considered to be lost.
References: • A guide to the parliament of Ghana (2004). • Brief on the parliament of Ghana (brochure).
By Bernard Buachi