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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

Ghana Elections - 2012: Constitutional Review.

Ghana Elections – 2012: Constitutional Review.

While the Ghana Election 2012 is creeping upon us, I’m baffled as to how little if any attention has been paid to the 1992 Constitution? It’s necessary because the constitution is and has been an albatross hanging on our neck. Instead of it providing hope for us, it has retarded our progress. Ex-President Kufour had promised to review and revise it but nothing came of it. The late President Atta Mills appointed a review committee to collaborate ideas for amendments. After spending millions of dollars at home and abroad, their report has not duly impacted the nation. Sadly and mistakenly, it has been brushed aside. As the campaigning is coming to a close, I would strongly urge all the parties to address some of the concerns in the constitution as it is flawed. It is important because of a difficult amendment procedure.

The leaders have exploited the flaws and the weakness of the constitution to rape the nation of its abundant resources. They have abided by and stayed within the constitution to produce bad leadership. Several instances justify my claim:

1. It is not appropriate for an outgoing President himself to appoint a committee to consider their service package. When President Kufour appointed his own people on the committee, we thoroughly broke down the package because it was not suitable. However, this problem is still there staring us in the face.

2. We are struggling with the provision of decentralization in the constitution. Right now, the President appoints his cabinet ministers, regional ministers, DCE, MCE and so on. At least, we have been talking of the provision of a full democracy where the regional ministers, the DCE’s and the MCE’s could be elected but we still operate with the winner takes all mandate. Starting a discussion and not putting things into practice is not good enough.

3. The President again appoints about 50% of the cabinet ministers from the Parliament. We copied this from the west minister type of administration (British) but we don’t have bi-camera legislature. It is not convenient and suitable for the MP’s to be cabinet ministers.

4. The Electoral Commission currently determines when to add more constituencies to the existing ones. There is no limit to the number of constituencies at any point in time. When NPP was in power, they asked for 30 new constituencies to be added. NDC recently asked for 45 new constituencies. This has become a tug of war between NPP and NDC based off on the regime which will reap the benefits. In the future, when and if PPP comes to power, they will also ask for more constituencies to be added. Before we are aware, every village will become a constituency. A limit should be set in stone.

5. There is no limit to Supreme Court appointments. How can Ghana have more Supreme Court justices more than the United States (nine total) when the size alone is not comparable? During the Kufour regime, he added extra Supreme Court judges to bring the total to 11. Now, NDC has increased it to 15. The extra judges are appointed with personal motive of interests for the political parties. This is not leadership. Again, a limit should be set.

6. Fringe benefits. Currently, any out-going cabinet minister can buy their two year old vehicle at the book value. While other people like you and I will have to shop at the cut-throat market. The MP’s are appointed as corporate board members for sitting allowances. They don’t even want the CEO’s to come to their office to discuss critical issues unless it’s for sitting allowances.

7. The MP’s have studied their social commitments and have accordingly hiked their salaries. The public was outraged but it didn’t stop there. They proposed another pay hike for the President, the Vice and the cabinet ministers. It was alleged President Mahama supposedly was not happy with the pay rise but nothing was done regarding it. If the leaders do not show some integrity, we will be staring at posterity. Tell me who amongst our leaders: MP’s, Cabinet Ministers, CEO’s, etc is poor? Rather than taking pride in providing service to their constituents and the people in general, they are more and mostly only interested in the public fame and the financial gains. But like Oliver Twist, they continue to ask for more just to be greedy because we allow them.

These are burning issues that need to be addressed. If the IEA has time on its hand, it would be an interesting debate for these leaders to show their commitment to solving the constitutional flaws. We can’t get to our destination with our current road map.

Ken Atta-Boakye, Virginia,