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04.03.2009 Feature Article

GHANA NEEDS CONSTITUTIONAL AMMENDMENT(S) NOW!

No one can deny the fact that Ghana's 1992 Constitution has served the country well. For starters, it forced Flight Lieutenant, Chairman, President Rawlings to cede power to Mr. Kufour and the NPP, after nineteen long years. Then, the Constitution's Two Term Maximum Provision, forced President Kufour to hand over to Rawlings' protégée, the man he defeated twice, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, after a general Election that may go down in history as one of the closest the World has seen, at least on paper.

WOW! GHANA'S CONSTITUTION REIGNS SUPREME! Two successive successful election cycles where the ruling party peacefully handed over power to the opposition in corrupt, power hungry, electorally violent Africa! Kudos Ghana! Americans have a saying “if it ain't broke, don't fix it,” so why the URGENT call for Constitutional amendment(s) now? Why risk messing up a system that is working so wonderfully well?

Well, Ghana's 1992 Constitution is a hybrid between the United States' Presidential and Britain's Parliamentary System of Governance. Its framers picked up what they thought were the best of both Worlds then added some tweaks here and there to make it uniquely Ghanaian. For most part, the Constitution works well but like every human system, it is imperfect and some of its short comings need to be corrected. The “fierce urgency of now” arises from the elaborate process required to effect a Constitutional amendment. Amending the constitution is time consuming and the process must begin NOW in order for changes to apply by the next election cycle.
The reader is hereby advised that this author lays no claim to a Law or Linguistics Degree. Fortunately, the Constitution's language is such that any person with a reasonable command of the English language can understand and appreciate the document. Since the constraints of this medium (Web Page length), makes it is impossible to discuss all the problematic provisions of the Constitution in one piece, the discussion will be done in a series of articles.

PROBLEMATIC PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION:
The first provision that should be reviewed and amended is article 106 clause (1) which reads: “The power of Parliament to make laws shall be exercised by bills passed by parliament and assented to by the President.”

The problem lies with the word 'ASSENTED.' Assent according to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary is “agree to something especially after thoughtful consideration. Its synonyms are consent, accede, acquiesce, subscribe, it means to concur with what has been proposed, it implies an act involving the understanding or judgment and applies to propositions or opinions.” ASSENT DOES NOT MEAN SIGN so contrary to the ASSUMPTION of most GHANAIANS, our Constitution does not require the President to sign Bills into law. If the President voices out or even nods his head in agreement, after reading a Bill, he has essentially assented to that bill. The phrase “ASSENTED TO” should be amended to read “SIGNED.”

In order to see the full implication of this, consider the provision that delegates Presidential authority to other people as stipulated in article 58 clauses (1) and (3), which may have contributed to the EX-Gratia Brouhaha.

(1) The executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution. (3) Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the functions conferred on the President by clause (1) of this article may be exercised by him either directly or through officers subordinate to him.

On February 16 2009, the Daily Graphic ran the story about the BNI's probe to verify the authenticity of Kojo Mpianim's letter informing Parliament that the president had approved the “ex-gratia payment to Article 71 officials.” According to the paper, “Mr Mpiani's purported letter, said to have given President Kufuor's approval for the ex-gratia payments to be effected, was dated December 30, 2008 and was addressed to the Speaker of Parliament.” Has any member of President Mills' government or the media seen any document with President Kufour's signature authorizing the Chinery-Hesse recommendations after its Parliamentary approval? If such a document exists, why did the BNI seek to authenticate Mr. Mpianim's letter to the Speaker of Parliament?

WHEW! This EX-Gratia “DISGRAZIA” (Italian word for disgrace), smacks of HEARSAY! The Speaker receives a letter from Mpianim which states the President authorized.....; which makes the BNI spend public money investigating. All because the Constitution does not require the President to SIGN BILLS! ASSENT is subjective and can lead to delegation; SIGN is objective and cannot be delegated. If the Ex-Gratia Report required a Presidential signature, Mpianim would have sent a SIGNED COPY OF THE REPORT to the speaker instead of his OWN DELEGATED letter. As mentioned earlier, Parliament must amend Article 106 (1), substitute the word SIGNED for ASSENTED TO, and make all REPORTS that need Presidential approval also require his/her signature.

The next problematic provisions covered herein are article 68 (3) (4) (7) and article 71 (1) (2). These provisions deal with salaries, allowances, retirement packages etc. of the President, MP's and other OGA's of Ghana. Currently, the Constitution requires the President to approve salary packages for Parliamentarians and the Law Makers to approve the Goodie bag of the President. The framers designed this to prevent abuse and also to serve as a Check and a Balance. Although the idea is noble, the framers missed two very important facts about Africa: (1) All our politicians dip dirty hands into the same dirty pot. (2) Africa thus far has only produced Rubber Stamp Parliamentarians.

The only way to prevent the chicanery exemplified by the passage of the Chinery-Hesse EX-Gratia 'DISGRAZIA' is for Ghana to amend the 1992 Constitution to reflect the ideas below.
1. A President in office can only empanel a Committee to recommend salaries, allowances, facilities, privileges, EX-Gratia for his/her successor and the Parliament that comes in with the successor. All such Committees should complete their work within three months and make no retroactive recommendations.

2. Parliament shall examine and approve the recommendations that the Committee in clause (1) above makes for the Executive and the President shall sign it into Law. The President shall examine the recommendations of the Committee in clause (1) above for Members of Parliament and sign it into Law.

3. Both Parliament and the Signatory President must have at least 1 year of their term remaining when the approval is signed into law; the new Law shall only go into effect after the signatory President leaves office and after a general election ushers in a new Parliament.

4. The provisions of this article shall not be retroactive. No past President or the signatory President, or past Members of Parliament or the Parliament which approves the recommendations of the Committee in (1) of this article shall benefit from any provisions thereof; except those Parliamentarians who are re-elected by their constituents in a general election held after the Recommendation's passage.

These suggestions if put in place will eliminate the Conflict of Interest that permeates our current system. Can any reader imagine our self serving politicians improving the lot of their successors without directly benefitting themselves? Do you understand why the Chinery Hesse Committee used four years to produce a voluminous document on Presidential Emolument for the Kufour gang? They were not writing the Bible or the Qur'an; it is QUID PRO QUO, grease my hand, I grease yours. How much Tax Payer money went into their various sittings and meetings?

Folks, this is urgent and serious business. Every Ghanaian, every member of the media who reads this article should CALL, EMAIL, TEXT or WRITE family members, friends, audiences, supporters, well wishers, Parliamentarians, acquaintances in government and demand CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NOW!
Since Ex-President Kufour thinks “WE ARE MAKING TOO MUCH NOISE OVER EX-GRATIA,” he and other influential Ghanaians should join this PUSH FOR THE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS suggested in this article. HELP eliminate the CONFLICT OF INTEREST in future Ex-Gratia packages and therefore make them NOISE FREE.

Written and submitted for publication on this the 4th day of March 2009. Facts discussed herein may change by the time you read this on the Web. Look out for more from L. Kojo Yeboah - Raleigh NC, USA.

Law Kojo Yeboah
Law Kojo Yeboah, © 2009

This author has authored 26 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: LawKojoYeboah

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