It was interesting reading my colleague, Elorm Kojo Ntumy’s piece, ‘Fill Bill Raises Hope’, in last Thursday’s edition of the paper.
My interest was piqued by the buoyancy that was expressed by the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, together with some major players of the sector over the passage.
The excitement that is overly expressed by the Minister and others is quite understandable but one wonders if such exhibition of exuberance is ill-timed.
What is the prudence in jubilating when the Bill, as it is now, is ‘useless’ until it goes through another very crucial chapter?
The Bill Is A Good Thing
Make no mistake; the passage of the Bill is a very good thing and there should be some heave of relief-sighing considering how long it has ‘gallivanted’ across the corridors of Parliament.
Also, the Bill, if it becomes a law, has every element and tenet to ensure that our industry sits on a pedestal. It provides the necessary framework to help produce, regulate, nurture, develop and promote the local film industry.
Special stand-outs of the Bill are the training of practitioners, ensuring an effective copyright and royalty system for the players within the sector and the classification, licensing and regulation of films, both local and foreign.
Excitement Way Too Early
Clearly, there’s exhilaration among the players within the sector of the passage of the Bill – and it gets quite confounding especially when you realize that, it is just words on a white paper; ineffectual at this stage until it passes through the next phase – the President’s Assent!
So, why would these persons singing ‘Hallelujah’ all over the place not wait till the Bill crosses that bridge before they shout, ‘Amen’?
“The moment the bill went past Parliament has passed the film bill, it meant the difficult part has been done,” the Minister stated.
Yes, the bill getting approval from Parliament after such a longtime was a difficult period but she fails to realize, that the simple act of the President appending his signature to the Bill to make law is not as easy as she, together with many others, make it seem.
The Much-Needed Presidential Assent
Francis Bennion, in his thesis, “Constitutional Law of Ghana, Part III – Law Making Under The Republic (Chapter 8 –Legislature Method, Acts of Parliament)”; states that, the procedure which is to be followed when a Bill has been passed by the National Assembly is laid down by the Acts of Parliament Act, 1960 (C.A. 7). The Clerk of the Assembly is required to send the text of the Bill as passed to the Government Printer, who must print four copies “on vellum or on paper of enduring quality ",These are known as presentation copies, since they are to be presented to the President for his assent.
The only change made in printing is the substitution for the words “A Bill “at the beginning, of the words “Act of the Parliament of the Republic of Ghana ".
The printer also inserts at the end of the presentation copies the formulas for authentication and assent which are mentioned below. When the Clerk receives the presentation copies from the printer he is required to make a careful comparison of them with the text of the Bill, and if he finds them to be correct he must sign on each a statement to that effect in the prescribed form, and insert the date of authentication.
In the case of a Bill, which contained an amendment to any entrenched provision of the Constitution, the Clerk would at this stage have to submit the presentation copies to the Speaker so that he could certify that power to pass the Bill had been conferred on Parliament in the manner provided by article 20(2) of the Constitution.
The Clerk next takes the four presentation copies to the President's office for assent. Except in cases of urgency he usually waits to do this until he has two or three Bills which can be dealt with at the same time. There is no ceremony of assent, as there is in the case of the Royal Assent to Bills in the United Kingdom Parliament.
Ghana continues the tradition of informality inaugurated in the days of the Governor- General.
The Clerk waits (sometimes for quite a long time) until the President has a few moments free. He then enters the President's room and hands the presentation copies to one of the President's staff, who impresses the Presidential seal on each. On the signing by the President of the Statement of Assent on the first of the four copies the Bill becomes an Act.
Immediately after the signing, and the insertion by the President of the date of assent, the Clerk inserts the number of the Act in words at the beginning. The same procedure is then followed with the remaining three copies. The President is of course entitled to refuse assent to the whole or any portion of a Bill.
Government policy after the Assembly has passed a Bill. There has, however, been one instance of partial refusal.
In the case of partial assent a special form of Statement of Assent is used, and the Clerk is required to make in each presentation copy " such deletions, and such amendments of figures, punctuation and grammar " as may be necessary for the purpose of the conversion into an Act of the part of the Bill.
Suspend Jubilation & Get to Work
It is evident that, the President’s assent is not just a walk in the park, especially when you consider the fact that, we are in a critical stage of our democracy – elections; and the President is busily touring Ghana, campaigning to ensure that he wins the elections.
That Bill could lie on his desk, without getting any attention until we conclude the elections and touchwood, if his government doesn’t retain power, it sure will take some long years to get a signature.
This is why, instead of organizing press conferences to yelp how well you have done and how excited you are over the Bill, you guys should work at ensuring that, the Bill gets the much-anticipated signature of the President.