The decision to whether or not declare the Dome-Kwabenya seat in Parliament vacant has been deferred indefinitely.
The deferral by the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, follows his inability to declare the seat vacant as recommended by the Majority members on the Privileges Committee but to “consult more.”
The Committee’s report laid in the House on Wednesday saw the Majority and Minority caucuses divided over whether or not the seat occupied by Sarah Adwoa Safo should be declared vacant.
Ms Safo and two other members, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, MP, Assin Central and Henry Quartey, Member, Ayawaso Central, were deemed to have breach article 97(1)(c) by absenting themselves for more than 15 sittings during the first meeting of the second session.
Subsequently, the Speaker referred the trio to the Privileges Committee pursuant to the constitutional provision.
Mr Agyapong and Quartey were cleared by the committee for giving reasonable justification for absenting themselves for 20 and 30 days respectively.
On Adwoa Safo, the Majority Members on the committee held that the embattled lawmaker failed to take advantage of all the platforms offered her to explain why she was absent for more than fifteen days during the third meeting of the first session of the House had proven futile.
“Therefore, pursuant to Article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution and the Court of Appeal decision in the case of Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare v the Attorney General & 3 Others, the Dome-Kwabenya Seat is automatically vacant by operation of law,” the Majority Members recommended.
But their colleagues in the Minority on the other hand were of the view that “the lack of response from Ms Safo to the numerous invitations of the committee should be reported to the House without any conclusions”.
However, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, moments before the House went on recess yesterday asked that the motion to adopt or reject the report as captured in the Order Paper be struck out and the Dome-Kwabenya seat declared vacant.
According to him, the report could not be subjected to the scrutiny of the plenary to require approval and that “automaticity” sets in once the committee determined that there was no reasonable excuse for a lawmaker to be absent in line with the constitution.
“The Privileges Committee has presented its report and in my considered opinion based on the constitution and not sentiments, is that, there should be that automaticity once the committee makes a determination. I disagree that the decision should be taken by the House. I disagree,” Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, MP Suame, stated.
The Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, disagreed with the position of his opposite colleague stating that like every other committee of the House, the Privileges Committee’s report should be subjected to the plenary in consonance with Order 164 which mandates the committee to “recommend” its findings to the House which shall be put to the vote of members.
“If a decision has been submitted to us we must take a decision as a House on that report”, Mr Iddrisu, MP, Tamale South insisted saying that not subjecting the report of the committee to the scrutiny of the House would set a bad precedent going forward.
Deferring his ruling on the matter, the Speaker said more consultation would have to be done in order not to set a bad precedent.
“The issue is both substantive and procedural law. I need time to submit to this House a reasoned written ruling. I cannot in a haste of today give you the ruling,” the Speaker ruled.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI