This Parliament endangers our democracy

Opinion Icon Country[1]

Mon, 10 Nov 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Folks, two major events have happened over the past few days that should engage our close attention. Primarily, we should condemn them as dangerous and unacceptable because they threaten our democracy.

First, the refusal by Doe Adjaho, Speaker of Parliament to be sworn into office as Acting President. Second, the transaction between the leadership of the Parliamentary Service Board and a China-based furniture supplier. Two very disturbing occurrences to be commented on in depth.

(I hear a similar deal has been signed with a Chinese company for the supply of furniture to refurbish Job 600. Will the citizens act quickly to stop this transaction or wait for it to be concluded before baring their teeth? Truly, much water is passing under the bridge!!)

Let’s take the first instance. The refusal to be sworn in makes Adjaho come across as cantankerous and ill-informed about constitutional democracy. I don’t know what motivated him to decline the swearing in, but I can say with all certainty that he isn’t well-cut-out for the position he occupies. Without being sworn in, how did hope to function, clearly because one has to be invested with the authority of the Presidency before functioning as such. And that investiture demands nothing but a swearing into office. Is Doe Adjaho proving himself right as a lawyer? 

I hear that Adjaho has explained that he NEVER refused to take the oath and that he sat with the CJ and the Minority Leader to review his previous oath and came to the conclusion that it was not necessary to take another oath because his first oath could still be binding in the absence of the President and Veep.

A porous defence. That explanation even raises more serious questions. The “old" oath was taken/sworn within a particular period for him to perform the functions with dynamics that might not be the same for this current one. Is Adjaho saying that nothing happened to invalidate that oath and that he should have sworn it again in a new situation?

I don't know the exact constitutional requirements but I know that anytime someone is to perform the functions of such an office, that person has to be sworn as such. What would Adjaho have lost had he simply gone through the motion of being sworn in again? At least, he could have saved us all this brouhaha!!

Unfortunately for him, the issue has assumed ugly dimensions to the extent as to even lead to the casting of a slur on his reputation, carrying over from his days as an MP and what he has become. Some of his own people in the Avenor constituency are not sparing him. Is that what he needs at this time in his political career? He has succeeded in scoring an own goal against the government. Deplorable!!

Now, to the importation of furniture from China. The anger provoked by the decision of the leadership of Parliament to importing sub- standard furniture for use by Parliamentarians reinforces public perception that our Legislature is not performing its duties properly to help us solve problems. It makes Parliament a laughing stock, even as it erodes public confidence, trust, and respect for it. But do they care?

Interestingly, some of the MPs have also complained just as local furniture manufacturers and a cross-section of the populace have done. But who cares?

How much money did the government allot to Parliament for the refurbishment is a mystery. No one is telling us the cost of the transaction because when it comes to money matters, both the NDC Majority and the NPP Minority in Parliament observe strictly the guarded code of secrecy that allows them to profit from deals of the sort being condemned. Thieves and liars are bound by only one strong commitment: to keep their mouths shut when they succeed in fleecing the system. Such is our Parliament and all other institutions of state that are more wont to cause problems than solve them.

The citizens are angry and will not continue to be cajoled any more than they can take. One day, their anger will boil over and they will take matters into their hands, which will threaten our democracy. That is my prophecy of doom. No massaging of feelings or promises of development projects can do the trick anymore. Neither will any show of belated concern or heightened acts and utterances of political jingoism.

We have heard a claim by Samuel George Nettey (a member of the NDC communications team) that President Mahama is upset with Parliament’s decision to import furniture from China. According to him, the action by the Parliamentary Service Board is in contravention of President John Mahama’s directive for patronage of “Made-in-Ghana Goods”. That directive itself is a mere whiff of political jargon because it is not guided by any firm policy initiative or framework for implementation. A mere hot air!!

This expression of anger is belated and inconsequential. Of course, it is a mere face-saving rhetoric that won’t change the situation. We know that once funds were allocated for the refurbishment of the chamber in which Parliament does business, the executive might not want to be directly involved in decisions regarding expenditure. But, at least, it could have an oversight responsibility, provided it has the courage for doing so and bracing up for the repercussions. Unfortunately, the Executive didn’t do so.

Thus, the funds were expended anyhow, leading to what is now being bitterly criticized as not only a waste of public funds but also as a clear demonstration of the very shoddiness and insensitivity that have characterized this crop of Parliament as woefully incompetent and as a threat to our democracy. How much more does Parliament want to push the people to the wall for them to spring back with dire consequences for our democracy? I have written many articles to say that our Parliament can’t be trusted to help us grow our democracy; and many happenings have proved me right.

Many questions arise: How was the decision to import the chairs from China made? How long did it take for the contract to be signed and the transaction completed without the MPs hearing of anything at the initial stages to protest against?

Who identified China’s furniture as the best for Ghana, a major producer of the best timber species in the world? Were the chairs from China made of steel or any metallic substance to outlast anything wood-based, one might hold back one’s anger. But from what has begun happening to the chairs, we can tell that the decision to import the chairs has more to it than the arrival and installation of the chairs. Will any probe be instituted into the transaction to expose, shame, and punish any wrong-doing? Does the Executive have the guts to do so?

Many other questions: Assuming that the deal was cooked in the dark, why would the leadership of Parliament (made up of both the NDC and NPP MPs, particularly) keep mute over it? What could be their motivation for allowing the Parliamentary Service Board to do things on its own to cause this mess? Or do they not regard it as a mess at all? Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, Minority Leader, has been reported as seeing nothing wrong with the transaction!!

Putting everything together, we can draw only one conclusion: Our Parliament is not doing things to instill confidence in the people that it can be relied on to grow our democracy. It has failed in many ways, which is why it cannot pass into law a simple bill such as the Right of Information. Because our politicians can consummate their shady deals under the cloak of darkness, they fear passing such a law, which will expose anything they hatch to profit from. They can’t pass that law.

Clearly, then, we can conclude that our Parliament has focused the searchlight on itself as a useless institution to be laughed to scorn. If we pin any hope on it to grow our democracy and if we depend on it to put the government and the Judiciary on their mettle, it will not take long for our democracy to crumble. This kind of Parliament is dysfunctional and must not be trusted. It is only creating conditions for public action to destabilize our democracy. Let them prove me wrong if they can.

I shall return…

• E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

• Join me on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/mjkbokor to continue the conversation.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.