What a useless Parliament Ghana has?

Mon, 4 May 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Folks, we have on several occasions accused our Parliament as the weakest link in the chain of our kind of democracy that exists only as a mere constitutional formality but isn’t worth its name or the sacrifices that the Ghanaian tax payer continues to make for its existence.

In every sense, this kind of Parliament cannot be relied on to inject dynamism into governance or to make the Executive function effectively to solve national problems. It cannot validate itself through effective performance, which is why anytime I hear a Parliamentarian accuse President Mahama and his team of incompetence or mismanagement of national affairs, I feel like biting my tongue and spewing it away.

This Parliament is a drain on national resources and must be treated with the concentrated contempt that it deserves. Nothing that it has done or failed to do should be cited and used to condemn it vigorously for its lack of focus, responsibility, sensitivity, and commitment.

I have been blunt in attacking this Parliament because it is not doing what the Ghanaian electorate empowered it to do. It is just an irritant. How many new laws has it been able to pass to smooth governance? What has it been able to do to change old laws that have outlived their usefulness in this 21st century? Two major utterances by some Parliamentarians provide enough meat for us to chew on as we tear apart this Parliament.

First, the Majority Leader in Parliament, A.S.K. Bagbin is reported to have lamented that Parliament is “powerless” as a result of constitutional provisions that constrain it from taking on the Executive arm of government (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2015/April-23rd/parliament-is-powerless-alban-bagbin-admits.php

Second, the NPP’s Kan Dapaah is also reported to have regretted that instead of the 275 MPs currently constituting Parliament, the country should have gone for only 104 or, at most, 125. To him, the current MPs are “frustrated and unhappy”. He wondered why there has to be 275 MPs in that house when less than 100 MPs can easily do the job and even less are known to speak publicly on the floor anyway. (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2015/April-28th/parliament-houses-275-frustrated-mps-kan-dapaah.php)

These utterances are misguided, not enlightening at all. They reflect the warped mentality of MPs who should be ashamed for coming out with them, anyway. I suppose that the silent majority of MPs hold similar opinions about the very institution that they use to eke out their livelihood and to make themselves relevant to their political constituencies. They don’t come across as relevant to me at all. And here is why.

What is the first major legitimate function of a Parliament? Is it not to ensure that the Constitution that guides governance is fashioned to suit the needs of the country, its people, and foreign partners? And does that legitimate function not rest on laws that the House is expected to pass?

So, if the MPs are complaining about constraints resulting from constitutional provisions, why aren’t they playing the frontline role to have the constitution amended for the benefit of our democracy? Given the circumstances surrounding the work of the Constitution Review Commission and the white paper that former President Mills signed to outline his government’s preferences for constitutional provisions to be amended—without recourse to Parliament for any input—what has Parliament been able to do?

Again, now that the process has stalled and there is no indication that a referendum will be held to determine which aspects of the constitution should be amended, what is Parliament doing to ensure that it is respected as a major player in our democracy?

We note with serious trepidation here the criminal negligence of Parliament in many other areas. Take the bill on Freedom to/of Information, for instance. For how long hasn’t the government toyed with this bill to warrant its being taken to task? What has Parliament been able to do to pass this bill into law so the so-called element of transparency can be brought into governance? An informed populace will definitely participate more actively and more productively in governance than what obtains in Ghana. Are our Parliamentarians satisfied that such an important bill is still in the freezer, not likely to see the light of day?

Was Kan Dapaah not alive when the Electoral Commission made moves to expand the constituencies to 175? What action could he and those thinking like him take to prevent the expansion? What formula did he use to arrive at the 100, 104, 0r 125 as the ideal number of MPs for Ghana? What guarantee is there that a lower number of MPs will function more efficiently than the present crop of 175? The bulls are really shitting!!

There are many other areas, particularly in respect of laws related to justice delivery in Ghana. Our MPs are lazy, which is why whenever they accuse the Executive of doing things not pleasing in their eyes, I laugh them to scorn. Of course, the Executive knows that they are toothless (not because of constitutional constraints but because they are just not well-cut-out to function any better than they’ve been doing so far).

A strong Parliament won’t behave the way ours does. Being the representatives of the people, they will act more decisively to put the Executive where it belongs, especially considering goings-on in the country, where no day passes by without something “fishy” being reported as happening in the corridors of power—be it corruption, plain theft of public funds, or any other malfeasance.

The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament is just an avenue for the gushing out of polit6ically motivated gibberish, especially by the opposition elements. Its annual ritual of publicizing government’s failures in using public funds is ridiculous. It doesn’t solve any problem. Instead, it highlights problems to create the mistaken impression that it is active.

All other committees of Parliament are mere mechanisms for poppycock!! They don’t function to add value to governance. What a mess Ghana is in?

There is a curious aspect to it all. What characterizes this Parliament is the entrenched positions taken by the MPs of the two major political parties with those belonging to the NPP eagerly looking for anything related to the Executive to highlight as part of their stated anti-Mahama agenda.

The shortsighted political neophytes whose youthful exuberance recommends them more than anything else are in the forefront, highlighting “misdeeds” by the government as if that is what they are in Parliament for. The MP for Bimbilla, Ntiwul, led the chorus for a while but seems to have exhausted his energy, passing the baton on to his Effutu comrade, Daniel Markins, who is in the news these days, constantly harping on his “discoveries” on the government’s misdeeds (not paying over 800 million Cedis of workers’ contributions to SSNIT, supervising thievery of Ghana’s petroleum funds, and many others).

After blowing the horn, what do they do to prove that they are interested in getting problems solved? Nothing, except adding such “discoveries” to the annals of the NPP’s allegations of mismanagement against the Mahama-led administration. No action to compel the government to do the right thing means nothing to me. Do these loud-mouthed MPs not know how to do things to “shake up” the government? Or are they looking up to a superman to emerge from space to act on their behalf?

What these NPP trumpeters fail to know is that they are in Parliament to do what will put the government on its toes, not just to blow hot air and end it there as if it is that hot air that will rock the government into doing the right thing.

In civilized democracies, power resides with the elected representatives of the people, which they exercise in full to put the “fear of God” in the Executive. By playing their consistent and persistent watchdog role, they compel the Executive to act properly or lose traction. Not so in Ghana.

And why are these MPs rushing to make such public utterances? To get public sympathy? To prove that they are up-and-doing? Or that they are playing their watchdog role? Idle-talkers, I will call them.

Our Parliament is a deadwood that seems to be the magnet attracting all manner of people, especially those who have failed to make it in their chosen careers and are gravitating toward it as a last-ditch lifeline. Just take a good look at those there or lining up to go there at Election 2016 and draw your own conclusion. All they excel in is the shouting match that they set up for themselves!!

The painful realization is that while the NPP’s trumpeters dig in to paint the government black, the NDC MPs also strike a different chord—either by being silent or by effusions aimed at watering down the force of their counterparts’ calumny. In effect, Parliament has become an avenue for raw, unmitigated, purposeless, and useless political posturing. The real business has flown out of the window!!

In this context, it is more than nonsensical for any MP to make public utterances regarding Parliament’s plight. If the MPs are efficient, they will take prompt action to empower themselves and breath hot air over the government’s shoulders for it to wake up to do the right thing. Unfortunately, our Parliament is so emaciated as not to warrant being supported in any way.

Let the MPs come out to tell us that they are “powerless” or “redundant” (if Kan Dappah’s view is to be summed up this way), and we shall consign them to the backwoods. They are a waste pipe to be cracked and discarded. Ghanaians didn’t elect them to work as “cry-babies” but to help solve problems preventing them from living their lives in decency. Such “cry-babies” don’t deserve any sympathy or support. Ofui!!

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.