Politics of Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Source: GNA

Coalition says NDPC should be constitutionalized

The National Constitutional Reform Coalition (NCRC) on Tuesday said the proposed National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) should be constitutionalized as a planning wing for Cabinet.

It said this would force every government irrespective of its political affiliation to implement the NDPC guidelines.

Mr. Kofi Bentil, Vice President of Imani Ghana Limited, who made the assertion at a day’s workshop on the Government's White Paper on Constitutional Review Commission’s (CRC) report, said the NDPC needed to be absorbed into the Executive to solve the problems associated with funding.

The workshop was organized by the NCRC to provide a forum for its members and other stakeholders to review and dialogue on the work of the CRC and also discuss the content of the recently released government white paper on the report.

Mr. Bentil said: “As a nation we need a coherent and a long term national development plan to direct us to a point,” adding that "we could achieve this through a multi-party democratic model". He, therefore, proposed the “WHEET Goal” which he believed was an antidote to the country’s national development planning solutions.

Mr. Bentil explained that the W stands for Water, H stands for Health, E for Education, the other E for Energy and the T for Technology, adding ”All these must have specific time limit within which it must be achieved”.

On ex-gratia for Parliamentarians and other public office holders, Mr. Bentil said: “Just as we have justified the Presidential Tax as symbolic, ex-gratia must be seen as such and replaced with enhanced Social Security and National Insurance Trust or a Provident Fund to take care of their retirement.”

He argued that the economic benefit of ex-gratia was significant because that money could be deplored somewhere else in the nation’s development to allay public frustrations on the issue of ex-gratia.

Professor Dzodzi Tsikata, a Fellow at the Institute of Social, Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER), University of Ghana, Legon, said she was not pleased with the Government’s White Paper because it did not give much space to developmental issues.

She said there was the need to put weight on developmental systems, as a country which lacked a long term vision would always be lost on issues around it.

Prof. Tsikata said although the Network for Women’s Rights (NETRIGHT) of which she is a member had presented lots of recommendations to the CRC, it was quiet on most of their inputs in their final report without any explanation to that effect.

Professor Kwasi Prempeh, a Fellow at Seton Hall University, USA, said he believed that it was not right to still have the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE) in the Constitution because it had done nothing to raise civic education awareness in the country.

He said Commissions such as NCCE should be deleted from the Constitution while “We strengthen and empower those that are proven to be functioning instead of calling for instituting new Commissions.”

Prof. Prempeh said it was not every problem that demanded a Commission and stressed on the move towards duty-based solution of national development planning.

He said: “we are demanding too many rights in our laws, but some can be taken into Act of Parliament and other Statutory Legislation.

“Some of our demands for national development planning can be put in the form of Bill of Duties that would be imposed on government either in the Constitution of Statutory Legislation.

“There are lots of rights in the Constitution that are unexercised, so some of them should take the form of Bill of Duties to make it practical,” he added.

Mr. Francis Tsegah of the Centre for Democratic Development, Ghana, said though there clearly had been some progress, there were still several potential problematic aspects that should be a concern for all.

He mentioned that the inability of the CRC to release the full official report till date would leave Ghanaians in the dark about the specific changes that had been made to the text of the Constitution and the full range of proposals that had been accepted by the Government would not be known.

“…The failure to release the full report is also potentially a violation of the Constitution. Under Article 280(c) of the Constitution, the Government is obligated to publish both the report of a Commission of inquiry and the white paper within six month of receiving the report,” he said.**