You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2005 05 05Article 80726

Opinions of Thursday, 5 May 2005

Columnist: Adomako, Appiah Kusi

Strengthening Of Parliament As An Institution Of Democracy

One of the institutions of democracy that suffers most, anytime there is a military take over, is the legislature which we also call parliament. A cursory look through the 1966, 1972 and 1981 coup d?etats are indicative that the first decree that comes from the holders of power is the suspension of parliament.

In the forty eight years of our existence as nation parliament has the shortest memory compared to the executive and the judiciary. This has caused the nation dearly as a result of enactment of just and unjust decrees by military junta.

Article 93 Section 2 of the 1992 Constitution of The Republic of Ghana states in unequivocal terms that ??.the legislative powers of Ghana shall be invested in parliament and shall be exercised in accordance with this Constitution.? In simple terms the function of parliament is to make laws for the land. Therefore what is stated in the 1992 Constitution is the duty of each Member of Parliament.

For democracy to grow well in a country, parliament as an arm of government must be strengthened to enable her to perform her duties well.

To be a parliamentarian is not easy. One thing society is obsessed with now is that more individuals want to become parliamentarians for the purpose of enriching themselves and their families. This tragic misconception was exhibited in the last primaries in the various political parties. I heard people saying ?if you have served two terms as a parliamentarian, allow someone else to become a parliamentarian?. For this ignorant reason, many parliamentarians reduced their term in the legislative halls.

The duty of a parliamentarian is to make laws e.g. review loan agreement. Modern parliaments perform a variety of roles. It is usual for parliaments to be involved in controlling the raising and spending of money, representing the population of the country concerned and influencing the composition of the government. In many parliamentary systems, the government is formed by elections to the legislature.

A comparative study on the executive, legislature and judiciary arms of government shows that the most starved arm of government is the parliament. When ministers, their deputies and district chief executives are given personal secretaries and special assistants, the Member of Parliament is left to work alone.

Lack of supporting staffs for members of parliament has a negative impact on the effective performance of this arm of government. Parliamentarians have no office other than the political party office of the constituency. What about an independent member of parliament who is not representing any political party?

THE WAY FORWARD

If we are poised to consolidate democracy in Ghana, the state must progressively secure in each constituency an office for the Member of Parliament. We should not assume that once the political party the MP represents has an office in his/her constituency, a new office is not necessary. Supposing an MP is from party X and another member from party Y wants to see the MP from party X or present a petition to him, will that MP from party Y feel comfortable going to the office of the arch rival party?

If one wants a copy of bills passed by parliament one may have to travel to Accra or a very good public library like the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Library to get access to one. Honestly, as a Ghanaian, I am not familiar with all the bills parliament has passed. It is important we bring parliament and its work to the door steps of the people. An office should be stocked with parliamentary proceedings, the list of bills to be discussed by parliament and all copies of bills passed by parliament. Personnel employed to work in this establishment should be civil servants who do not get this offer on their party?s ticket.

This constituency office shall be the miniature parliament in the constituency. With this in place, one will not need to travel from Bole Bamboi to Accra to see Honourable Edward Mahama or travel from Elembele to see Honourable Freddy Blay. When this happens individuals will be able to log their complaints or suggestions in the various constituencies even when their MPs are still in Accra.

This should not be the only office for an MP. Thankfully, very soon the office complex near the State House would be completed and MP?s will have their offices there. These offices will need secretaries in charge to exchange information with personnel in offices in the constituencies.

Apart from the two secretaries that I have talked about, there is the need for research assistants who will research into bills, memoranda of understanding and other matters and report to the MPs. Since the work of parliamentarian cuts across different disciplines it is difficult for an MP to be well versed in every discipline. If the appointment of a third staff to aid MPs will cause a drain on the economy, an alternative measure could be a research allowances so that they employ qualified people to do research work.

One thing that we must know is that democracy is an expensive enterprise. When Ghana suffered under the yoke of military dictatorship no monies were spent on parliament. Now that we have decided to accept the doctrines of democracy and live by it, we must progressively aspire to help our young democracy grow and encourage the rule of law.

Talking about mobility, we must know that the MP is representing his constituency in Accra and is reporting to them in person through interaction and question. It must be noted that the various bodies and agencies that are expected to uphold the democratic name of the nation are state funded. The Executive, The Legislative, The Electoral Commission, Ministers, D.C.E and members of the judiciary are given state cars. When they are ready to retire they are asked to pay for the value of the car they are using less the depreciation either in the straight line method or reducing balance method. Why then do we leave out the MPs to take loans to buy cars they will use to serve the people? Are we saying that the size of our parliament is so big that if we decide to use the former approach it will take toll on our national budget? The issue of the state giving cars to members of the executives and the judiciary should be looked at carefully. At least the state can establish a fund where they can take loans to buy cars.

Appiah Kusi Adomako is a freelance writer and writes for the Ghanaian Chronicle under column name: THE TRUMPET OF CONSCIENCE on every Thursday. He also works with an NGO called ?LEADERS OF TOMORROW FOUNDATION as the president of Ghana Chapter. He can be contacted on: Leaders of Tomorrow Foundation, P.O. BOX. KS 13640. Kumasi-Ghana, West Africa. Tel 027-740-2467 . www.interconection.org/lotfound

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.