General News of 2014-01-28

Changes to Ghana’s Constitution to begin soon

Members of Parliament will in the coming months vote to amend some key provisions of the 1992 Constitution.

The proposed amendments, the details of which are still unclear, will affect what the Attorney General’s office is calling “non-entrenched” provisions of the Constitution.

The planned amendments are part of ongoing constitutional reforms which started under the tenure of the late President John Evans Atta-Mills.

The Constitution Review Commission, constituted by the late President Mills in January 2010, to undertake a consultative review of the 1992 Constitution, presented its final report to the Presidency in 2011.

The report, which consists of up to 15 chapters, proposed measures that the Government could take to transform the Commission’s recommendations into constitutional, legislative and administrative actions that would advance national governance and the lives of Ghanaians.

In presenting the report, Professor Emeritus Albert Kodzo Fiadjoe, Chairman of the Commission, said the “Current constitution is good, and care must be taken not to engage it in an unwarranted amendment.”

He added, “I am happy to state that this report represents the most comprehensive socio-political database that Ghana has put together since independence. It contains the hopes and aspirations of the people of Ghana, even their fears and tribulations.”

The report recommends that any move to review the constitution must strengthen Parliament, enhance the role of traditional authority in local governance and strengthen independent constitutional bodies to protect the institutions of State and the rights of people.

It also recommends that the Constitution must respond to the issues of ethnicity, corruption, dysfunctional politics, revenue leakages and unbridled government spending amongst others.

Government sources say, the amendments being proposed on the non-entrenched provisions of the Constitution will seek to address some of the “weaknesses” inherent in the nation’s most powerful set of laws.

A document cited on Monday at the Ministry of Justice by citifmmonline.com says the Attorney General will soon put the “Constitution [Amendment] (Non-Entrenched Provisions) Bill” before MPs for action.

Although the document did not give a specific date for which the Attorney General intends to lay the “Constitution [Amendment] (Non–Entrenched Provisions) Bill” before lawmakers for legislative action, it said the proposals will reach the House “in the course of the first meeting” of the Second Session of the Sixth Parliament.

Article 291 of the 1992 Constitution gives clear guidelines on how the non-entrenched supreme laws of the land can be amended. It says:

“(1) A bill to amend a provision of this Constitution which is not an entrenched provision shall not be introduced into Parliament unless-

(a) it has been published twice in the Gazette with the second publication being made at least three months after the first; and

(b) at least ten days have passed after the second publication,

(2) The Speaker shall, after the first reading of the bill in Parliament, refer it to the Council of State for consideration and advice and the Council of State shall render advice on the bill within thirty days after receiving it.

(3) Where Parliament approves the bill, it may only be presented to the President for his assent if it was approved at the second and third readings of it in Parliament by the votes of at least two thirds of all the members of Parliament.

(4) Where the bill has been passed in accordance with this article, the President shall assent to it.”

Article 292 of the same constitution requires that, “A bill for the amendment of this Constitution which has been passed in accordance with this Constitution, shall be assented to by the President only if –––

(a) it is accompanied by a certificate from the Speaker that the provisions of this Constitution have been complied with in relation to it; and

(b) in the case of a bill to amend an entrenched provision, it is accompanied by a certificate from the Electoral Commission, signed by the Chairman of the Commission and bearing the seal of the Commission that the bill was approved at a referendum in accordance with this Chapter.”

Titled “Legislative Programme for the First Meeting of the Second Session of the Sixth Parliament,” the document also serves notice that other proposed legislations –– the Ghana School of Law Bill, Legal Service Bill, Corporate Insolvency Bill, and presidential Transition (Amendment) Bill –– will reach the House in the course of the second session.

It added, “The under listed regulations are likely to be laid in the course of the First Meeting:

a. Companies (Prescribed Forms) Instrument

b. Economic and Organised Crime (Disciplinary) Regulations

c. Legal Service Regulations.”

Dated January 6, 2014, the document mentions the “Whistle Blower (Amendment) Bill” and the “Companies Bill” as those which have already been gazetted for first reading in the course of the first meeting, which starts tomorrow.

It added: “The under listed proposed legislation, not emanating from the Justice Sector, are likely to be submitted to Parliament:

a. Immigration Service Regulations

b. Prison Service (General Administration) Regulations

c. Prison Service (Disciplinary) Regulations

d. Prison Regulations”

Source: citifmonline.com
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