When the motion was put before the House on Tuesday, Dr Cassiel Ato Baah Forson, Member of Parliament (MP) for Ajumaku Enyan Esiam, raised the Minority’s concern about the issue of quorum based on Articles 102 and 104 of the 1992 Constitution and the recent ruling of the Supreme Court.
Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker, presiding as Speaker, after a headcount, indicated that he was satisfied that the numbers were up and therefore, put the motion to a voice vote and it was approved.
However, this ruling of the Speaker did not go down well with the Minority side of the House.
Mr Rockson-Nelson Etse Kwami Dafeamekpor, the MP for South Dayi, who again raised the Minority’s concern with regards to the issue of a quorum for decision-making, said there were 98 MPs in the Chamber at the time of the headcount and that the House had failed to meet the requirement of quorum for decision-making.
Quoting from the Supreme Court in the case of Justice Abdulai versus the Attorney-General, Mr Dafeamekpor said: “Parliament is first and foremost, a deliberative Chamber, where members meet to debate and discuss various matters of public moment. For that deliberative function, when members are not yet called upon to vote to decide a matter (for example approve a contract or a bill), but merely to discuss or debate it, the Constitution per Article 102 sets a lower quorum threshold, that is one-third of the full membership of Parliament – not counting any member (Deputy Speaker) who may be presiding at that time”.
“However, where Parliament must exercise its legislative power to decide or determine a matter before it, the Constitution sets a higher quorum threshold, requiring, in that instance, at least half of all the Members of Parliament to be present before a vote can be taken.”
Mr Dafeamekpor said: “Mr Speaker, I submit that at the time that the question was put and a voice vote was carried, we were 98 members in this chamber. 98. Mr Speaker in pursuant to this, I move that the decision we recently took is invalid. Is invalid. Mr Speaker, this is on grounds that there was lack of decision-making quorum.”
“Mr Speaker, I am, therefore, challenging the ruling that the “ayes” had the vote in pursuant to motion number 11. Mr Speaker, I am further praying the House for a headcount in the matter.”
Madam Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe-Ghansah, the MP for Ada, noted that ever since they had the Supreme Court ruling, they’ve never had their peace in the House, therefore urged the House to convey a meeting of the Committee of the Whole to resolve the issue.
Mr Alexander Kwamina Afenyo-Markin, the Deputy Majority Leader/the MP for Effutu, concurred with Madam Cudjoe-Ghansah on the issue of a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, submitted to the Speaker to suspend sitting for 30 minutes for the Leadership to meet and discuss the issue.
The Speaker then subsequently suspended sitting for 30 minutes.
When the House resumed, Dr Forson, who was the Available Leader on the Minority side, said in line with the decisions that they had reached at the conference meeting, the agreement was the House should continue with the business of the day.
He said the Clerk had made it clear to them at the Conference Meeting that they had the numbers; more than half representing the 138 required to form the quorum; saying “we have no problem, if indeed, that was the case, the evidence was shown to us.”
Dr Forson, who indicated that the Minority would always raise the issue of quorum whenever the need be, also appealed to members on the Majority side to take Government business more seriously.
Mr Afenyo-Markin said they had no doubt in their minds that the count done by the Table Office was correct.
He encouraged MPs to be punctual and regular in the Chamber to do Government Business, as well as Public Business.