Edwinology’s Lab: Choosing a DCE, confusing the thumb

Edwinology’s Lab: Choosing a DCE, confusing the thumb

None of the projected benefits of an electoral system of local governance will be real, because none of those benefits have been real within the present scheme of things.

Accountability: My MP still hasn’t told me anything since she’s been in office for 12 years. And if I were a member of her party, then she doesn’t have to tell me anything to keep my vote except that the ruling government is messing up everything. And according to the Auditor-General’s report, one group is should be gravely concerned about is some civil servants who I never see on the ballot paper.

Transparency: Apart from the transparent ballot box I see on voting day, I see nothing else transparently. In fact today, we are not even sure what we saw in the transparent ballot box. Nine judges, some of whom were not in the country on voting day, will tells us what we really saw. December 7th is August 29th.

And some MP’s who by my vote, now have electoral lens to see better, are complaining that they are not seeing things transparently – the cause of the 12.1% deficit? Oil money? and GYEEDA report readily comes to mind.

If Democracy is really just about ‘Ka be na me ka bi’ then it would seem from the faces of fire victims that they would want a system called ‘di bi na me di bi’.

And what is still unbelievable is our neurotic belief that these benefits will be tangible at the local level. It betrays what I believe is a sad stark suspicion: Those who tout democracy the most, know it the least.

Take a scenario.
Immediately a 100 meter gutter is constructed, the assembly man will claim the credit for nothing more than directing the contractor, the MP will campaign with it even though the whole idea was budgeted for without his clueless contribution, and the DCE will use it as a latest morsel of evidence that he is better than the MP, citizens should take note of this in December. And the president may drive a convoy – to cut the sod for the gutter.

This is not democracy- this is a confused thumb.

Ours is an over-democratised country. The citizen is eventually unsure who deserves a thumps up after putting his thump down on about four different representatives.

And it is like this when there is blame to apportion, everybody shifts it around until the empowered citizen is lost. In the name of the people, we are abusing the thump of the people.

It appears that there is something typical about the mind of men below the northern hemisphere. When he gets one idea that shows the slight promise of success, it becomes the chorus of recommended solution for every problem.

So, one drug cures malaria, abdominal pains and any pain before the abdomen. It cures gastric problems, hypertension, upper respiratory problems and can strengthen any weak man in bed – one drug.

That is pretty much the medicinal equivalent of how Ghana’s intellectual class behaves – one solution for every problem. Sure. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel but if your wheels travels on the Bogoso-Prestea road, you would wish it were re-invented.

It is claimed a DCE election will promote accountability in local governance. Shaking my head. Study carefully; what ordinary people really look out for before they vote for a candidate is not accountability but reliability. They vote for people not because they believe this one will account his stewardship but because this guy is reliable enough that I don’t have to get him to account anything. I can actually move on with my life.

‘The people’ are not German shepherds. Their job is not to sniff around a DCE for wrongdoing. They are mothers who want to send their children to a good school. A father who needs to pay a rent advance of 2 years.

And if he can’t, he would want to hold one or perhaps two persons responsible – A president and an MP. What he doesn’t need is a debate among seven people- President, MP,DCE and four assembly men – on who to blame for his high bills and poor schools and failing businesses. He just doesn’t need that.

A woman does not need a man who tells him everywhere he goes. She needs a man she can trust enough not to worry where he goes.

Accountability is an over-rated virtue and but an under-rated expectation.

There is nothing accountable in practice about a vote for a DCE. It has always been an assumption. But after 20 years, we can give a ruling on this assumption.

First of all, we dispatched an army of 12 million voters to check and assess the mandate of the president. Be the judge.

We also dispatched a platoon of 275 MPs to check the executive and the president we checked during the polls. Be the judge

We then dispatched a smaller unit of assembly guys to check the DCE. Be the judge

And we are now considering sending ourselves to the polls to check another DCE? Be the judge.

Call it accountability. But it’s really insanity. Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results- Albert Einstein.

In the meantime, a CDD survey was conducted in 40 districts across the country and showed 87 percent of Ghanaians have never contacted their MPs on key developmental issues that bother them.

And there is a plethora of organization – CSO, media- privately helping us check the men in power. One of it, is the Auditor-General’s department. He has accounted extensively on what government machinery does wrong in a year not for the price of 275 MP’s but for the salary of a civil servant – and he has done a yeoman’s job. In fact, he has hinted that after little success in punishing ‘stealers’, he is tired of this auditing-for-the-people.

Indeed under the present system, we can actually still demand accountability. True, the DCE directly reporting to the president but he indirectly reports to us.

The fact that his is appointed does not mean he cannot tell me what he used the road money for. I don’t need an electoral system to get an answer. At worse, I need my anger to get this done. We can demonstrate, sign petitions and commit our time to get answers from this DCE. But guess what? We won’t. It is too costly in time and energy.

So a group of educated men throw in a cheap card – give the people a vote and give them a bill to foot the vote.

Accountability is an assumption – an expensive assumption.

It has been argued that a DCE will conduct his affairs with the people’s welfare in mind knowing his power rests with the people. The value of the word ‘people’ is a crumpled one Ghana cedi note – paraphrase the words of our late president.

Enter into the mind of the politician and look for the word ‘people’. It will come up with synonyms like ‘gullible’, ‘partisan’, ‘tribalistic’ and ‘weak’.

We must design a system that works with minimal oversight like the sun because there are too many other things to be overseen.

Electing DCEs will not bring development for the same reason why painting brown leaves green doesn’t bring about photosynthesis.

It will be expensive because for the promise of accountability, huge funds will be allocated to the process.

It will be partisan because the promise of power naturally attracts partisanship. Political power is never neutral. And when it is, it is often neutralized of its own ability to be called power.

And it will be chaotic because an NPP MP, an NDC assemblyman, an NPP DCE and NDC president is just one variant that will ensure that pettiness will outshine policy.

Voting a DCE is trading a month of expensive political excitement for three years and eleven months of painful domestic bickering.

The cost-benefit analysis of choosing DCE’s is not obvious. In fact, it is a cost-benefit of choosing a DCE that will eventually drive our democracy into oblivion.

These is the first part of three articles that addresses flaws within the local government systems and suggest a new model in the final article