The Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has said the new Standing Orders of Parliament has made all Committee meetings of accessible to the public.

 This forms part of Parliament’s effort to deepen the open parliament concept, which demands transparency and accountability in the activities of Parliament. It would be recalled that, Ghana’s Parliament was recently ranked first in the Africa Open Parliament Index.

Rt Hon Bagbin disclosed this during the orientation workshop for the second batch of Members of Parliament and Procedural Staff on the new Standing Orders in Kwahu, over the weekend.

According to the Speaker, the Standing Orders were discovered to have presented certain lacunae, anomalies, lack of clarity, and inconsistencies. He therefore indicated that, the development of the current Standing Orders has been under review since 2002 with the aim to ensuring that, the Orders are all-encompassing and reflective of evolving institutional needs.

To archive this, he stated that “In consultation with leadership I constituted a Technical Committee to speed up the review of the November 2000 Orders, consider its coverage and to provide for all the possible governance scenarios provided for in the framework of the 1992 Constitution. The committee engaged with leadership, consulted various committees, sought the expertise of specialists in contemporary parliamentary democracy, and researched into current best practices in other jurisdictions. The result is the January 2024 Standing Orders”. To buttress his point, he quoted the renowned American entrepreneur and scholar, Max Degee, who once said,”We cannot achieve what we desire if we remain stagnant in our current state.”

The Majority Leader and MP for Effutu, Hon. Alexander Afenyo-Markin in his remarks was optimistic that, the revised standing orders of Parliament which include a dedicated segment known as ‘Backbenchers Time’ will foster inclusivity. This initiative aims to provide Members of Parliament situated at the backbench with an opportunity to actively contribute their ideas and perspectives, thereby enriching the parliamentary practice.

He stressed the significance of allowing backbenchers to voice their opinions and put forth proposals that can enhance legislative processes. “Mr. Speaker, then again, the introduction of ‘Backbenchers Time.’ For the first time, an opportunity is given to backbenchers who usually do not get the opportunity to have their day to articulate their views and bring meaningful statement proposals to enhance their legislative work.”

The Majority Leader emphasized the workshop’s importance and reiterated the transformative potential embedded in the new Standing Orders. He urged all Members of Parliament to actively participate, citing the advice of former Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who once emphasized the crucial role Standing Orders play in an MP’s tenure.

“Mr. Speaker, colleagues, leadership, and honourable Members of Parliament, I will conclude by encouraging you to participate diligently in this workshop. As the former Majority Leader OseiKyei-Mensah-Bonsu said to me once, ‘that my ability to stay in the house depended largely on how I used my standing orders’ and this I share with you the first-timers who may be struggling in your job as MPs. Please make the Standing Orders your friend because, with it, no one can intimidate you in the Chamber. With it, your confidence level will go very high. With it, there will be no disappointment.”

Speaking on behalf of the Minority Leader, Hon. Emmanuel Armah Kofi Buah indicated that, it is indeed an important occasion as the vision for the revision of the Standing Orders which started over two decades ago and has been realised. Stressing on the relevance of the revised orders, he stated that “Mr. Speaker, in any progressive society every functioning institution is governed by rules and without rules there would be mere anarchy. Much more importantly, as the Legislative arm of government, the conduct of business in Parliament needs to be guided by rules.”

In his welcome remarks, the Clerk to Parliament, Mr. Cyril Kwabena Oteng Nsiah, indicated that, the hung nature of the Eighth Parliament, which is the first of its kind since the inception of the Fourth Republic, presents a number of novel situations and challenges that were not clearly provided for under the Standing Orders of November 2000. “This state of affairs required, therefore, that action be expedited on the revision of the Standing Orders to provide for aspects of our legislative procedures that were not within the contemplation of the drafters of previous Orders of the House” he added.

According to him, the orientation programme, would afford Hon. Members and procedural Officers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with contents of the revised Standing Orders, and provide the platform to seek clarity and understanding of provisions of the Orders to engender compliance with newly introduced procedures and practices of the House.

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