Minority leader in Parliament, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, has cautioned that until the House works on its image crises of the assumption of a role that is not for members, the confusion that exist about the work of Parliament would persist for a long time.
According to him, Members of Parliament (MPs) are not actors or agents of development and must therefore narrow themselves to their representative oversight functions. He stressed that MPs are quick to promise school blocks, toilets or markets in order to keep and sustain votes even though what they are promising is outside the purview of their responsibilities.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu gave the warning in an address he delivered at the global legislative openness week celebration in Parliament under the theme, “Open forum on strengthening openness, transparency and accountability: Parliament of Ghana commitments.”
He argued that this development has confused the Ghanaian electorate such that in demanding accountability from MPs, they ask for what their legislators cannot afford.
This, the Minority leader said, has contributed to the high attrition rate being observed in Parliament. “We need to work on image of the MP as a development agent as against the MP as a legislator responsible for representation, deliberation and exercise of oversight,” he stated.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu noted that the situation is unfortunately the reflection of the under-function and under-performance of government thereby compelling MPs to fill a critical vacuum as if they are capable of resolving such demands.
“From school blocks through National Health Insurance through outdoorings and weddings, the MP becomes the critical player and the actor. We need to collectively act on that,” he said.
He argued that the preamble to the 1992 Constitution places sovereignty in the people for whom the exercise of every authority namely judicial, executive or legislative functions.
According to him, Ghanaians are well aware that MPs are accountable to them and subtly demand accountability through demonstrations of various cultural gestures.
He stressed that since 1993, Ghana has made giant strides to improve her democratic
governance and also improve citizen participation in the decision making process. He averred that the Speaker’s Breakfast Forum is not just a public dialogue but a forum for accountability and for Parliament to engage the public.
“I believe we should encourage the likes of those forums and get Parliament more accessible. However, for intellectuals Parliamentary accountability and transparency means the proceedings of Parliament being easily accessible,” he stated.
He argued that attempt to create an open access Parliament would not be successful because Parliament is anchored on two values namely freedom of expression and freedom of information.
He stressed that Ghanaians do not yet have freedom of information and urged government to send the Freedom of Information Bill to Parliament in order to deepen accountability to the citizenry.
Parliament, he said, must be the appropriate venue where a whistle-blower should be able to easily make reference to on matters of financial irregularities, fraud and mismanagement of public funds.
Hon. Haruna Iddrisu averred that internal democracy within political parties is as important as the country’s democracy and stressed that political parties that are not internally democratic stifle the accountability work of the MP.
MPs, he said, must go through primaries at some point as a form of accountability to the party at the branch and constituency or grassroots level in terms of what they have done. This, he said, is a form of accounting to the constituents who voted for the MP to represent them in Parliament.
By Osumanu Al-Hassanfirstname.lastname@example.org