“This House is not an appendage of Government. In fact, this House is an arm of Government” - Samuel Atta Akyea, Parliamentary Debates of 24th July 2015
Mr. Atta-Akyea’s statements in Parliament for the past three years can categorised under three broad themes: respect for the arms of government; institutional functionality, sustainability and resilience; and scientific approach to problem solving. Particular statements which stood out were the ones on contempt of Parliament and fraudulent claims by some service providers for the National Health Insurance Scheme.
Mr. Atta-Akyea reckons Parliament to be an institution endowed with constitutional disciplinary powers like the Executive and Judiciary to punish contemptuous behaviors. In 2015, on the back of statements made by two individuals (Professor Alex Dodoo and Blakk Rasta) deemed contemptuous by most MPs, he had this to say on the floor of Parliament,
“There are three arms of Government. If one misbehaves towards the Executive via the Attorney-General, that person could be held before court of law and be punished. The Executive can exercise that power. When you come to the Judiciary, if one’s behavior lowers the esteem of the Judiciary and one comes out with matters which would offend the dignity of the Judiciary, they can commit one for contempt and it is spelt out in the Constitution. So why on earth should somebody come out with the argument that another arm of Government – Parliament, has not got contempt powers? I do not know whether they were trying to lower our esteem and take us for granted. I would not have said one word about what has happened, but the attempt to sort of make us an appendage of Government is very offensive to me. This House is not an appendage of Government. In fact, this House is an arm of Government.” – Parliamentary Debates, 24 July 2015
Contempt of Parliament has two authoritative definitions. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana (Article 122) defines contempt of Parliament as “any act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions or which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result”. The term is further defined by Standing Order 30 (2) as “any act or omission which affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly, or indirectly to bring the name of Parliament into disrepute”. The scope and content of Parliament’s contempt power however remain unclear.
On fraudulent claims by NHIS service providers, Mr. Atta-Akyea had this to say,
“Until such a time that we plug in the loopholes and deal with the fraudsters through serious and active prosecution of experts, Pharmacists and the rest of them, who could put together fraudulent claims, and by so doing, squeeze huge sums of money out of the scheme…section 39 of Act 852 (of the fund), there is the case that moneys are mobilized for the Scheme but they are not applied to the Scheme.” – Parliamentary Debates, 24 July 2015
Mr. Atta Akyea scored a total of 77.6% in the preceding Parliament (attendance score 27.1/40; contribution score 50.5/60) placing him at 48th out of 275 MPs.
He has made nearly zero statements relevant to the sector he will be heading coupled with an apparent lack of involvement in the relevant committee’s work (Works and Housing). What could pass as an intelligent reason for his nomination could be his palpable zeal for strong institutions and enforcement of constitutional provisions.
Author: Ernest Nii Ashitey Armah