Here are highlights of what MPs discussed this week - starting Tuesday, June 11
Issue 1: Public Assessment of MPs
The First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu (MP, Bekwai), on Tuesday, filed an application to House Speaker Mike Oquaye to as a matter of urgency set parameters that would be used as a guide by research institutions that focus on the work of Parliament. He made this application in the wake of a research survey conducted by the department of political science at the University of Ghana on how regular an MP visits the constituency as part of his or her duties as a representative. He said that a research institution such as the University of Ghana should be ‘assisted’ to carry out research “in a manner which reflects the true role of a Member of Parliament”, calling for a meeting between the researchers and a group in Parliament on modalities to properly assess MPs. He argues that MPs are voted to Parliament where they are supposed to be as the Constitution demands and that, it is unfair to them if their work is evaluated based on how often they visit the constituency. He, however, concedes that such research carried on MPs is in their own interest, but should be in line with parameters agreed by both Parliament and researchers.
Commenting on the matter, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) said such public assessments could decide how MPs retain or lose their seats in Parliament adding that the university-based research team should have a better understanding of MPs and their responsibilities; in his view, he is not a ‘non-performing’ MP. Speaking to a Ghanaian Times publication of Tuesday, June 11, 2019, such surveys are alarming because they contribute to the high attrition of Parliament where ‘experienced’ MPs are voted out by the public using the findings of such research. Invoking Parliament’s standing order 191 and the Constitution, he recommends that a special committee chaired by the first deputy speaker should be established to engage with the researchers for an explanation into how they arrived at their conclusion; and the basis of their findings, “so that we can be better guided”, he said. He also said the research threatens their survival and that, some MPs perform better in the committees although committee sittings are not held in public.
Dr. Emmanuel Marfo (MP, Oforikrom) was worried about the unavailability of an in-house body within Parliament that assesses MPs thereby creating room for non-governmental organisations and academia to carry out such assessments. He shared in the sentiments raised by first deputy speaker and minority leader on setting up a framework born out of a proposed special committee meeting with researchers and academia who are interested in carrying out such assessments.
The Speaker, Mike Oquaye had these final words to conclude the discussion: “...we are ready to cooperate and in all these things but the very areas of assessment must be clearly defined by the people [researchers]. If a person is generous to dish out monies and it is upon that that you will now say somebody else is not going to go back to Parliament you are making a sad mistake because it is not part of the business of the Member to issue largess. If we do that, well the attrition rate will continue to be high; the quality will continue to come down and it will not be in the interest of the nation. I think we all as a nation must be very careful about this development.”
Issue 2: MPs Call For More Female Representation
The total female population in Ghana’s Parliament is 39. This was made known in a statement by Ras Mubarak (MP, Kumbungu) on Wednesday where he urged the House and the Speakership of Rt Hon. Mike Oquaye to do more to increase the number. The statement paid tribute to Rwanda which has 61.3% women representation in its Parliament - the highest in the world and recognised the British Parliament as also having fewer women as Members of Parliament (MPs). Mubarak recommended what he calls “positive discrimination” in political parties as a way of giving preferential treatment to women contesting in the parliamentary primaries. He is, therefore, encouraging Ghana to once again be at the forefront ‘of not just encouraging women to stand for election’, but there should be institutionalised policy in favour of women to safely contest and win seats in Parliament. He says there are 14 countries in Latin America that have a “legalised gender quota” system in their Parliaments whereas countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea, and Iraq have “political gender quotas that work perfectly”. He is of the belief that an increase in the number of female MPs would bring increased focus on issues affecting women and children.
Other MPs took turns to speak on the subject at the end of the statement. In his remark, Patrick Yaw Boamah (MP, Okaikwei Central) said there is no impediment barring women from contesting parliamentary seats or any other top leadership position but the political contest is a fierce one where successful candidates emerge from irrespective of the gender. He then challenged the maker of the statement to cede his seat to a woman in the next election in a show of leadership.
Helen Adwoa Ntoso (MP, Krachi West) on her part urged the State to ‘do more’ in achieving Goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals which talks about "gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls".
PRESENTATION OF PAPERS
The Mental Health Regulations, 2019 was laid on Friday, June 14 by Deputy Minister of Health, Alexander Kodwo Kom Abban (MP, Gomoa West). The document has been referred to the Committee on Health for consideration and report.
Also, the following papers were presented to the House in the course of the week:
1. Report of the Finance Committee on the Annual Public Debt Management Report for the 2018 Financial Year
2. Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Pre-University Education Institutions) for the Financial Year ended 31st December 2015
3. Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Pre-University Education Institutions) for the Financial Year ended 31st December 2016
4. Report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Report of the Auditor-General on the Public Accounts of Ghana (Polytechnics) the period ended 31st December 2015
5. Report of the Auditor-General on Special Audits Carried Out on Selected State Institutions in the year 2018
6. United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) facility agreement between the Government of Ghana (represented by the Ministry of Finance) and HSBC Bank Plc (as facility agent and arranger) for an amount of EUR31.5 million to finance the implementation of the rural communities and small towns water supply project
7. Term loan facility agreement between Government of Ghana (represented by Ministry of Finance) and HSBC Bank Plc (as facility agent and arranger) for an amount of EUR4.5 million to finance the implementation of the rural communities and small towns water supply project
8. Budget performance report in respect of the Ministry of Finance for the period January to December 2018
9. Supply contract agreement between the Government of Ghana (represented by Ministry of Sanitation and Water Resources) and Aqua Africa Limited for an amount of EUR30 million relating to the rural and peri-urban nano-filtration water projects in Ghana under the rural communities and small towns water supply project
Frank Bruce | PARLIAMENT House, Accra
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