CSOs and think tanks work ethics in a hung Parliament

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Ghanaians went to the poll on the 7th of December, 2020 for the 8th consecutive time to elect an executive President and Parliamentarians for the next four years amid rejection of results for the presidential and related issues with some parliamentary outcomes, but, with the overall acceptance by Ghanaians. The attrition rate is principally high in this 8th incoming Parliament and has raised concern.

The outcome of the Parliamentary numbers for the leading political parties; NPP and NDC have led most observers to predict a “reformed” parliament from previous ones which will not afford the majority side the luxury of pushing through bills that are not thoroughly examined, and commercial agreements that are drafted to skew the benefits of private entities. It should however not be lost on the generality of Ghanaians of the shenanigans that characterize the enterprise of politics in our part of the world where anything is possible.
At the birth of NPP’s 2017 government, the intention of rogue opposition was served by party communicators of NDC and the Minority as they constantly averred that, the NPP won the election on deceits and have subsequently proven without disappointment—sometimes criticizing the government for same things or initiatives they promulgated while in office and defended at the time without remorse.

This was done in earnest. And Ghanaians have lived with it notwithstanding the obvious wicked, vile propaganda and naked untruths that were designed to court public anger for the government. In some instances, international sequels of the same were ignored and ended up being embarrassed. Cases in point are letters to the SEC—US and IMF respectively seeking an inquiry into bonds issuance in 2017 through the aegis of Ken Ofori Atta, and the masterstroke Sinohydro barter arrangement that was to enable government leverage on the country’s natural resources. These two outcomes and others had people question the serious scrutiny of the minority in international transactions of novel nature or a matter of appealing to the sentiments of Ghanaians as they hollowly claimed NPP did while in opposition.

Such continuous posturing in the 8th Parliament cannot be in the best interest of the country vis-à-vis the hung nature of the house and reinforces apprehensions expressed by observers particularly the ruling NPP inclined members and sympathizers. Compromises would thus have to be made for a unified house which acts in the interest of Ghanaians and not political parties.
However, responsible CSOs and Think Tanks become integral recourse to chart the nations’ interest by overseeing both the minority and majority sides regarding how each side goes about approaching the business of government in the house. In essence, CSOs and Think Tank must redefine their work ethics and neutral role relative to how they go about their advocacy role in shaping policy alternatives that are informed by research and not merely by what they feel ought to. This is important because of the recent past case of voter register compilation and nonstop attack post the compilation. Sometimes, the adopted vehicles through which such policy proposals and dissent have been proffered and expressed respectively, and choice of words chosen to express the same leaves much to be desired.

For example, the accusation of cronyism was the minority and NDC’s lead basis for the objection to the Agyapa agreement when they questioned a purported 2 million dollars payment to Gabby’s associated law firm obviously to convince gullible party followers for political advantage. They thus ignored the technical issues and decided to dabble in pettiness and sounded as not having been in government before to engage in international transactions where transaction advisors’ service was employed. They further averred that transaction advisors were not needed and that the Attorney General could have done it. A simple Google search would indicate that transaction advisor assistance was sought in 2014 for the ECG privatization when NDC was in power. Claims of non-parliamentary approval for the transaction advisors were also made.

One would thus expect that since CSOs and Think Thanks existence cut across governments and ought to be neutral and call out political shenanigans for what it is for the purpose of sanitizing the space for more cerebral policies proposals, they would not only be interested in expressing their dislike for some aspect of the agreement but also reprimand the opposition in the face of obvious misinformation. How could a neutral CSOs and Think Tanks close their eyes to this obvious misinformation from an opposition party?

Much as the CSOs and Think Thanks try to hold the government accountable, they ought not to be seen to be endorsing irresponsible opposition especially when NDC left power not long ago, and the leader who sought to return superintendent such regime. So the CSOs and Think Tanks must comment on whether or not transactional advisors have been used in a similar fashion or the principal legal advisor, the attorney general has been the only source of legal recourse, and whether or not payments like (as has been made to Gabby/Imara) have been made before in regular international transactions.

In essence, your comment to express the point of departure from the government’s agreement by raising key questions for answers and optional policy direction for acceptance, and, also chastise the opposition for the empty accusations and criticizing same things they did 4 years ago. This is necessary to absolve the institution from biasedness while at the same time sanitizing the political space for more matured discussions devoid of pettiness. However, this tactless approach of CSOs and Think Thanks (fixated on only one side) cannot be a good governance practice in the face of clear mischief by the opposition. That is, the CSOs and Think Tanks cannot only see wrong in whatever a ministry or its agency does, and highlight the same without any good to shed lights on too. Such politicking can be the portion of a political opposition party but not CSOs and Think Tanks.

Also, some CSOs and Think Tanks opposed the compilation of the new register by the nation’s electoral body when references were made to how the incurred cost would have better be expended for the good of the populace and issues of procurement breaches. Yet, the electoral body thought otherwise and justified its action citing how obsolete some of their equipment had become and needed urgent replacement. Fast-forward, the election has delivered one of the free, fair and transparent elections which have won the admiration of observers both local and international. However, some of these Think Tanks still hold grudges with the electoral body and have failed to heap praise for such sterling delivery. It should be easy for Think Tanks and CSOs to initially disagree with a social body and offer praise for the good execution of the mandate.

Issuing a statement to offer praise for the good conduct of the election for a state institution which a Think Tank initially had issues with is praiseworthy and falls within the work ethics of social advocacy groups. The case of I didn’t like your work initially and will continue ad infinitum even when basis exists for praise from CSOs and Think Tanks cannot continue in this new era of the almost balanced house as parliamentarians will look up to CSOs and Think Tanks to provide leadership that drives and inspires how they work. The same idiosyncrasy is required for government, ministers, agencies or departments and CEOs of state institutions, and not because there is dissent on an issue that will be the basis for continuous attack of policy direction without any praise when events prove there should be one.

Political party’s allies are allowed by the nature of our politics in Ghana to ceaselessly criticize in spite of how unpleasant it may become and decide to overlook the good in ministries, state institutions, agencies or departments for obvious political leverage to its competitor(s), but, unfortunately, Think Tanks and CSOs cannot adopt such posture as the Ghanaians people see such bodies and others as the conscience of the society for the ever falling standard of politicking in our country. In summary, criticism would attract attention and in equal measure offer praise as would be heard to structure institutions of governance and government itself.

CSOs and Think Tank are needed to continue to hold successive governments accountable on behalf of the people of Ghana. This explains why it is necessary for their work ethics to be properly structured to enjoy the support of discerning people who would demand accountability not only from the ruling government but responsible opposition who take no refuge in pettiness.

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