(A GNA feature by Francis Ameyibor)
Accra, March 03, GNA - The Electoral Commission (EC) recently embarked on a preliminary nation-wide assessment of political parties to ensure that their operations are in conformity with constitutional provisions and the Political Parties Law (Act 574).
The Commission is empowered to cancel the registration certificate of a political party on the grounds that it has refused, neglected or failed to establish or maintain national, regional and district offices. Currently there are 10 registered political parties in the country, Ghana News Agency investigations reveals that most exist only on paper and do not satisfy the law.
The registered parties are: New Patriotic Party (NPP); National Democratic Congress (NDC); Convention People's Party (CPP); People's National Convention (PNC) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). The others are EGLE Party; Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP); United Ghana Movement (UGM); Ghana Democratic Republican Party (GDRP), and the National Reform Party (NRP).
in contravention of the Political Parties Act.
A copy of the checklist for the inspection required the parties to declare their assets, which include the nature of office facility, date and mode of acquisition and the number of rooms and office equipment. The parties are also to disclose the type of furniture in use, payment of the salaries of permanent staff, utility bills and other party expenditures.
The checklist, which is based on sections 15(1) 13(1) of the political parties Act 2000, states that within 90 days after the issue to it of the final certificate of registration, a political party shall furnish the Commission with details of the existence and location of its national, regional, district and constituency offices or such longer period as the Commission may allow.
The parties are also to submit to the Commission a written declaration of cash or kind donations made to the initial assets of the party by its founding members.
The Commission's assessment lists again require the political parties to declare the contributions by citizens in the form of dues and donations in cash and kind. Section 23 of the Act states that the Commission should also be informed about contributions or donations made to the parties in cash or kind, time of acquisition of property and audited accounts for the year.
These are constitutional and statutory provisions that the parties are required to meet and make available to the Commission for verification periodically, however, most of the parties have failed to adhere to these requirements.
The Political Parties Act says this shall be supported by a statutory declaration made by the National Treasurer and the National or General Secretary of the party. Without prejudice to any other penalty prescribed by the Act or any other enactment, where a political party refuses or neglects to comply with the provision or submits a declaration that is false in any material, the Commission may cancel its registration.
Political Experts, however, have expressed concern about the apparent inability of the EC to enforce the law and had allowed dormant political parties that could best be described as pressure groups to remain on the electoral register.
It is expected that after the ongoing assessment the EC would muster the courage to apply the appropriate sanctions against any political party found wanting without fear or favour as this is the only way that the democratic development could be sustained. For sound financial management and accountability of political party operations, the law requires that a political party shall within six months from December 31st of each year file with the EC a return indicating the state of its accounts, the source of its funds and membership dues paid.
The Commission should also be informed about contributions or donations in cash or kind, property and time of acquisition and audited accounts for the year.
It, however, constrains non-citizens from contributing directly to political parties a situation which could lead to the hijacking of a political party by a foreign economic tycoon. The law categorically states that only a citizen might contribute in cash or kind to the parties, "any person or company that contravenes the constitutional provision on funding of political parties would forfeit to the State such amount...the party or individual, in whose custody the amount is, shall pay it to the State". A non-citizen found guilty of contravention of the provision shall be deemed to be a prohibited immigrant and liable to deportation under the Aliens Act.
The provisions do not preclude a government of any country or a non-governmental organisation from providing assistance in cash or in kind to the EC for the collective benefit of registered political parties.
addresses of their national, regional and district officers as well as the name and address of the auditor of the party to the EC. Act 574 section 7(2) and 15(2a and 2b) state that a political party shall not have as a founding member, a leader or a member of its executive a person, who is not qualified to be elected as a Member of Parliament or is not qualified to hold any public office. The Act says a political party shall submit to the Commission the names, titles and addressees of its officers at the national, regional, district and constituency levels and also at such other levels of organisation as the Commission may direct.
On conditions for registration of political parties, the Act states that the Commission shall not register a political party unless the internal organisation of the party conforms to democratic principles and its actions and purposes are not contrary to or inconsistent with the Constitution.
The Act says that the party should have on its national executive committee one member from each region. It must have branches in all regions and should, in addition, organise in not less than two-thirds of the districts in each region. There should be in each district at least one founding member of the party who is ordinarily resident there or is a registered voter there.
The conditions also require the party's name, emblem, colour, motto or any other symbol not to have any ethnic, gender, regional, religious or other sectional connotation or give the appearance that its activities are confined only to part of the country. A visit to some national and regional offices of some parties by with the status of their parties.
Since the last assessment in 2000, most of the parties have not furnished the EC with their audited accounts, updated records on party officials at the national, regional and district offices. This is in spite of the fact that the initial lists submitted to the Commission for registration had changed. The parties have also not declared their assets, source of finance and contributions in cash and kind as the Act demands.
A Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana, however, appealed to the EC to conduct the exercise without fear or favour and avoid any temptation to work in the interest of any political party or group of persons and demonstrate the will power to publish the outcome. He said the exercise would bring discipline into the operations of political parties for the growth of democracy and urged the Commission to be bold to discipline parties, which are not conducting their activities according to regulations.
The lecturer said although Ghana had 10 registered political parties, which is lower than the number in some countries in the West African Sub-Region, there was still the need to streamline their activities to avoid wasting resources.
He said "streamlining would help not only the EC but also other stakeholders in their deliberation with political parties as the "media parties" would be flushed out".
Dr Edmund N. Delle, Chairman of the Convention People's Party (CPP) told the GNA that the assessment was the prerogative of the EC but added "I find it difficult to understand why the Commission had failed to conduct the assessment annually.
"As a party we have undertaken our programmes and responsibilities according to the constitutional provisions and the Political Parties Law. Therefore, we have no problem with the assessment."
He said CPP was a democratic party and will not wilfully put any constraint in the path of any constitutional body in performing its functions.
Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, Acting National Chairman of the People's National Convention (PNC), said the Party had issued a directive to all executive officers in the regions to identify and take an inventory of Party offices and list them out for the exercise. He said the only problem of the PNC was the timing of the exercise because some of their regional offices were not connected to the national office by telephone.
The PNC Acting Chairman said they had office accommodation problems in some of the regions and districts hence their inability to furnish the appropriate authorities with locations. He attributed the frequent change of Party offices to unreasonably high demand of landlords for rent advances. The EC had over the years not sanctioned political parties that failed to provide their audited accounts and also failed to apply the laws after its assessment in 2000.
Can the EC this time round apply the appropriate sanctions? Only tiem would tell.