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Opinions of Friday, 8 January 2016

Columnist: Daily Guide

Listing parliament

The integrity of the august House of Parliament has never been so challenged. The public opprobrium it has attracted in recent times over its performance is one which calls for sober and sincere reflection by all Ghanaians, irrespective of political lineage.

Even the poor attendance record of most of them prompted questions from various shades of the Ghanaian population recently when the issue of quorum cropped up. It would be recalled that during a deliberation recently the Minority won a vote when an issue was tabled for a headcount.

Even though the Deputy Speaker who was in-charge at the time invoked an order to nullify the outcome of the vote, it became clear that attendance of sessions is a sore point in the matters of the House.

Interestingly, canvassing for votes by parliamentary candidates comes with all manner of assurances and individual manifestoes towards, as it were, hoodwinking as many voters as possible. The promises of infrastructural development presented to voters by the candidates are mere window-dressing largely beyond the scope of MPs. Although they can lobby for infrastructural developments to be brought to their political areas, these are by no means the principal terms of reference of legislators.

Unfortunately, however, rather than engaging in a self-searching of the quality of their services, they are quick to haul well-meaning Ghanaians for daring to do so in the open.

It would appear that Parliament exhibits more seriousness when it hauls curious Ghanaians who dare question the quality of legislation in the country.

Consider the Black Rasta’s date with the Privileges Committee. The time and cost of the televised flexing of legislative muscle was just amazing, bespeaking of bullish tactics.

We have observed, and worryingly, of late how legislations are passed which are quickly withdrawn for further scrutiny – another slight on the quality of the oversight responsibility of MPs. There is no better description for these acts of near idleness than “sleeping on their jobs.”

Our “sleeping on their jobs” tag is not influenced by President John Mahama’s when in reaction to queries from the Minority in Parliament last year he accused this side of the august House of slumbering on their assignments when loan bills are tabled.

While we would not hold brief for him anyway, it would appear that slumbering has a degree of linkage with Parliament unfortunately.

We regret to announce that the House, as currently composed and by performance, has lost a certain level of deference much to the disappointment of cherishers of a virile legislature where the executive would not dare to interfere.

The recent withdrawal of the new taxes on petroleum products for further deliberations and scrutiny created a semblance of crisis: as a blemish on the quality of work being done by the honourable members not putting legislation on the spotlight at this stage would not be an option.

The manner in which issues are debated, with the Minority having its say as its counterparts on the other side have their way, has impacted negatively on the affairs of this country.