There is no clearly defined process for dealing with absentee MPs – Joe Wise

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Joseph Osei-Owusu a.k.a. Joe Wise, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, has stated that there is no clearly defined process in the Parliamentary Standing Orders for dealing with absentee MPs.

Speaking on Joy News programme ‘PM Express’ on Monday, February 28, the Bekwai MP said the best way to deal with the matter is to test the law.

He explained, “I have looked at the Standing Orders since these discussions came; I’ve not really seen a process, a clearly defined process or procedure. I think last Friday, one of the former MPs called me and said he is going on radio to discuss this thing and we discussed these matters and I think at that point, I conceded that there is no clearly defined process of dealing with it.

“I think the best thing is to test it. For a member or another to bring the matter to the attention of Mr. Speaker and request that the person’s conduct be referred to the Privileges Committee.”

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When asked by the host if Adwoa Safo’s absence is a matter of concern to the Majority side, Joe Osei-Owusu refused to answer the question directly but rather stated that the public should be asking whether the Dome-Kwabenya MP is entitled to the long absence from the House.

“The issue is whether she is entitled to be absent for that length of time or if she is not, what should be the consequence. As to the effect or otherwise to the side, I think it should be obvious that beyond being part of the group, you represent a people; should those constituents be left without representation in that length of time? Unless there is a justification for doing that; I think that should be the question.”

The host then asked his conclusion on the whole brouhaha, but the First Deputy Speaker, who is also the Chairman for the Privileges Committee, declined to make a comment because if a member triggers the process of the removal of the MP, he is the one who is to preside over it and he does not want his comments to sound prejudicial.

Meanwhile, the Clerk of Parliament has been asked to write to the Electoral Commission declaring seats of MPs who have been absent for more than 15 days vacant.

According to Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare a.k.a. Kwaku Azar, this will be an implementation of a 2018 Supreme Court ruling on absentee MPs which states that a lawmaker automatically vacates their seat after 15 continuous days of being absent from the House without permission, in accordance with article 97 of the 1992 constitution.

Kwaku Azar told Joy FM on Friday, February 25, that the Clerk of Parliament must immediately begin applying the law.

He said the Clerk will be in contempt of court if nothing is done at all.

“When it comes to being absent in Parliament, people start saying ‘let’s be gracious and empathetic.’ But we must either be a nation of law, or we are not.

“So I think the Clerk should, on Monday, write to the Electoral Commission that any MP, not just Adwoa [Safo] who has been absent for more than 15 days, have vacated the seat, and a by-election should be held,” Kwaku Azar explained.

Azar’s comments come in the wake of calls by some MPs on the Majority side for the governing NPP to declare the Dome-Kwabenya seat vacant following the absence of its MP from Parliament.

The governing NPP MPs have linked Sarah Adwoa Safo’s absence from the House as a way of blackmailing the government with a list of demands, including the Deputy Majority Leader position.

Sarah Adwoa Safo, who is also the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, was last seen in Parliament in December 2021, when she appeared in the House to dismiss claims by the Minority Caucus that she was impersonated. She has since not returned to the Chamber.

But the governing party had admitted that the MP’s absence is affecting the party and government business.

They also revealed that all options are currently on the table, including triggering the constitutional provision to remove her as MP and declare her seat vacant.

ghanaweb.com

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