I read a report from Odekro, a group that has been monitoring MPs and their performance in Parliament. In the said report, Odekro proposed that the speaker initiated sanctions to punish absentee MPs. Mr. Ashitey Armah, lead researcher for Odekro said, “Thursday’s attendance was not the worse because, in October 2017, the Speaker met only four MPs at the beginning of the day’s session.
“It is something that has been happening regularly and we think it is because they are never sanctioned so far as people can get away with it.”
Per the rules of the House, MPs have to sign Parliament’s Leave of Absence form explaining why they cannot make it to thHouse which has to be approved by their leaders before the Speaker gives final approval”.
On his part, Vice Chairman of Parliament’s Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee, Alexander Abban, says the absenteeism is because a lot of MPs have divided attention.
“It has been a perennial problem and we may have to look at the process and people that we take to parliament. It appears to me in Ghana we don’t have career politicians so called.
“We seem to have businessmen who get to a certain point and see coming to Parliament as the way to self-actualisation and not necessarily do the work. So, we must even look at the grooming process,” he said.
Mr Abban believes people with money should just not be allowed to be in the House without contributing to the lawmaking process, their core mandate as legislators.
The above report from myjoyoine.com got me thinking about the whole set up of our parliament and I have come to the conclusion that the 4th Republican Parliament of Ghana is set up to fail.
What is your reason for this absurd conclusion? You may ask. Before I explain myself to you, I will like to state clearly that I respect the institution of parliament as one of the important arms of government and I do not mean to denigrate it in anyway whatsoever. This write-up is intended to provoke public debate about the current system our parliament runs.
Our 4th Republican Constitution, i.e. 1992 Constitution mandates the President of the land to appoint a greater number of his ministers from parliament. This in my opinion is one of the underlying factors why we cannot get most MPs in parliament during parliamentary sessions. Due to this constitutional provision, our presidents have always appointed people within parliament to serve as ministers and deputy ministers.
We all know ministers perform the function of ministers and may be able to add the function of MPs but it’s also a know fact that you cannot serve two masters at the same time and treat them equally. So how do we expect ministers who occupy parliamentary seats to be available in parliament during sittings when they have the huge responsibility of running a ministry and for that matter government business (fulfilling campaign promises)?
A new twist to these appointments of MPs is the appointment to serve as Regional and deputy ministers. How do we expect a sitting member of parliament to serve as the president’s representative in a region at the same time represent the interest of his/her constituents in parliament? Are we not tickling ourselves and expecting to cry?
The recent creation of new regions required the president to appoint ministers and deputies to steer the affairs of the new regions. It’s sad to note that most of the persons appointed to these new regions were from parliament. And the reason for this as given by the information is to save cost to the public purse. So then, if we are saving cost, how then can we expect our parliament to be full and function as expected?
All these above leads to a further question about the separation of power and its real intent. Due to these appointments from parliament, it has somehow reduced parliaments oversight responsibility since it’s a well-known fact that MPs treat each other with kid gloves and are not able to hold each other accountable as expected. Cite the Ayariga/Agyarko bribery matter, Kennedy Agyapong/Muntaka, etc.
Interestingly, these appointments necessitated by the constitution do not only weaken parliament as an institution but it deprives the public of the services of more qualified and competent people. Each government is faced with the compulsion of appointing most of its ministers from 275 members of parliament out of about 30 million citizens. You will agree with me that there are probably better-qualified citizen who could do far better than most of the ministers appointed from parliament.
In my humble opinion, as far as the structure and form of our constitution remain without amendments, our parliament is only set up to fail the citizens of our motherland.
The writer is a citizen of Ghana with an interest in politics and public policy.
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