Parliament, Our Parliament

Any first year student of Senior High School who is being introduced to Government as a subject knows the three arms of government as a major requirement in democratic governance. Parliament is such a very important institution in modern day governance in most parts of the world today.

Indeed, even in autocratic States, the modern trends are that bodies representing the broader populace whose views and needs are articulated by their elected representatives are present. They have a Parliament of a sort to make a case for representative government.

Ghana’s post-independence politics has seen one form of Parliament or the other, from a multi-party Parliament to a one Party Parliament which got aborted in 1966, then back to a multi- party Parliament in 1969, which was also truncated in 1972, then again in 1979 after seven years of governance without the peoples’ representation, another Parliament was put in place. Barely 24 months of the restoration of this Parliament which represented the will of the people, another group of psychologically unstable individuals, indeed failures in their chosen professions, descended on this nation under the cover of darkness and once again destroyed the choice of the people.

These groups of people who wanted political power through the back door, but did not have the credibility to go to the people to ask for their mandate, stole the genuine legitimate mandate of the people of this country and once again dissolved Parliament, the true representation of Ghanaians, and installed so-called peoples’ government without de-jury foundation. Ghanaians would be amazed to know in a subsequent piece in this column that some of the leadership of today’s Parliament were part of the criminal and lawless judicial system set up then which convicted people to death and long prison terms and forfeited their property without genuine course of the judicial process. They are leading Parliament today.

Dear reader, if you do not have the courage to continue reading this piece, please stop here because I am going to town, courtesy Prof. P.A.V. Ansah of blessed Memory, because I have taken four shots of my bitters already. Some public facilities have been named after some unintelligent people without remembering good people like PAVA. PAVA’s name will be engrained in the minds of very decent person like me in Ghana.

Parliament has the power to invite me to their Privileges Committee, yes the only institution which has a committee to invite those of us who voted for them to where they are when they feel we are criticizing them. Put differently, Parliament is insulated from public criticism from those who put them there. This is the longest serving Parliament in the history of this country, but in my opinion, it is the most disappointing Parliament in the history of this country.

Parliament, irrespective of the type of political system we are running, has a responsibility towards the wellbeing of the generality of the citizens of the country. Parliament has a primary responsibility of checking the Executive arm of government in the overall interest of the nation.

That is why the constitution of this country makes it imperative for Parliament to be the primary check of the Executive in as far as public decisions and financial expenditures are concerned. Philip Shively notes that ‘scholars distinguish between manifest power and implicit power’. Manifest power is based on an observable action that leads to an individual or group of individuals that lead to another individual or group of individuals doing what the former wants.

The implicit power does not require any observable action on the part of a party to the other but that a party believes that doing a particular thing to another person will satisfy that person. It is a non-communicating responsibility. Parliament has a manifest responsibility towards the people of this country who made it possible for the institution to be created.

Since the last few years, the Parliament of this country has blatantly connived or acquiesced with the Executive arm of government to rip the citizenry of its resources which do not benefit the generality of the people of this country.

Blatant criminal acts of the Executive have been allowed to pass without serious position by Parliament. In the last quarter of 2012, the Executive blatantly, and with absolute disregard for Parliament, withdrew GH¢8 billion of the tax payers’ money and spent it with glee. The Executive came back to Parliament subsequently to tell the nation that the ‘meat’ of the nation has been consumed and that we are left with the bare bones. Parliament did not seriously ask who and who ate the meat, at what time and for what reasons but went ahead to give approval for further expenditure of the tax payers’ money.

No serious and civilised Parliament anywhere in the world will allow this criminality on the part of the Executive to go on. Our Parliament allowed it.

The Executive is violating basic laws regarding public finances to major and very critical public institutions for the general good of the majority of the people of this country, Parliament is very silent. So it has become normal for the Executive to be in arrears of GETFund, DACF, NHIA, and other such legally obligated public institutions. Ironically, these are the releases which when effectively enforced, would inure to the benefit of the majority of the people whose votes brought Parliament into being.

Parliamentarians, whose major responsibility is lawmaking and oversight responsibility on the Executive, have now become agents of development, and each time Parliamentarians speak about the delays in the release of the Common Fund, GETFund, NHIA, it is because their share has delayed in coming otherwise they do not care what happens to these institutions and their effects on the generality of the citizenry.

Parliament is a failure in our democracy. Recently, Parliament was given a huge budget to engage in ‘monitoring’ activities in the constituencies. What are they monitoring?, The filth that has engulfed Ghanaians all over, the very bad roads, the deteriorating health facilities, the shortage of water all over the country, the near collapse of education at all levels throughout the country, the dum so dum so? What are they monitoring with our monies?

The Executive is in bed with a few criminally minded business people in this country, ripping us off, and the silence of Parliament is not deafening but in some cases defensive of such criminals. Why this deafening silence by our elected representatives on the massive corruption by the Executive when the basic statutory obligations of the state are not being delivered? I just can’t understand. Gradually, Ghanaians are losing confidence in Parliament in particular and the democratic system we are running. Civil Society Organisations have become the spokespersons of Ghanaians and not the elected representatives.

Parliament needs to be told that, should there be any truncation of the present system, Parliament would be the first institution to be killed, the two arms of government will live albeit under different leaderships anyway. Ghanaians are chapfallen, yes, we feel very humiliated, we are being choked by class incompetence and criminal misuse of our resources. Ghanaians have never been that despondent, hopeless, helpless and disenchanted in their lives. They look up to their elected representatives to ensure that the Executive does what is right to salvage them.

Sadly, Parliament itself is finding it difficult to deal with the gross disrespect the Executive is treating it. Invitation and appearance of Ministers to Parliament and their answers to questions from the august members have been everything but satisfactory in many instances. Even when Parliament House is shut for lack of funds, Parliament itself denies the cause of its absence in the House when it had to be there. So sad.

ATO SAM as what? I will send a Memo to the Vetting Committee, this country deserves better.