Functions of Parliament
It is well known that Parliament’s basic function is law making. However, a number of functions are incidental to the performance of this function. Among others, the following can be clearly identified as functions performed by the Parliament of Ghana:
- Oversight of the executive
Law-making is considered to be the most important function of Parliament. Under article 93(2) of the Constitution the legislative power of Ghana is vested in Parliament and is exercised in accordance with the Constitution. No person or body other than Parliament has the power to pass any measure with the force of law except by or under the authority conferred by an Act of Parliament. The legislative function consists of passing Bills and scrutinizing statutory instruments and deciding whether to annul them or allow them to take effect by the effluxion of time.
Chapter Thirteen of the 1992 Constitution variously, vests the control of all public funds (power of the public purse) in Parliament. In specific terms this means:
- No tax can be imposed without the authority of Parliament (art. 174)
- Apart from moneys charged directly on the Consolidated Fund by the Constitution, no moneys can be withdrawn from the Fund without the authority of Parliament (art. 178)
- Parliament has the power and duty to monitor the expenditure of public funds to ensure that the monies it has authorised are used for the purposes for which they are intended by taking appropriate action on the Auditor-General’s Reports.
In addition to these, Parliament’s financial powers cover:
- Authorising the granting or receiving of loans (cf. article 181)
- Monitoring the country’s foreign exchange receipts and payments or transfers (article 184)
- Authorising the waiver/exemption or variation of taxes (article 174)
- Appointing an auditor to audit and report on the accounts of the Auditor-General’s office (article 187).
In effect, the Executive is free to propose various expenditure levels and how revenue should be raised to meet them. Parliament is, however, empowered to control the expenditure of public funds.
As the embodiment of the sovereign will of the people of Ghana, Parliament exercises oversight of the Executive. Parliament keeps a watch over the performance of the Executive, which controls the public services, to ensure that the implementation of public policy conforms to the approved developmental agenda of the state and expenditure incurred is in accordance with parliamentary authorisations.
Parliament exercises this function by way of scrutiny of policy measures and executive conduct through its Committees, Questions to Ministers, Motions, and Censorship of Ministers among others.
Parliament also exercises this power through the approval or otherwise of Presidential nominees for appointment as Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court, Members of the Council of State and other public offices specified by law.
Parliament is the supreme forum for the ventilation of grievances aimed at seeking redress. The MP is the communication link between his constituents and Government. Through parliamentary mechanisms/tools such as Question Time, Statements, Motions, debate on policy/bills, among others, an MP has the opportunity to draw attention to developments in his constituency and explore avenues for socio-economic development of the constituency.
In the execution of its functions, the House undertakes deliberations through debate on matters before it. More specifically, however, the deliberative function of Parliament enables it to debate an array of policy issues some of which result in the passage of resolutions. Deliberations may throw light on underlying tensions in society and help to foster consensus, compromise and reconciliation. The deliberative function is exercised mainly through the mechanism of Statements, Motions, Questions, and Ceremonial Speeches etc.