Speaker Frowns On ‘Loose Statements’ From MPs

Members of Parliament (MPs) began the debate on the President's State of the Nation Address last Wednesday with the Speaker, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, issuing a stern warning that he would not countenance unsubstantiated allegations and "loose statements" on the part of the MPs.

He said he would order the clerks to expunge from the records statements made without proof or the quotation of figures without the provision of the sources of those figures.

And just as he had said, some statements were expunged from the records while he disabled the microphones of some members who, in his view, were not adhering to the rules of engagement he had established.

Debates on the floor of the House have always been characterised by extreme partisanship, entrenched positioning, wild allegations, unnecessary praise-singing and, sometimes, bellicose rhetoric.

Wild allegations

Mr Adjaho left the Speaker's Chair to the First Deputy Speaker , Mr Ebo Barton-Odro, to attend to other duties after a few MPs had debated the President's address and just after he had left, the wild allegations and the praise-singing began.

For example, the Member for Bekwai, Mr Joe Osei-Owusu, in his contribution, alleged that the First Lady, Mrs Lordina Mahama, had constructed a warehouse within the precincts of the Flagstaff House.

When challenged by Mr Barton-Odro, who was then presiding over affairs to substantiate the allegation, he could not.

He said he could not carry the warehouse to Parliament as proof and that the warehouse was there for anyone who cared to ascertain the facts.

When asked whether he could provide the title deeds to the land on which the warehouse had been constructed, he said nobody needed title deeds to put up structures on the land on which the presidential abode was situated.

At that juncture, Mr Barton-Odro disabled Mr Osei-Owusu's microphone, cutting short his contributions.

Mr Osei-Owusu, obviously not pleased with the deputy speaker's action, packed his books and left the chamber but still tried to make his point at the top of his voice as he strode out of the House.

Minority contributions.

Earlier, Mr Osei-Owusu said the President's State of the Nation address was fit only for the campaign platform.

He said the steps taken to fight corruption as contained in the address were disappointing, incompetent and mediocre.

He said there was endemic corruption in Ghana and added that state officials got away with their loot.

A clear example of endemic corruption, in his view, was the reconstruction of the Ridge Hospital, explaining that according to the Crown Agents, the cost had been inflated by about $147 million.

Ghana today, he said, was full of chicanery and dishonesty as a result of the actions and inaction of the government.

He alleged that because the government was averse to transparency, it was unwilling to consider the passage of the Right to Information Bill which had been in Parliament since 2014.

The MP, whose contribution was also cut short by the Speaker as a result of his failure to stick to the rules, suggested that the President was suffering from an optical illusion, a statement he was made to withdraw.

He accused the President of coming to Parliament " with his own set of facts" and said statements made to the effect by the President that some roads had been constructed, particularly the road from Obuasi to Dunkwa-on-Offin to Ayanfuri, a road he claimed to be familiar with, were false.

He said the President had failed to fight corruption and quoted a newspaper article which had stated that businessman Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome had prayed the Supreme Court to be allowed three years to pay back the judgement debt wrongfully paid to him as evidence of corrupt people dragging their feet in order to enjoy their loot.

But the Speaker stopped him in his tracks, saying newspaper publications could not be used to substantiate statements made on the floor of the House because those publications could be false.

He said if Mr Hammond, who is a lawyer, wanted to make statements bordering on what had been said in court, he needed to provide the court documents to back his claim.

Turning the spotlight on energy, Mr Hammond, a former Deputy Minister of Energy, said some of the energy plants that the President had touted as producing power as part of measures to solve the energy crisis were either brought in during the era of President J.A Kufuor or were in the process of being procured before the current National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration took office.

He said the NDC administration had added only 2.5 megawatts to the country's energy stock.

The MP for Abuakwa South, Mr Samuel Atta Akyea, said among other things that the President had slighted the House by failing to brief it on how the Guantanamo Bay detainees got into the country.

Majority contributions

As is usual with the Majority on such an occasion, they sang the praises of the President, with the MP for Ho Central, Mr Benjamin Komla Kpodo, saying, among other things, that "President w krom, " to wit "The President is in town" or the "President is in charge of affairs or is on top of issues."

The MP for Bawku Central, Mr Mahama Ayariga, who moved the motion for the debate of the address, said what the President laid bare before the House were "record-setting achievements" and added that it was a narrative of how President Mahama was moving Ghana from crises to "better grounds".

He said within one year, the President had taken Ghana from a cataclysmic situation to " better grounds" by solving the power crisis.

Access to electricity, he observed, had moved from a little over 50 per cent to more than 80 per cent under the current administration and said that deserved praise.

He said availability of electricity eliminated poverty, reduced maternal and child mortality and helped in the achievement of gender equality.

He said the President had initiated moves to provide 6,000 hospital beds and that hospitals were being contructed all over the country, and added that those were great achievements for which President Mahama needed to be commended.

Other contributors included Dr Kwabena Donkor, MP for Pru East, and Mr James Klutse Avedzi, Chairman of the Finance Committee of Parliament, who dwelt extensively on financial issues.