The Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG), Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey says the quality of Members of Ghana’s Parliament in the late ’90s is certainly better than it is today.
Citing the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the Second Parliament of the Fourth Republic in 1997, Dr. Akwetey said, that side of the House had “a certain concentration of highly qualified people.”
“If you look at the period between 1997 and 200 when JH (Joseph Henry) Mensah was Minority Leader, they (NPP) were even in a worse situation – coming back from 30 something years of opposition and then having to come into the fourth Republican Parliament and hold the Parliament that had been there for one term, dominated by the NDC – and yet they were able to take on issues [vigorously]” he stated.
He was analysing suggestions that the current Minority is not sufficiently and effectively holding the NDC government accountable, on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show on Tuesday.
Dr Akwetey argued that in the 1997 Parliament, “There was a certain concentration of highly qualified people – there were experts, lawyers, and so on, they didn’t care about the constraints, the structural constraints, they were so organized and experienced – JH Mensah was the most experienced in that Parliament and you had the Osafo Marfos and Papa Owusu Ankomahs – a certain concentration of people who in their own lives had a certain high public policy profile, high public interest, public service, public engagement, had knowledge and they did a lot on their own.”
Comparing the performance of MPs then and now, the governance expert suggested that the quality of representation now certainly leaves much to be desired.
He said politics in the country had shifted from who is better qualified and competent to who has more money.
Voters, especially in rural areas, he said, “do not care so much about who goes to represent us [in Parliament], in terms of their policy acumen and the ability to influence things in their favour.”
The overriding consideration when voters are choosing a Member of Parliament, he believes, is “who would bring money or who has money to buy the votes.”
A lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr. Alidu Seidu, agreed largely with Dr. Akwetey’s analysis.
He said, “To be able to influence [decisions] and present credible alternatives, you need a lot of expertise and the previous Parliament Dr. Akwetey mentioned were people who had passion for doing the right thing; people who had passion for enabling governance; people who had passion for ensuring the realization of the aspirations of their people; people who themselves had suffered in building the brand, Ghana, so they didn’t want to sit down and allow the country to be run down.”
Compared to the current situation, not too many MPs are passionate about their legislative work, he stated.
Dr. Alidu said the level of competence of MPs cannot be ignored. “The competence is important because Parliamentary business is for the learned and if you are not well versed in the Standing Orders, in the Constitution and the formal procedure of doing things, it is going to be very difficult for you to debate bills and debate policies, that come from government.”
For him, people put themselves up for elections into Parliament not because they want to represent their people, but because they see it as a business.
He said until the situation changes, the quality of representation in Parliament will remain poor.
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