Accra, July 21, GNA - Some Members of Parliament (MP) have appealed to party functionaries and members of electioneering campaign machineries to refrain from making "wild promises" on political platforms, saying such promises make the electorate expect more than necessary from their MPs.
A cross-section of MPs from both the Majority and Minority sides of Parliament in separate interviews with the GNA noted that more often than not, party functionaries made such "wild" and often unrealistic promises on political campaign platforms, which often projected the prospective MP as a direct developer instead of a lawmaker, supervisor and lobbyist.
The MPs said such promises made by persons, who themselves did not stand on party tickets created problems for MPs as they were left at the mercy of the electorate, who looked up to them to make good the promises made by party functionaries during electioneering campaigns. The interview was about the argument for and against the current practice of giving a portion of the District Assemblies' Common Fund (DACF) to MPs to undertake some minor projects of social value in their constituencies.
Members of Parliament are entitled to a little over 80 million cedis from the DACF every year to attend to pressing needs of the electorate as and when the need arises.
All the MPs interviewed agreed that ideally, MPs should be free from unnecessary social pressure and be allowed to concentrate on their oversight, lawmaking and lobbying role.
But they argued that until such a time that the electorate understood the role of the MP as a non-developer, MPs should continue to be in charge of some funds that would enable them to address some of the needs brought to their doorsteps by the constituents.
Those who argued against the practice said there should be a vigorous programme to educate constituents about the limited role of MPs.
They said that would ease the social pressures constituents put on their MPs and ultimately lead to the stoppage of the MPs portion of the DACF so that District Assemblies (DAs) would be completely in charge of the DACF, with the MPs serving as supervisors to ensure that money approved by Parliament for the DAs were used judiciously.
Those who argue for the MPs' Common Fund to be continued noted that it would take time for citizens to come to terms with the fact that the MP was not a developer but a lawmaker, lobbyist and supervisor. They further argued that projects and needs competed for attention in their constituencies and there were some pressing needs of some individual constituents, which were usually not captured in the DAs expenses. They said this was where the MPs came in to support such persons with their portion of the DACF.
The GNA found out from some constituencies in Accra that some constituents actually went to the homes of their MPs usually at weekends and lined up at the gates for what they termed "injection". "Injection", the GNA found out, was the term used for the weekly doses of money constituents received from their MPs to meet various personal needs, which included medical expenses, school fees, rents and feeding.
Mr Ken Dzirasah, Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, who was of the view that the MPs portion of the DACF should rather be increased, said for a long time to come, constituents would continue to demand development projects and social support from their MPs. Until that practice was over, MPs would continue to need their portion of the DACF to meet such demands.
He argued that until political party functionaries and electioneering campaign machinery members stopped making wild promises to constituents, it would not do the nation any good if the MPs portion of the DACF were stopped.
Mr Edward Salia (NDC Jirapa) also noted that the sort of social pressures MPs faced, especially those from the rural areas, demanded that the MPs should be in charge of some funds to attend to some of the genuine social needs brought to them.
"There are students from my constituency schooling here in Accra and they have genuine financial needs, which usually cannot wait for the intervention of the DA located all the way in the north. So they come to my office in Accra and I access my portion of the DACF to support them in paying their fees and buying their books."
Mr John Dramani Mahama (NDC Bole/Bamboi) traced the history of the MPs portion of the DACF to the pre-decentralisation period in the 1980s, when all development projects were undertaken by the central government. He said as a fall-out from that period, citizens continued to expect support from their representatives close to the seat of government, even though district level development had been decentralised since 1992.
Mr Mahama noted, however, that there were genuine needs of some individual constituents, which were not captured in the expenses of the DAs. The MP was, therefore, able to access his portion of the DACF to meet such needs as providing schools with books, roofing sheets and desks.
"There was a time when a family lost their home from bush fire and I applied to NADMO to assist them. All that NADMO did was to provide the family with some food items and plastic wares.
"I intervened and provided them with some bags of cement, roofing sheets and a number of building materials from my portion of the DACF." Professor Dominic Fobih, Minister of Lands and Forestry, said an end to the MP's portion of the DACF would amount to de-linking them from developments in their constituencies.
His Deputy, Ms Theresa Tagoe agreed with him saying that it was ideal to relieve the MP of the social pressures from constituents. However, until such a time when projects in their constituencies stopped competing for attention, MPs must continue to be in charge of some fund to enable them to attend to some pressing needs in their constituencies. "I have always been an advocate for the ideal situation that MPs should be shielded from being viewed by the constituents as developers. However, the reality on the ground does not favour such a practice. It will take sometime," she said.
Mr Dominic Nitiwul (NPP Bimbila) argued that if the MPs were denied their portion of the DACF, there was a tendency for the constituents to vote for people, who had money to spend rather than experienced sitting MPs. If that happened, Parliament would always continue to be filled with inexperienced people every four years.
"I do not see genuine demands from my constituents as a social pressure. However, I do agree that with much education we should be able to come to the point where MPs will completely be free from what others term social pressures and concentrate on our legally mandated roles."
Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia (NDC Wenchi West) said the nature of pressures on MPs differed between rural and urban constituencies. He added that urban constituents judged their MPs by their performance in Parliament while rural constituents judged theirs by the number and social value of projects they brought to the constituencies.
He said it was a mistake on the part of some MPs and some political party functionaries to make promises of projects that MPs would bring when voted into power, as the legal mandate of the MP did not include the provision of developmental projects.
Mr Asiedu-Nketia said whether or not there was DACF the MP should be able to lobby for things that would impact positively on his/ her constituents, otherwise the constituents would always look out for alternatives.
Mr Martin Adu Mante (NPP Kortey-Klotey) said he had to access his portion of the DACF to provide street light in some areas of his constituency as the provision of street light in those areas were not captured in the DA's expenditure structure. 21 July 04