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Opinions of Sunday, 15 January 2017

Columnist: Osei, Nana Yaw

Parliamentary appointment committee and conflict of interest

Certainly, President Akufu-Addo’s government is at its embryonic stage and therefore, it will not only be quixotic but also a sort of primitive bigotry to start criticizing Ghana’s new president at this time. The government is a product of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

If Mr. Akufo-Addo and the NPP are supposed to lead Ghanaians for the next four (4) years, then what is the relevance of the hypocritical parliamentary vetting? I had always been in the state of mental disquietude during legislative vetting of would-be ministers and deputy ministers of state. The incoming vetting is no exception. Ghana’s constitution and parliament’s minted legal systems frown upon conflict of interest while the national assembly supervises conflict of interest. I want to reflect on conflict of interest and parliamentary vetting of ministers in Ghana.

Conflict of interest refers to a strife between two or more entities (Parsa, Aramesh & Larijani, 2014). It also refers to the process of sustaining social trust and differences between breaches of ethical duty and temptation to breach duty (Brody, 2011). Conflict of interest depends of trust because of its social role (Brody, 2011). To put into perspectives, it is the discord between personal interest and professional or official duty.

The 1992 constitution of Ghana empowers the ruling government to appoint the speaker and the first deputy speaker of parliament. This partly explains why President Akufu-Addo appointed Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye and Mr. Joe Osei Wusu as the speaker and the first deputy speaker of legislature respectively. Both professor Oquye and Mr. Osei Wusu are members of NPP. The speaker of parliament and other leaders of the house select some legislators to constitute members of the parliamentary vetting committee (I am not certain on this). The first deputy speaker is the chairman of the committee. What is particularly nauseating is that some of the ministerial nominees are also members of the vetting committee. For example, Mr. Dominic Nitiwul who has been nominated for the defense portfolio is a member of the vetting committee. A conflict of interest at its height. Hmm! A good religion of Islam means peace, and there is a city called Isalamabad (City of Islam), but there is no peace in Islamabad! How can the standard bearers of conflict of interest in Ghana, members of parliament (MPs) be engaging in conflict of interest?

Perusing other members of the committee from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) side reminded me of the Hebrew name “Ichabod” meaning the glory of Israel is gone (I Samuel 4:21). My good friend Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa’s name is included in the newly constituted vetting committee. This man was one of the NDC ministers many NPP members malevolently and venomously described as incompetent. Does the incompetent minister have the locus standi to vet the would-be competent ministers? I am more than curious to know. If the members of the opposition boycott the vetting as in the case of 2013, then the whole vetting process would be virtually rubber stumped.

The foregoing analysis indicates beyond reasonable doubt that the parliamentary vetting committee is a mere window dressing and therefore time wasting in our political discourse. Many MPs sitting on the vetting committee are breaching conflict of interest. They can hardly be disloyal to the ruling government of which they are part. The disloyalty of the MPs to the state is further anchored by the provision of the constitution entreating the president to pick 50% of his ministers from parliament. This provision makes legislatures not impartial. In his article captioned “The Seventh Parliament Must Restore the Confidence of the Citizen”, the greatest patriot of our time, Mr. Martin .A. B.K Amidu alleged that many MPs of the fifth and sixth parliament compromised their roles with the executives and promoted corruption (Source: ghanaweb.com, Wednesday, January 11, 2017, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/The-seventh-parliament-must-restore-the-confidence-of-citizens-500020 ).
Ghana needs to come out with a more pragmatic way of vetting her ministers. Our modern multi-party democracy leads to legislative mediocrity. Individuals are voted to parliament by virtue of their fame and financial resources. This means that apart from the lapses in the legal framework regarding ministerial vetting (conflict of interest), most MPs lack the requisite knowledge to diagnose the occupational competence of the would-be ministers. We need industrial psychologists, human resource experts, labor attorneys and applicable technocrats to vet our ministerial nominees. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana. Feedbacks must be directed to

Nana Yaw Osei (Padigo), USA
Email: n_yawosei@hotmail.com.

Reference
Brody, H. (2011). Clarifying conflict of interest. American Journal of Bioethics, 11(1), 23-28. Doi:10.1080/15265161.2010.534530
Parsa, M., Aramesh, K., & Larijani, B. (2014). A comparison between conflict of interest in Western and Islamic literatures in the realm of medicine. Journal of Medical Ethics &History of Medicine, 7(70, 1-7