Under Article 106(1) of the 1992 Constitution, Parliament’s legislative power is exercised by passing bills that are assented to by the President. A bill may be introduced by a Minister of State or by a private Member of Parliament. Whether it is a Government bill or a private Member’s bill, no bill shall be introduced in Parliament unless it is accompanied by an explanatory memorandum setting out in detail the policy and principles of the bill, the defects of the existing law, the remedies proposed and the necessity for the introduction of the bill. In addition, the bill should be published in the Ghana Gazette at least fourteen days before the date of its introduction.
The Gazette is, therefore, a source for locating bills or proposed legislation in Ghana.
In general, a bill must go through certain stages before becoming law. Article 106 (4) through (6) mandate that a bill has to go through a first reading, after which it is referred to a committee of Parliament. This committee shall issue its report to the full house after considering representations from interested parties and the general public.
The report of the committee as well as the explanatory memorandum and the bill shall be subjected to a full debate by the full house. It is at this stage that amendments may be entertained. Parliament may then vote to reject or accept the bill in its final form.
In practice, Parliament has added two additional stages to the process, namely, a second reading and a third reading. The second reading occurs after a bill has been referred to the appropriate parliamentary committee. It is devoted to a preliminary debate of the committee’s report.
The third reading occurs after a bill has passed through the consideration stage. It is signified by a formal Motion and is not accompanied by a debate. After the parliamentary steps have been exhausted, the bill is presented to the President for his/her assent or otherwise.
The President has seven days after the presentation to inform the Speaker of Parliament that he/she assents or refuses to assent to the bill. Where the President refuses to assent to a bill, he/she shall, within fourteen days of such refusal, state in a memorandum to the Speaker his/her reasons for that position and any recommendations for amendments, where applicable. Alternatively, he/she shall inform the Speaker that he/she has referred the legislation to the Council of State for consideration and comment under Article 90 of the Constitution.
Parliament shall reconsider this bill in the light of the comments by the President or the Council of State. Such a bill will need the favor of support from two-thirds of all members of Parliament to mandate a Presidential assent and become law.