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23.05.2004 General News

MPs are better off without Common Fund - Okerchiri

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Accra, May 24, GNA - Mr Kwabena Adusa Okerchiri, New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member for Nkawkaw, at the weekend said members of Parliament would be better off without their portion of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) provided their constituents were made to understand that developmental projects and social welfare were not part of the MPs duties.

He said it was high time the public was made aware that, "any MP who stands on a political platform to promise his constituents development projects did so at his own risk, because such projects were not under the control of the MP but the District Assemblies".

Mr Okerchiri was making a contribution at the just ended two-day workshop on "Parliamentary Reporting" organized by Parliament for members of the Parliamentary Press Corps, under the theme: "Equipping the Parliamentary Reporter for Effective Parliamentary Reportage". He noted that the way things were now, constituents continued to see their MPs as providers of development projects and as people who run a social welfare, adding that the situation put a social pressure on MPs, making it necessary for them to have portions of the DACF to support their constituents.

Mr Okerchiri said beyond the social pressure the current situation placed on MPs, there was also the issue of disagreement between MPs and their District Chief Executives (DCEs) over disbursement of the Common Fund and such disagreements had in many cases resulted in tensions between supporters of the MPs and those of the DCE.

"If things continue this way, very soon the whole concept of decentralisation would collapse," he said, adding: "I believe that Journalists would do us and the State a lot of good by educating the public that the duties of the MP are limited to law-making and oversight functions rather than the provision of development projects and social welfare as many expect their MPs to do now."

Mr Okerchiri cautioned against vain political promises saying: "We must stop taking our constituents for granted and tell them the truth about our roles as MPs so that they would not put unnecessary pressure on us.

"We must distinguish between party promises, government promises and our personal promises to the constituents in order to avoid the situation where constituent demand from us projects and assistances that are beyond our personal and even official control," he said

Earlier in a lecture, Dr Kwesi Jonah, Director of the Good Governance Unit of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), told Parliamentary Correspondents to take up an advocacy role through feature articles and commentaries and to let the public know the truth about the work of MPs and the constraints under, which they worked.

He said the advocacy role of the Parliamentary Correspondent was necessary in the areas of reducing social pressure on the MP; improved facilities for MPs to operate effectively, promoting good relation between Parliament and civil society and also promoting public awareness of the cohesion in Parliament.

"As Journalists, you must improve your skills regularly and also keep a close surveillance on matters arising in Parliament with the view to not only informing the public, but educating them on what happened in Parliament and why it happened," he said.

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