WE HOPE THIS LETTER FINDS YOU WELL. AS FOR US, WE ARE NOT WELL.
I woke up yesterday to the news that the leadership of Ghana's Parliament has proposed to build a new 450-Seater Chamber for the house of Parliament, with the images of the artistic impressions all popping up supposedly design by Sir David Adjaye. At first instance, I inquired From my friends and family back home whether a tsunami has struck the current chamber, or it had collapsed, or perhaps flooded, or maybe somebody has found a defect that could pose a danger to you our Honourable members.
To my surprise and disappointment, none of my preconceived assumptions were valid. Actually, what it means is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the current chamber, except that you, our revered MPs who are supposed to serve our interests and help safeguard and protect our public purse are saying the existing building which was refurbished not long ago is tiny for you and no longer comfortable for you to sit in. Eeei Saa. Like seriously? So I decided with colleague and on behalf of all aggrieved Ghanaians to write to you rather this long but important letter to first express our displeasure and to let you know how unpopular this decision is to the ordinary citizen although we admit you will not find time to read it until December next year when elections are due.
While we were thinking of what to write to you, we took time to listen to some of the arguments and attempted justifications to see if there could be some merit in these claims for a new chamber. Do not forget that this chamber is going to cost the Ghanaian Taxpayer, a whopping 200million United States Dollars. Well, we will come to the value for money analysis but let us first finish with the arguments put forward to support the new chamber.
1. Many think that the population of Ghana has been growing and therefore, we need a lot more legislators to represent the growing population, and therefore, for futuristic purposes, we need a bigger Chamber to serve that need. Some even argue that the creation or demarcation of the new regions, which did not add a foot of land to the land size of the country warrants that new constituencies be created.
2. We overheard some of your colleague MPs saying that the current house of Parliament is too small and very uncomfortable for them. There is, therefore, the need for a much more spacious and comfortable Chamber to ensure that our Cherished MPs live in comfort while serving their constituencies.
3. The majority leader of Parliament, in support of this venture, maintained that we do not need to have every essential thing before we can think of building a new chamber. These and many more are the kind of justtifications for the new 450 Seater Chamber. So let us take these arguments into scrutiny and analyze the merits in it.
4. Speaking on JoyNews, the majority leader again provided three further rationalizations for the plan construction of the new building. According to him, it will provide security for MPs, improve the speaker’s vision and the fact that there other branches of government have had new buildings, so it is time Parliament gets one.
Hon. MP, does population increase automatically mean More MPs?
A few have opined that as the population grows, it creates the need for much more people to be represented and the number of representatives will also increase to reflects the corresponding. Unfortunately, there is no such correlation between population growth and the number of parliamentarians.
The evidence, however, points to the contrary, that the house of Parliament does not need to grow either exponentially or geometrically along with the population growth. Indeed, you will agree with us that the 275 MPs for a population of less than 30 million is overly ballooned. If not, the US, China, India, and Bangladesh should be having tens of thousands of MPs. Perhaps the only conclusion is that the larger the number, the less likely the MPs will be noticed when they are absent or maybe it seems as if the current number is too large and account for the reason why some of the members barely show up in Parliament and nothing happens. Come to think of it, our own Nigeria, a country of almost 200 million people, (nearly seven times the population size of our country has 469 MPs combined ( 109 Senators and 360 Members of the House of Representatives). There are those who believe that if this trend of increasing the number of MPs is encouraged, there will be a time when each household will have its own MP. Perhaps 1 Household, 1 MP would best capture this. Don’t you agree?
Does an increase in MPs mean Better Representation? Let’s do some history lesson here; the concept of Parliament is French in origin from the word Parle (which means to Speak). The work of a parliamentarian, therefore, is to represent their constituents and speak on their behalf. Some have argued that an increase in the population of MPs does not necessarily constitute an increase in representation or better representation, and we agree. Actually, the idea of representation is to allow a few people to serve a broader constituency. That is why societies moved from the direct democracy practiced in Medieval Athens into the modern era of representative government. If this argument is sustained, as some are arguing, we may as well envisage that from 450 seats very soon we are going to thousands and millions and then guess what every household is going to have one representative in Parliament. The hand of the clock would have turned towards the direction of direct democracy as the numbers may just end up being One Man One Seat in Parliament. We believe this is not the direction we want to take.
The issue has always been about the quality of representation and not mere numbers or membership in luxurious chambers. We do not believe that a luxurious chamber automatically makes a quality legislature or translate into better laws. If not, the current chamber is much comfortable compared to the UK parliament and other parliaments and should have been evident in the quality of debate and legislation. We would rather the MPs asked for better research capacities or other capacity building tools than a physical building that will only facilitate dozing off and sleeping. Again, many of the MPs from smaller and less populous constituencies have not proved to be better legislatures than those from the highly populated areas. In most cases, however, their constituencies are seen to be among the poorest.
On the issues raised by the majority leader on JoyNews’ PM Express, we will like to ask the majority leader what are parlaimentarians afraid of? Is Ghana so unsafe that they need one policeman one MP at Parliament House? If that is the case, then they should think about the communities without police stations or recent fear in the country due to robbery and kidnapping. Also if the speaker cannot see MPs because they sit beside the column, is that not an indication that you people are too much for this country? We would appreciate it if you can reduce your number, we know most of you do not even attend parliamentary proceedings anyway. We will not say anything about the last point- other branches of government having new buildings. We believe in democracy, we will let the readers decide on what to make of it.
200 million US Dollars for a NEW 450-Seater Chamber? Value for money?
Honourable, you will agree with us that not only does the $200m represent an outrageous cost, we worry that the source of funding for this proposed project has not been disclosed. Be as it may, and regardless of the source, be it from Government of Ghana, a loan, grant, or aid, there is something for the ordinary citizen like your constituents and us to pay for. However, if citizens are to pay for something from their sweats, is the new chamber the top priority project that the Taxpayer should suffer to pay for? This is not only outrageous but clearly a misplaced priority just as the idea to build a national cathedral in Accra. So long as there are no identified defects or structural damage to the current chamber, we want to submit that this proposal is totally needless and unnecessary bearing in mind that this proposed amount may even go up with the finishing and furnishing the house.
Let us state it clearly that we are not good in mathematics and we do not pretend to be Prof. Allotey, but we can really calculate when it comes to issues of money. Lol. Alternatively, maybe maths that contains money is special haha. On a more serious note….we did a quick borehole evaluation to see how many boreholes each constituency can get from this 200m USD. Why we decide to quote in dollars when our currency is Cedis is still something we are yet to come to terms with (we thought there was a directive to do all transactions in cedis, ooo Ama Ghana). However, let us continue the mathematics…
$200mX 5.4(current cedi to dollar rate)= 1,080,000,000 Cedis.
Each Borehole (highest value) is around 10,000 Cedis
1,080,000,000 / 275 Constituencies = 3,927,272.72 cedis
If 1 borehole cost a maximum of 10,000 cedis,
How much can 3,927,272.72 construct in each constituency?
3,927,272.72/ 10,000= 392
It means each constituency can benefit at least 392 boreholes.
That makes 392X275 = 108,000 boreholes nationwide. One Hundred and Eight Thousand (108,000 Boreholes). Yea. You read it right! That is how many communities? That is how many lives we can save? How many avoidable waterborne diseases we can prevent? and how many productive hours we can save from searching for water and loss of lives? These are all uncountable. Hon. If anybody thinks this money has nothing to do, at least we are providing a clue.
Let’s borrow the words of the Nigerian Singer to say that Honourable Please…. Forget about the Big Things, Let us focus on the Small things wai. How do you feel sitting in a comfortable AC room making laws and your constituents cannot have basic drinking water to drink. Indeed some communities compete with cattle for drinkable water. Did we go or did we come? Or we are running in circles? Mr. and Madam Honourables.
Ideally, MPs are supposed to consult their constituents on various decisions and policy options and legislation. However, we doubt if this is respected. But if it does matter to you, we will kindly and respectfully implore and challenge you and your other honorable MPs to go back to your Constituents to ask and survey their needs and put in among the list, a New Parliamentary Chamber as part of the Priority options. If 1 percent of the constituents select that option as part of their top 5 of their priority needs, they should go ahead and build the chamber.
COMFORT! COMFORTER!! COMFORTEST!!? At what degree?
The argument has been that the current chamber is not comfortable ENOUGH has totally been floored by evidence showing that indeed the current chamber is not only comfortable, but it is much more spacious and luxurious than the one you find in the UK or what is available in the United States and other parts of the world. But what level of comfort is optimum for you, considering the fact that you seem not to be content with your current comfortable place which far surpasses your contemporaries? Are you sure we will get to the point where you all will be comfortable to the maximum level? hmmm asem s3b3
We also want to mention to you that as members of Parliament, your duty is to serve through representation. Indeed you must as well to be seen to live, eat, and have a reflection of your constituents. Do you think you mirror your constituents and the current demand mirrors their views? Please, Honourables, we want to beg you if the current chamber is not too comfortable for you to serve, why don’t you consider to resign peacefully? You and I know that there are millions of people who are willing to serve their country with less comfort than what you are currently enjoying. Some are even willing to sacrifice to stand just like it is done in the UK to represent their people. Please kindly take your ex-gratia and go in peace before most Ghanaians realize that it is also unnecessary for lack of better words.
We have said it and we will reiterate that it is never by force nor is it compulsory for anybody to stay in the house of Parliament against his or her own will and comfort. May we humbly submit that you exit if you think that the kitchen is too hot for you. Please resign and pave the way for people who are willing to serve come in. okay. We are not sure if you have entered the rooms of some of your constituents to see how it feels at night when there is dumsor or when it rains in some parts of the country. Try it one day and see how comfortable it really looks like.
Again, we want to state categorically that the anger and outrage shown by most Ghanaian on social media with an impending demonstration coming on should tell you and your colleagues that citizens are well awake and they expect their leaders to act in their interest. Dear Hon, the era when you could do anything and Parliament will be acting as a rubber stamp, and the conveyor belt is far behind us. Now it is going to be about your results and your positions on such crucial issues, how you represent the interest of your constituents and listen to them. This is a test case.
We know 2020 is on the horizon, and you will come begging for a renewal of your mandate. Could you kindly let your constituents know beforehand whether you want to maintain this current chamber or it is not comfortable for you? If the latter is the case, could you do the needful, by resigning and staying in your comfortable home?
Honourable, don’t you agree with us that in this era where digital technology is taking over manual processes we should rather encourage virtual representation and other modern creative ways of governance such as building stronger online platforms for people to access the work of Parliament rather than creating big chambers where people can hardly know what is going on there, except Y333y3 and NOOOO NO? Do you not think that ICT infrastructure should rather be improved to allow for people to access Parliament live rather than this idea of the grandiose chamber? Rather than perpetuating and entrenching centralization, why don’t you advocate for further decentralization?
We have grown to believe that the work of Parliament rather should be to always act to protect the public purse as one of its core mandates. In this regard, respectfully, the least we expect Parliamentarians do is to add further financial burdens on its constituents. Do you think by this proposition, you are safeguarding our purse? If you cannot protect our purse by checking the executive, do not join them to dissipate it further. Please if you cannot solve our problems, do not further compound it for us.
A Misplaced Priority or an Urgently needed Infrastructure?
The majority leader, in justifying the project said that we need not finish all the basic challenges before we build stadium or chambers. We need not wait until everyone's basic need is met before we can think of building infrastructure. granted, but honorable, does the NEW CHAMBER have priority over these basic things you mentioned, especially when we have a place for Parliament to sit and deliberate? Hon. Majority Leader may we kindly ask you if currently, Ghana's Parliament does not have a place to sit? This argument can only be sustained out of necessity, where there is no place for Parliament to sit, but to be frank with you, your current demand only akin to asking for luxury over necessity. Don’t you think such justifications only entrenches already held believes that you are there for your own interests and comforts rather than your constituents?
We believe you know that there are so many pressing issues going on and affecting the country and your constituencies in particular. In areas of education, health, and infrastructure and let me say that we believe in the building of infrastructure, and we support critical infrastructure projects that have significant impacts on the ordinary Ghanaian, but In this case, Honourable, with this new chamber, you and I know that there is not much evidence to support the claim for a new chamber let alone an enlarged one.
We would like to also mention that there are some members of Parliament who like us are also against this idea, and we doff my hat out to them but ask them to speak up. Please, would you kindly consider the interest of the larger population rather than your personal comfort?
Any Historical Significance???
Let us end by stating that the house of Parliament is a significant historical edifice and national infrastructure. Parliament is a symbol of the state. The current Parliament house we learned was built sometime around 1965, and after 50 years we want to change the location of the house of Parliament, where lies the history of a country? The UK Parliament was built around 1016 AD and was rebuilt sometime between 1840–76 and later expanded and redeveloped with little adjustments. The US the United States Parliament building Called the Capitol was built on September 18, 1793, and has remained at the same place albeit with maintenance works and redevelopment. That is how history is preserved. Our Parliament house is less than 60 years old with the latest redevelopment done in 2013 of course at the cost of over 90 million USD. Why do we want to take away this historical and symbolic significance to a new place?
Again, what becomes of the old building should you build this new one? Hon. We believe as a country, we must learn to be consistent and systematic in what we do things and be willing to preserve important structures. Please, in your honest opinion, do you think we need a new Parliament House? At $200 million?
Kindly let it be known to your colleagues that your constituents are following with keen eyes, what you consider as a priority. We want you to reflect as you read this that many of your constituents live in poor conditions. Kindly consider these before you Say Y33y3 as we all wait for 2020.
Two of the Citizens from your Republic and your constituency.
Dominic Offei is a Pan African University and ECOWAS Scholar. His Research Interests includes; Governance, Regional Integration, Global Governance and International Relations.
Email: [email protected] Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/offeidominic
Richmond Danso, MPA
Ph.D Candidate and Lecturer
Department of Political Science
Washington DC. 20059
Email: [email protected]
Richmond Danso is a Ph.D. candidate and a teaching associate at Howard University specializing in International Relations and American Government and Behaviors. He is a graduate of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi- Ghana and Montana State University- Bozeman, where he earned degrees in Political Science and Public Administration respectively. His research interests include regional integration, democratization, public policy, international organizations, security and development in Africa, and Blacks in the diaspora.