If becoming an MP means being poor…

Fri, 3 Jun 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Folks, our so-called MP's know no shame and are persistently annoying us with their catalogues of miseries and lamentations vis-à-vis their palpably dismal performance as law makers. Over the years, they have failed to move our democracy forward by either not doing what is required or simply botching it all. Many happenings in the country challenge the efficacy of existing laws and underscore the need for new laws to be enacted to tackle, but our MPs seem not to know what is at stake. They have either failed to revoke, modify, or repeal the unproductive laws or to pass new ones to meet the challenges of our contemporary Ghanaian cause.

Take the issues from a wide angle to see what is at stake. The pervasive instances of malfeasance in public office, the perceived spate of corruption, and others have raised interests in the need for appropriate laws so Ghanaians can easily get information to monitor happenings in public office. Parliament has failed so far to pass the requisite law to that effect, five years after the first hint was given that something was in the pipeline for the Right to Information Law. Whatever has caused this lethargy isn’t really interesting any more. It only portrays our Parliament as inefficient and a blot on our democracy. Where is the pride anymore of being an MP?

What we hear from the MPs themselves deepens our woes, especially when some of those making the noise are themselves fingered as unproductive. Let’s not hide anything. We want to say here that our MPs have proved to be more self-interested than anything else, even as their abysmal performance annoys us. All these years, they have had whatever the national coffers can give them, even if they continue to stretch their hands forth for more. What they haven’t persuaded us that they are doing to warrant their being supported is clear.

What has happened so far to the car loans that some “old” MPs took under Rawlings, Kufuor, and Mills? Under John Mahama, car loans never cropped up as contentious. No one talked about the issue and nothing exists now to show that the government guaranteed or gave car loans to MPs. But there are secrets not being told. All we hear from the MPs is that they work in dire circumstances. At least, the NPP’s Ursula Owusu and the NDC’s Muntaka have told us about the plight of the MPs.

Just a few days ago, the NDC's Asawasi MP (Muntaka) cried out loud that it now takes one about 160,000 Dollars or its equivalent in the Ghanaian currency to become an MP. The impression being created here is that the MPs have committed much to earning their status but gain nothing in return to improve their lifestyle.

Then, the NPP's Ursula Owusu came out with her own version of what will combine with others to portray our MPs as unfit for where they are. Let's hear her: "… the financial condition of most Parliamentarians has deteriorated since they became lawmakers." (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/MPs-are-better-off-not-being-in-parliament-Ursula-441474).

The questions prompted by Ursula and Muntaka (not to talk about other MPs thinking like them), then, are: If being a Parliamentarian means being indebted, why are they not returning to their chosen career paths, where they might be making money to live their lives in comfort? What is it that Parliament holds for them to magnetize them thereby? Why are they stuck to Parliament in spite of the supposed impoverishment being visited upon them? And why are many others moving heaven and hell to win the slot to become MPs?

In any case, who says that being an MP is a ticket to wealth and comfort? Isn’t there a lot basically wrong here in our kind of political dispensation?

We recall the orchestrations by Ursula and other incumbent MPs to be stamped to contest Election and the resultant confusion. The NPP is particularly rocked by confusion because of the manner in which decisions were made to favour Ursula and Co. If being an MP equals being poor and wretched, why fall head-over-heels to be one? Why abandon your lucrative profession to become a poor MP?

Nothing is more irritating than the stupid claims made by these MPs. First, the MP's themselves are to blame for whatever is happening to them, having already created the impression during the election campaigns that they would solve problems of their constituents and constituencies. Having turned themselves into what they know they are not fit to do, why shouldn't the people go to them for help?

Second, having come across as people more focused on their own self-interests than doing what they are in office to do, who will finance them? In civilized democracies, politicians worth their sort, don't dip their hands into their own pockets to sustain their political stature; they set up credible contacts to solicit or mobilize funds. Once the people know what they do with the funds and can trust them to serve society and not their own interests, they donate freely to the coffers.

In Ghana, no MP is reaching out to the people for support as such because none of them is credit-worthy, creditable, or credible. It all boils down to the deep-seated weaknesses in our system of governance. The MPs are not accountable to anybody, not even their constituents. So, anything goes (and with the wind too)!!

In the end, depending on the national coffers and using adroit (oftentimes criminal) means to make money at the expense of the system worsens their credibility problems.

Their shoddy performance doesn't warrant their being funded. There are many problem areas in which effective laws should have been passed by them long ago and efforts made to enforce those laws to improve governance; but they have looked elsewhere.

In civilized democracies, Parliament (as the representative of the citizens) acts expeditiously by probing into affairs, grilling and drilling public officials to account for their stewardship. It happens in the United States, where public officials fear being summonsed by Congress.

The same happens in Britain when one has to answer for one's stewardship, especially when malfeasance occurs in public service. Recently, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, had to sweat a lot when grilled over the Panama Papers expose.

Not so in Ghana, where Parliament has become a dumping ground for idle hands seeking to exploit the loopholes in our system for personal good. That explains why there is a mad rush by all manner of people, especially professionals to be there. Can you see the lawyers, medical doctors, teachers, etc. falling head-over-heels to become MPs? It’s not because they know or see the value of law-making as a means to improve the human condition.

It is because they think they can uplift themselves and improve their living standards by capitalizing on the loopholes in the system. There must be a beacon somewhere therein to catch their eyes. It’s all about seeking the means for self-gratification; and when they succeed, they become a public nuisance because they do very little or nothing to justify their being supported by the public purse. In the end, they become targets for criminals. Poor souls!!

Having monitored the situation all these years since the beginning of this 4th Republic, I can say with confidence that our Parliamentarians are the weakest link in our broken chain of democracy. They will remain as such until they add value to themselves through decent performance. Otherwise, no amount of lamentation will solve any problem for them.

Here is my word of advice for them: If they cannot fit in, they should fit out before they provoke the people to deal with them. We have had too much of their inanities and cannot accommodate them anymore.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.