BY: Albert K. Salia

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Dome-Kwabenya, Ms Sarah Adwoa Safo, appears to have gone missing.

How many days has she been absent from parliamentary sittings? Has she done so with or without written permission from the Speaker?

Per Article 97 (1)(C) of the 1992 Constitution, a Member of Parliament (MP) shall vacate his seat in Parliament “if he/she is absent without the permission in writing of the Speaker and he/she is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from 15 sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet”.

Continuous absence

Her continuous absence has made the NPP MP for New Juaben South, Mr Michael Okyere-Baafi, allege that she is trying to blackmail the government.

Per the rules of engagement, an MP can petition the Speaker of her absence from Parliament for 15 sitting days and the petition will be referred to the Privileges Committee to investigate. Why are those complaining not petitioning the Speaker?

Per Standing Order 31 of the House, “In all cases of proceedings where a complaint is made of a breach of privilege or contempt of Parliament, Mr Speaker may direct that the matter be referred to the Committee of Privileges.”

Section 2 of Standing Order 164 provides that, “It shall be the duty of the committee, by order of the House, to enquire into any complaint of contempt of Parliament or breach of privilege or any matter of privilege which may be referred to it and to recommend to the House such action as the committee may consider appropriate.”

Constitution, Standing Orders

The rules of engagement are available not only in the Constitution but the Standing Orders of the House. Why would anybody think that she is blackmailing the government? After all, as the substantive Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Safo sought leave of absence from President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo for personal reasons.

If I may ask, have those accusing her of sabotaging government business checked from the Speaker if indeed she has not sought permission?

Even if she has not sought permission, I believe the expedient thing to do is to reach out to her to find out what her challenges are and how they can be resolved.

Reach out

But considering the sources of complaints including one from the MP for Assin Central, Mr Kennedy Agyapong, with whom they have two children, then there could be more to it than meets the eye. Is it possible that Ms Safo has offered several assurances that she would be in Parliament but had failed? Certainly this could be the reason for the level of frustration among the NPP Members of Parliament.

Ms Safo must come clear on these matters. She needs not forget that it is the NPP that offered her the opportunity to spring to the spotlight and cannot stab the party in the back.

If the party was to trigger the process to remove her, it will certainly affect government business because it will take at least two months before by-elections are held or a new MP elected to represent the constituents in Parliament.

Absence

In her absence, parliamentary business is going on, except for those who believe that her absence can create challenges for the government when it comes to voting for the passage of the Electronic Transfer Bill, 2021.

But was she not present when Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin was elected as Speaker of Parliament? Or she voted for Mr Bagbin from the Majority camp?

Her absence in Parliament cannot be attributed to the problems the government is facing.

If it is about the E-Levy, the challenge with it has been dialoguing with the Minority Caucus to come to a consensus, and that should emanate from the leadership and not Ms Safo.

Certainly, if the MP for Dome-Kwabenya is to hold the government to ransom, then the party has to come in to address whatever challenges there are. After all, she went to Parliament on the ticket of the party.

Until we trigger all the processes to ascertain the facts on the ground, it is not fair to say that Ms Safo is sabotaging the government.

Ms Safo, let us see you in Parliament or tender your resignation. After all, that seat is a safe seat for the NPP and the party can get an equally good candidate to continue from where you left off.

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