The work of the Parliament of Ghana and many other Parliaments is purely legislative. Parliament is the legislative arm of government, which represents the people and supervises the functioning of the government. It is expected to make new laws, amend others (older ones) as well as deliberate on other important issues affecting the people of Ghana. The work of the Parliament of Ghana demands people with expertise and background in Law, Economics, Politics, Public Administration etc.
There is a hint in the media that there are plans to develop a minimum qualification or requirement for Parliamentarians in the coming years. It is proper to have such a criterion in place as the Parliamentarians have different backgrounds, some of which make them less productive and inefficient in the legislative house.
Until recently, in fact, the productivity of many of the representatives is below average, considering their impacts and contributions to issues discussed in the house. The Fourth Republican Parliament began with people whose academic qualifications were below the demands or requirements of the job.
Currently, many of the Members of Parliament have qualifications above a Diploma. Therefore, they possessed skill-sets that will enable them to function successfully in many areas of life. However, there is still the need to have a specialised academic qualification or a background in a specialised area of expertise. It could be a blend of backgrounds ranging from Law, Economics, and Politics to Public Administration. These subject areas broaden the scope of thinking of people and offer quality analytic skills to function perfectly in governance and political positions.
Many of the Members of Parliament have expertise in the subject areas outlined earlier. So, it is very clear that many of them (MPs) are already suitable for the job. The demand for a minimum qualification for the Members of Parliament can be pre-election or post-election (national election) requirement. Majority of them, the Members of Parliament, have at least University first degrees.
As a pre-election (national election) requirement, the parties need to amend their constitutions that open the way for people who have University first degrees, from any field, to contest for their primaries. Those without such academic qualifications should be barred from picking party forms for their primaries. The issues about the constitution can be resolved easily by amendments. The Parliament of Ghana can simply amend the constitution in setting a minimum qualification for its members.
Consequently, people from different academic backgrounds should be allowed to participate in party primaries. This is because, people from different backgrounds can be trained on the job to perform excellently. There is adequate evidence to buttress this point currently as some Members of Parliament have adapted well to the job environment with acceptable performance.
There are many committees in Parliament, and every member is supposed to serve on a committee or two. The committee system demands specialised knowledge or specific set of skills for the members. For instance, the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary affairs Committee requires people with a deeper understanding or knowledge in law and other legal matters. Those on the Finance Committee should have better appreciation of the happenings in that area.
The expertise needed to serve on any of the committees is a specialised one and that seems to be of supreme importance in upgrading the quality of the MPs and their work. In such a situation, there is the need to have a post-election (national election) academic qualification for the MPs. Therefore, after winning the elections and becoming a Parliamentarian, an MP should have specialised training in order to serve on a specific committee. The Post-election (national election) qualification is key to the work of Parliament. The cumulative effect of the quality of work of the individual MPs and the various committees indicate the overall performance of the house.
The Committees in Parliament should be realigned to reflect and capture the important sectors of the economy: energy, finance, religion and cultural affairs, constitution and legal affairs etc. In line with this, the MPs should be given the opportunity to choose a committee to serve on and the appropriate training be given in that area. A for instance is, an MP having training in a specialised field such as Law or Economics and Finance. This will enable the MP to be abreast with issues and legislations in the chosen area. There is also the need to have general knowledge in legal issues.
In my opinion, all the MPs must have general legal education to empower them to understand the work of Parliament and equally produce quality. The other important requirement is to have training in a specific area. The committee system used in the Parliament of Ghana places an urge on the MPs to have specialised skills and not general knowledge. That is why it is imperative for the members of the various committees to have training in programmes related to their focus on the committee.
In supporting the call for a minimum qualification for the Members of Parliament of Ghana, the lawmakers should make it a constitutional requirement for Parliamentarian aspirants to have at least a University first degree (without a specific field) and training in a specific area to serve on a committee when elected. It will improve on the quality of work of the committees and that of Parliament as a whole.
Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, A growing Activist, and A Religion Enthusiast.