General News of Sunday, 16 July 2017
Odekro would like to commend the Selection Committee of Parliament for recommending to the House, the re-composition of leadership of parliamentary committees.
We identify with the Selection Committee’s reasoning that “the re-composition became necessary due, among other considerations, to the fact that some chairmen and vice chairmen of committees have been appointed ministers and deputy ministers to various ministries and this will affect the oversight responsibilities of such members on the various committees that oversee the various ministries (emphasis ours).”
On March 20 2017, Odekro issued a statement to the effect that President Akufo-Addo’s appointment of 61% (67) Ministers and Deputy Ministers from Parliament would weaken Parliament’s oversight responsibility, as MP-Ministers may be compromised by the Executive and national assignments that require Ministers and Deputy Ministers to work outside the confines of Parliament.
We also indicated that such action was at odds with the accolade the President enjoyed as a champion of democracy and his own assertion that Parliament must not be the “junior partner” of the executive, but rather be allowed to grow as an “effective machinery for accountability and oversight of the executive”.
We further indicated that the President’s appointment of so many Ministers from Parliament drew away some of Ghana’s seasoned legislators from Parliament. Odekro is bewildered by the continued impact of the President’s action, even in the recommended re-composition.
For instance, Kennedy Ohene Agyapong (MP, Assin Central) who ranked 258th out of 275 MPs, and was often absent as observed in Odekro’s assessment report of the Sixth Parliament, (also find evidence attached) has been retained as the chairperson of the Communications Committee.
Though Mr Ohene Agyapong’s parliamentary seat is not in serious contention, his performance in the Sixth Parliament and public conduct, past and recent, somehow cast doubt on his ability to execute his duties competently, as a Committee Chair. We do not think this would have been the case had the President not appointed so many Ministers from Parliament.
We also find insufficient the reason adduced by the Selection Committee for the proposed re-composition. According to the Committee, “the situation where sector ministers superintend their oversight committees of the House is at Variance with best practice and indeed the conventions of the House.”
Unfortunately, the Committee did not avert their minds to another problem at variance with best practice and the conventions of the house – chronic absenteeism. One third of MPs (92 of the 275) would have to be present for parliamentary business to commence.
The lack of quorum suspends government business and affects the quality of representation and scrutinization of important bills. Our research based on the attendance records of parliament shows that MP-Ministers, irrespective of whether they chair committees or not, are twice as likely to be absent, often without permission, from Parliamentary meetings compared to MPs who are not ministers.
We reiterate, thus, our earlier recommendation for a strict separation of the Executive and Legislative arms of government in practice, including a reexamination of Article 78, the constitutional provision which compels the President to appoint the Majority of Ministers from Parliament.
Odekro will continue to monitor events in Parliament especially MPs’ attendance and activities. A report shall be made available to Ghanaians after analysis and assessment.
Odekro | 17 July 2017