Opinions Wed, 20 Jun 2018

Our MPs and their score cards

The business of Parliament seems to be suffering with absentee Parliamentarians, laid-back attitudes with the passage of bills, except those emanating from the executive, and the silence of half the House in providing thought-provoking views to set the social, economic and political agenda of the country.

Last week, Odekro, an advocacy group that seeks to provide citizens with friendly information about the workings of Parliament to enable them to engage better with the institution, launched its report on the First Session of the Seventh Parliament in 2017.

Among other evidence, the researchers of the report managed to compute the cost of absenteeism on the country.

Analysing the absenteeism of Members of Paliament (MPs), Odekro found that three MPs never absented themselves without permission.

That is, the three stuck to the laid-down procedures for MPs to absent themselves from a sitting of the House as detailed in article 97 (1)(c).

The article states that MPs shall vacate their seat in Parliament if they are absent without the written permission of the speaker for 15 sitting days or more anytime Parliament has been summoned to meet.

So, the Honourable MPs – and this is one of the rare moments I relish whole- heartedly and using the title for our respectable reps – for Atwima-Nwabiagya South, Mr Emmanuel Agyei Anhwere, for Bortianor-Ngleshie Amanfro, Mr Habib Saad and for Sene West, Mr Twumasi Kwame Ampofo, stuck to the script, ensuring consistently that they sought the permission of the Speaker whenever they were absent.

Apart from these three MPs, who respected the rules of Parliament and the Constitution, 34 MPs who were also ministers and deputy ministers, with 20 MPs who were not ministers or deputies, violated Article 97(1) (c).

So, for 15 sittings and more, these MPs made no showing in the House to debate on issues and contribute to the work and other activities in the House.

These 54 MPs, however, drew their sitting allowances.

By the computations of Odekro, they missed a total number of 2,962 sittings without permission, violating the Constitution and directly causing a loss to the taxpayer of GH ¢1.4 million.

The 20 MPs without ministerial portfolios, who violated Article 97(1)(c) included the MP for Assin Central, Mr Ken Ohene Agyapong; the MP for Offinso South, Mr Ben Abdallah Banda, the MP for Berekum East, Dr Kwabena Twum-Nuamah Nartey, the MP for Ningo Prampram, Mr George Samuel Nartey and the MP for Agona East, Mrs Queenstar Pokua Sawyerr.

Some MPs with ministerial portfolios who violated Article 97(1)(c) included Ursula Owusu-Ekuful (Ablekuma West), Mr Samuel Atta Akyea (Abuakwa South), Catherine A. Afeku (Evalue Ajomoro Gwira), Mr Joe Ghartey (Essikadu Ketan), Dominic Bingab Aduna Nitiwul (Bimbilla), Joseph Tetteh (Upper Manya Krobo) and Anthony N-Yoh Puowele Abayifaa Karboo (Lawra).

The 50-page report that also looked at how the Speaker of Parliament treated such absenteeism, concluded that “there was an inability on the part of the Speaker to expel such chronically absentee MPs from Parliament”.

“Absenteeism can obviously ruin the work of the Ghanaian Parliament,” Odekro states and outlines several factors that limit the Speaker.

These include partisanship on the part of Speakers, executive dominance of the House and appointment of parliamentarians and ministers.

But Odekro does not end with the interesting analyses. It goes further to call for citizen action to get an active Parliament, fully engaged in the business of representing, supervising and legislating.

A scorecard has been developed for all MPs and constituents can contact Odekro for their MP’s scorecard of attendance in Parliament.

With the scorecard, those with representatives such as Hon. Anwhere, hon. Saad and Hon. Twumasi can flaunt them proudly on their social media platforms.

Those with persistent absent representatives in Parliament can mobilise from there to ensure that they get a fair representation in Parliament.

Citizens must mobilise for action against absentee parliamentarians.

Let us all join the campaign!


Columnist: Caroline Boateng
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