The Minority Leader in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has stated that the presidential democratic system of governance currently being practised by Ghana is stalling the fight against corruption.
Likewise, he said the continuous holding of primaries by their respective parties to change experienced Members of Parliament was also rendering Parliament weak at the end of every election with the entry of inexperienced new members.
In Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu’s opinion, parliamentary style democracy was the best way to go since it had the tendency to help eliminate corruption compared to the current presidential democracy.
At a media interaction in Takoradi at the launch of the rules and procedure and an electronic platform for citizens’ engagement with the Government Assurances Committee (GAC), he said the huge expenditure that characterised presidential campaigns in Ghana had created avenues for corruption to flourish.
He explained that in a Westminster style of democracy, the Prime Minister did not spend much money during the campaign season as a President would due to the relative difference in the size of the constituencies for the two heads of government.
“In my Suame Constituency during the last elections, I had two billboards which cost me ¢9,000.00 and ¢5,000.00 respectively. Interestingly, the president, for example, had four of such billboards in my small constituency,” he said.
He wondered how the President financed such billboards all over the country.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said it was fascinating that there were sponsors of these billboards who wanted a particular presidential candidate to win the election and become the president.
“These various donors are mostly rewarded with contracts by cutting corners, bridging all procedures resulting in the corruption we want to fight under the presidential system,” he said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said aside the problems with the presidential system of democracy, one interesting thing was the holding of primaries at every general elections to elect new parliamentary candidates, a situation which, he said, was robbing Parliament of the needed quality.
He said though some of the new parliamentarians were making positive contributions on the floor of Parliament, most of them found it difficult to live up to expectation.
“It will be better for political parties to support their members to develop a parliamentary career, but if we constantly change who goes to Parliament by holding primaries, it will affect the quality of the human resource of the house,” he said.
In the current Parliament, for instance, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has about 50 new Members of Parliament who have to take time to learn.
“Therefore, continuously changing members of parliament through primaries weakens the house and will not allow members to fully execute their responsibilities since most of them would not have the experience required to be effective parliamentarians,” he said.
Ministries not classrooms
According to the minority leader, it was interesting to note that people were appointed to ministries as substantive ministers or deputies, and “appear before the vetting committee with absolutely no knowledge about the ministries they are heading to.”
According to the minority leader, the popular responses were that, “we will learn when we get there,” but the facts still remained that the ministries were not schools for the new appointees to go and learn.
“My problem is how can we have a Parliament approving these people who are now going to learn when they get to the ministries?” he asked.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the time had come to start offering appointments to people who had considerable experience related to the ministry they were being appointed to.
“Ministers are supposed to effectively and efficiently help the President, so people without expertise cannot be sent to the ministries to go and start learning,” he added.
The visibly worried minority leader hinted that a motion would soon be filed on the floor of Parliament that would seek to amend the standing orders of Parliament to give power to it to rescind the appointment of a minister since the house had the primary responsibility to appoint ministers,” he said.
“We can censure ministers, but since Parliament makes the appointments, it should also have the power to reverse them when it deems it fit,” he added.
The Chairman of the GAC, Mr Emmanuel Bedzrah, said the new electronic platform would involve the citizenry to check the ministers and ensure that they delivered on their promises, adding: “We have to ensure accountability from the government and make certain that every promise from a minister of state is monitored.”
The government assurance committee was to amplify community voices, generate awareness and demand accountability from authorities.
The committee is a Standing Committee in Parliament created by the Standing Orders in 1998 to exercise oversight responsibility over the Executive.