THE RESUMPTION of Business in Parliament, which was originally scheduled for next week Tuesday, May 27, 2014, is likely to be postponed for seven more days, as a result of lack of funds to carry out activities in the house, information gathered by The Chronicle reveals.
Business in the august house is expected to suffer yet another significant setback, as its members would have to wait a little longer than expected, before reconvening to deliberate on important issues affecting the country. The Minority Leader and Member of Parliament for Suame, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, who dropped the hint during an interview on ANGEL FM in Kumasi yesterday, indicated that it is not likely the house can resume sitting on the scheduled date, because they had been informed that there was no money to fund the House’s activities.
He said though the announcement had not been made official, he had received information from a reliable source that the House may not be able to reconvene for business next week Tuesday. “We were originally scheduled to resume duty on May 27, but from the look of things, I don’t think it will be possible, we may have to wait for additional weeks, because there is no money for us,” Kyei Mensah Bonsu told Kwame Adinkrah, host of the programme.
The Minority Leader noted that the unfortunate development could have serious repercussions on Parliamentary business, as it is likely to throw the timetable of the house overboard, and further stifle the legislature from carrying out its oversight responsibilities. The latest development comes in the wake of several complaints by MPs over the delay in the release of statutory funds required for their constituency activities.
Members in the House have, for the past few years, expressed their frustration at the refusal of the government to release statutory funds to enable them undertake certain development projects in their respective constituencies. They have been complaining that the release of legitimate funds such as the MP’s share of the Common Fund, and share of the National Health Insurance Levy(NHIL), have not been forthcoming, and this, according to them, had put them under undue pressure, as their constituents continue to expect development from them.
According to the Minority Leader, without funds to embark on their operations, the House becomes powerless, because business requires the use of materials and other resources which involve money. Describing the situation as being shameful, the experienced legislature said Parliament would have no choice, but to wait until funds were made available, before resuming sittings, and when this happens, it seriously affects, not only Parliament, but the whole country.
The Minority Leader also shared his thoughts on the assertion that Ghana’s Parliament is weak and lacks the power required of it to play its oversight role of checking the executive arm of government. Many blame Parliament, especially the current one, for failing to put brakes on alleged reckless spending on the part of the executive, a situation which has resulted in the poor state of Ghana’s economy.
Though the Minority Leader admits the house has not been as effective as it is supposed to be, he argues there are varied and complex reasons for this situation. He said it would be too simplistic for anyone to just accuse its members for failing to exert its oversight responsibilities on the executive without taking a holistic view of the situation. According to him, the reasons range from institutional, social, constitutional, and lack of the proper separation of powers. The Minority Leader pointed out that one of the major setbacks to Ghana’s Parliamentary system is the absence of “Career Parliamentarians” – people he describes as having acquired the requisite Parliamentary experience through long service.
He said Ghana’s Parliament is being deprived of competent and experienced members, because the political parties have to organise primaries every four years to elect new members, which often results in casualties. “Can you imagine that we have only seven survivors from the 1992 group of parliamentarians in the side of the NDC, and that of the NPP, we have only five from those who started in 1996, this clearly does not help, because we cannot afford to continue to lose experienced people who are well-versed in parliamentary proceedings at the expense of primaries; in the developed countries it is not like that, because we have career parliamentarians who are informed about parliamentary processes.”
He further noted: “When you spend two or three terms in Parliament, they say you are a “Mugabe” and so you should go for others to come. Some even say that they don’t get anything from you, so you should go for another person to come, and this does not help at all.” The Minority Leader further noted that other factors impinging the effective performance of Parliament is the large number of committees, and the fact that these committees are chaired by majority MPs.
According to him, some MPs are members of more than one committee, and this gives them divided attention, and does not enable them the opportunity to contribute effectively to one particular committee sitting. He also called for a second look at the system whereby ruling party MPs are elected as chairmen of Committees in the house, stressing that the situation does not help in objective and independent analysis of issues before them.
“Why do we say that Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is the most effective committee, it’s because the chairman comes from the opposition or the minority party,” he emphasised. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu further contended that the Constitutional provision that bars Parliament from being resourced from the Consolidated Fund, especially in the promulgation of laws, is also a disincentive to proceedings in the house.
The Minority Leader also took a swipe at former President Jerry John Rawlings for suggesting that ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor is the cause of Ghana’s economic woes.
Former President Rawlings stated in an interview at the sidelines of the National Economic Forum (NEF) held last week that the current economic crises being experienced in the country was as a result of bad policies introduced by the former President Kufuor-led NPP administration .But Kyei Mensah Bonsu said the assertion of Mr. Rawlings was not only outrageous, but also smacked off dishonesty at the highest level.
“Clearly, Mr. Rawlings does not know what he is talking about; how can anyone accuse a government that brought an unprecedented economic change to this country as being responsible for the country’s fiscal problems, perhaps he (Rawlings) should have been honest to this administration,” he observed. He said the NPP assumed power at a time when every indicator of the economy was in doldrums, and managed to restore it within eight years to a state never witnessed in the country’s democratic history.
“When NPP came to power in 2001, everything in Ghana was in disarray, we barely had import cover to last for three weeks, our inflation had skyrocketed, interest rate was unbearable, every aspect of the economy had collapsed, but Mr. Kufuor and the NPP changed the destiny of this country and made it attractive in the eyes of its peers, only for the NDC to come back and destroy everything. This is where we are today, nothing is going right,” he lamented.