Was Vetting a Comedy?
Students of the Ghana Law School yesterday wondered aloud what future they were being bequeathed by a Parliament which carried out their prior-appointment role recently as if it was a comedy.
A concerned female student, who is the president of the Law students union re-echoing the concern raised by a fellow law student who had earlier expressed apprehension about the President's preparedness to confirm the appointments of the three ministers who had been tagged by the committee over reports about them. 'He could have withdrawn them', argued the student.
The occasion for these weighty issues was the Annual law week celebration of the Law Students Union at the University of Ghana, Legon, which had Mr. Yonny Kulendi, a private legal practitioner and noted opinion leader speaking on the subject ' Appointment of Ministers and the vetting process: Lessons learnt and the prospects for development of democracy in Ghana'.
The opinion of Kulendi on the matter was that, he was certain that the very fact that the students expectations of higher standards from the parliamentarians and the members of the sub-committee of Parliament was a marked improvement over the past when no one even asked questions. He wondered what the students expected to do after the Parliamentarians had approved the three ministers and presented them to him for appointment. He observed that the president could not have pretended that he did not know that they three had had a narrow escape that is why he admonished them to be careful about their work next time, adding that he is sure that next time people will actually go and lobby for their names to be removed from the list of appointees judging by the higher benchmarks and the experiences that the nominees went through. Kulendi refused to express his own opinion on the matter, adding euphemistically ' uneasy lies the head that wears the crown'.
Mr. Kulendi rhetorically said that in his opinion anyone who seeks to hold public office should forget about privacy because you lose it the minute you take on public office. 'Where you drop you zip or your skirt and where you find the resources to service that appetite should be of concern of the people', he said in relation to questions of privacy.
Mr Yonny Kulendi called for parliament to be resourced with logistics; research staff etc, to enable them independently investigates petitions and memorandum sent to them.
With the provision of the logistics, he noted that parliament could be in a better position cross check information received from individuals on people to be vetted.
He said that the purpose of critically investigating and crosschecking petitions received from individuals was to prevent people from presenting defamatory stories about those to be vetted.
"This undermines the effectiveness of the vetting process ", he underscored.
He said that the vetting process lacked the constitutional competence, the expertise that will ensure the effective discharge of their mandate.
He said the members of the committee faced challenges in terms of legitimate scope of enquiry, what questions to ask, as well as the extent they could go since they needed to balance their enquiry to protect the privacy of those nominated.
"The committee did not even have the logistics to record the procedure for credible evidence ", he lamented.
Mr. Kulendi reiterated that the vetting process was a positive indicator that every Ghanaian expected a better performance from government.
By way of vetting the president's nominations, he indicated that the right people would be elect to help the president in the effective governance which in turn enhances the development of democracy in the country.
"The kind of questions you have even asked shows that the consciousness of Ghanaians is awakened", he stressed.
Explaining, he intimated that the approval of ministers, which was vested in parliament, is to ensure that suitable persons with high moral standards and technical competence join the president in the exercise of his duties.
He could not contain the unhappy sentiments by the students some of whom felt that without Bagbin, there did not appear to be much from the Parliamentarians: ' that's why some media houses described it as Bagbin's Court', noted one. The overbearing presence of the President (though not in the room) was also a source of worry as the belief that it may have restrained the MPs into being more aggressive.
Mr. Kulendi felt that a better-resourced Parliament would be a check to any overbearing President.
Referring to the extremely high standards that the nation should aspire to, he referred to the resignation of the highly competent but visually impaired British Home Secretary David Blunkett over the reports that he merely inquired about the status of the status of a maid of his girl friend, and it was put out that he may have used his position to facilitate the application of the maid. 'Yet that very small matter was all that made this extremely talented cabinet Minister to resign from his office'.
Meanwhile, the deputy minister designate for the Attorney General and minister for justice, Hon Joe Ghartey in a presentation on the topic the "Attorney general versus the ministry of justice, a case of peaceful point of interest, noted that attorney general and the minister for justice which are vested in one venture is does not lead to any conflict.
"The attorney general has been the minister for justice since Ghana came into being", he said.
Hon. Ghartey who is also the Member of Parliament for Essikado, Ketan constituency in Takoradi , noted that the Attorney General was responsible for criminal and civil prosecution and legislative drafting.
He said it was the duty of the president to pick attorney generals who have higher integrity.
However, he explained that institutions and agencies like the registrar departments, serious fraud office were under the Ministry of Justice.
According to him, a judge can uphold a submission of the attorney general after the prosecution of a case has been presented.
Hon Ghartey therefore expressed comfort over the independence of the judiciary, which he said has been guaranteed in the constitution.
"The independence of the judiciary is important in the exercise of power", he observed.
The abuse of power of the Executive, he said was the greatest challenge in the performance of the duties of the judiciary.
Touching on the corruption in the judiciary, he said people complain about corruption on the part of the judges but are not ready to give evidence.