The Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Alabn Bagbin, has dissented on the views by some Minority Members of Parliament that the Minister of Roads and Highways, Kwasi Amoako Atta, disrespected Parliament by issuing an order to get a policy proposal in the yet-to-be approved 2022 budget statement, implemented.
Mr. Bagbin indicated that the minister only misunderstood and misapplied the law.
The opposition lawmakers had accused the Road Minister of exercising ultra vires in issuing that order.
Mr. Kwasi Amoako-Atta who is also a Member of Parliament for Atiwa West, on Wednesday, November 17 directed the cessation of collection of tolls on public roads and bridges effective Thursday, November 18 after Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta had announced in the 2022 budget statement the cancellation of the tolls.
A press release issued a few hours after the announcement by the Minister of Finance said the directive will take effect from 12:00am Thursday.
“Motorists are kindly advised to approach the locations with caution and observe all safety measures that will be put in place,” the press release said.
But during proceedings on the floor of the House on Thursday, November 18, Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu questioned the powers that the Minister relied on to issue this directive when the budget had not been approved by Parliament.
Supporting Mr. Iddrisu’s submission was the lawmaker for Adaklu, Kwame Agbodza.
Mr. Agbodza said “It is quite clear that the Minister sidestepped parliament by pretending that he as a minister, not even the finance minister, has the right to waive taxes in this country. My senior colleague the road minister is a lawyer and a very experienced one. I submit that this action is not mere action.
“To make it quite serious, on Tuesday Mr Speaker, your Committee on Roads and Transport met and invited the minister of roads and transport to work on a referral which is to build the road between Manfe and Koforidua. At that meeting, I asked the Ministry representative where the minister was. The response they gave me was the Minister was on an official trip with the president
“The Minister should have known that he has no such powers.
“In any case, he was not in the jurisdiction. So Mr. Speaker, we want you to direct that the Minister has no such powers to waive the payment of charges in this country except Parliament. Mr. Speaker direct that the Minister rescind his decision, if he so wishes he should present that to parliament.”
The Speaker said in Parliament on Thursday, November 18 that the Minister acted wrongly by issuing that command.
“I think that it is proper for us to direct the minister, a member of this house, in fact, a senior member of this house, I think that he might have acted wrongly and therefore I call him to reverse this decision,” he said.
Mr. Bagbin added “These are policy proposals that the Minister of Finance has presented to the House. Until they are approved nobody has the authority to start implementing something that doesn’t exist.
“Does [the Road Minister’s order] amount to a disrespect of the House? That is where I may differ.
“The Minister of Roads and Highways, because this is not a court of law, might have misunderstood or misapplied the law and so it is for us to draw his attention and tell him that you have no such authority. In spite of all the legal and linguistic gymnastics that have been displayed, it is very clear that what the minister sought to do he had no such authority to do that.
“I want to clearly direct that what the Minister has released is complete Brutum Fulmen, it means it is an empty boast, it has no effect and therefore I call on him to honorably withdraw that directive. Failure to do so will be a serious breach of the directive of the speaker and that would amount to contempt of parliament
“I think that it is proper for us to direct the minister, a member of this house, in fact, a senior member of this house, I think that he might have acted wrongly and therefore I call on him to reverse this decision,” he ruled.
The Member of Parliament for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea also the Minister saying he did not disrespect Parliament and the laws by issuing that order when the budget had not been approved.
He said “Even in the Supreme Court, with the greatest of respect Mr. Speaker, sometimes there is a misreading of the law which does not amount to the fact that the law lords are disrespecting the law.
“So at such a time that we made that distinction we cannot attribute to the honorable Minister for Roads and Highways he is disrespecting the law.”
He added, “Probably, with the greatest of respect, this could be an administrative error which should not be, tt happens.”