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13.02.2009 Feature Article

Ghanaian Members of Parliament are Greedy.

There are a lot of people in Ghana who think our members of parliament are good for nothing except to troop into parliament to approve of loans. Several people have questioned the quality of people we elect to represent all Ghanaians in the august house of Parliament.

The level of competence of so many of our parliamentarians has always being in question. We have a lot of armchair members of parliament. Members who simply follow blindly and have little or no knowledge of what they are talking about. Some of them are just incredibly dumb and you don't have to look further. Just listen to them in radio and television interviews. They vote simply along party lines with very little regard to what is in the things they are voting for or against for the people they represent the people who put them in parliament and are responsible for their bread and butter.

A former National Democratic member of parliament in the Northern Region in 1996 to 2004 once told me, if you wanted to know whether or not the my colleagues are serious, come check it out parliament when there's a pending loan to be approved. Parliament is always buzzing with activity whenever there's a tabled bill for a loan approval and that is so because there are deals and some of that money end up in people's pockets. This ex peer refused to put himself up for re-election in 2004 because of what he called the “hypocrisy of parliamentarians”. He told me how he was told by leadership of his own party to shut up over issues he felt inured to the benefit of Ghanaians. And he went into farming when he retired from parliament.

Make no mistake at all; very good bills have been approved by our parliament in the past and would perhaps be approved by our MPs in the future if they don't follow through with their threats to sabotage the government. I cannot see president Mills reverting to the approved figures they are demanding. There's no denying our parliament has developed significantly and has been graced by very discerning and competent men and women who have stood up for accountability and respect for the rule of law, men and women you can actually call Honorable without a sneer. The Media is allowed to sit in on many of the deliberations of the House. It still has very Honorable men and women. But their voices are almost always drowned by the many dishonorable peers whose first priority is towing party lines, which is their ticket back to being endorsed again by their party for re-election.

The world is currently in crisis. There's an economic down turn. The economies of our European friends are in a slump. One of our major donors, the UK is in a recession or a depression as Gordon Brown once quipped. The Japanese economy is struggling. Even the oil rich states are feeling the heat thanks to Western Bankers and Wall Street. There's serious talk in Europe and America for their governments to cut back on spending especially foreign donation to so called poorer nations like ours. According to the highly respected US Congressman for Texas, Dr. Ron Paul, “Economic recovery will only come through financial prudence, savings and getting back to producing things of value again. But it seems to be a foregone conclusion that we are about to enact another government initiative to "stimulate the economy." Instead, there should be some serious talk about cutting all of these foreign giveaway programs”. Indeed Africa and particularly Ghana has to prudently manage hard pressed funds just for a rainy day, a day when donors would say well, sorry we can't help for now. Our country is very rich, but our imprudence have left majority of our people very poor. Poverty is so rife in Ghana you wonder whether it is one of the world's top gold and cocoa producing countries. We unashamedly beg for bail outs which usually come with strings that hurt our people and this neck breaking bail outs are endorse by our MPs.

The debate over how much ex members of parliament should get is very interesting and I am not going to pass on my opportunity to comment on an issue that affect our consolidated funds, a fund from which monies are drawn to pay MPs. Isn't it interesting how our elected Members of Parliament are threatening to sabotage the government's budget if indeed the new president goes ahead to slush their ex gratia? Some of them even had the audacity to threaten legal action against the new government.

For the first time, I tuned out of Joy FM because a guest on the station's breakfast show, Freddie Blay was so boring and simply talking gibberish. Ex majority leader of our parliament, New Patriotic Party MP –Abraham Osei Aidoo and a former deputy Speaker and Convention People's Party turncoat Freddie Blay, have threatened to sue John Mills for reviewing the gratuity for ex members of parliament, former presidents and senior political office holders. The new government says it is going to pay ex gratia of 4 months for each year served instead of 5months as recommended by the Chinery Hesse committee on emolument.

No one should downplay the effects the world economic crisis. And in the wake of economic uncertainties, I find it very outrageous how our so called Honorable members of parliament want so much from us? They hardly talk about how poorly paid most of our civil servants are, yet expect a caring government to dole out monies they do not deserve. What do they have to show for their demands? How many of these members ever raised serious questions about the conditions of our men and women in Uniform, about our teachers, broadcasters, health workers and so on? How many of these members of parliament have sponsored bills in parliament for increases in the pension of our pensioners for their several decades of service to our nation? How many of them and how many times have they questioned why we should have a national career whilst a former president and government officials flies British Airways on tax payer's money? How many of them have questioned why there are rising exodus of Ghanaian abroad and what we can do to keep our people, most of whom were trained on Government sponsored programmes? If everyone else is tightening their belt, why couldn't they do the same? How many of them have sponsored bills to ensure that the business environment favours indigenous workers and that we did not import millions of dollars worth of rice and junk products? How many of them have questioned why some of our children are still learning under trees, why the qualities of teaching at the basic and secondary levels are declining?

Our members of parliament in 2007 sheepishly approved a loan of $20m USD for the celebration of Ghana's 50th Independence anniversary. It turned out $78m USD was actually spent on celebrating our independence with over $3m still in arrears to contractors and this would never have come out but for the change of government. The same “dishonorable” MPs, especially the ones crying out loud approved $30million USD (£19 million) for the building of a so called presidential palace, which turned out to have cost us more than $50million USD. And the most heart breaking part of it is the fact it was a loan from India which would have to be coughed up by the poor farmer who can't even access loans, the teacher who have to teach under unbearable conditions, the security officer who sleeps in a shack and the many taxpayers in Ghana who don't get value for their taxes.

I have always been an advocate for better salaries for very hard working Ghanaians especially civil servants whose salaries must commensurate their hard work and sacrifices. Having worked in the public service for more than 10years myself, you just can't help but join in a chorus for better salaries and emolument for workers and pensioners. But you cannot do same for our MPs.

Even if it weren't for the shrinking economies of our major donors, I do not think our members of parliament are deserving of the kind of emolument they want to part with. The question is, is it prudent to have 5months when 4months would be appropriate? It is important to see what work they have done. These members of parliament have been responsible for pushing all the bad bills/laws that are still holding us back. The new president has acted within the law and no one is going to stymie the aggrieved MPs from going to court.

They cannot justify their unpatriotic demands to adhere to the contents of the Chinery Hesse Committee recommendations. It is immoral; it is a rip off, avaricious and unjustified. Ghanaians must not endorse this thievery of our monies by members of parliament who were not good enough to disapprove huge sums of loans we contracted for frills like a Presidential Palace and for heaven's sake over $80million dollars for independence celebration.

Ras Mubarak
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Ras Mubarak
Ras Mubarak , © 2009

This author has authored 84 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: RasMubarak

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