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Let me begin this with an admission. Since the beginning of the 4th Republic, our Parliament has, by inaction, allowed quite a bit of its inherent powers to wither away. Part of the problem was the framers who left Parliament beholden to the executive with regards to the appointment of Ministers from Parliament and limitations in its control of the power of the purse.
Unfortunately, in the last year, there have been events and incidents that have had the effect of lowering the power and prestige of Parliament even further.
Consistent with its oversight functions, according to a Senior Parliamentarian, “When the Privileges Committee invited the Governor of the Bank of Ghana to appear as witness to elucidate on the process it followed before withdrawal of Unibank’s license, Parliament was said to have no such powers”!
Indeed, as I write, a Banking Committee report has been held up over a dispute, amongst MPs, about whether Parliament has “locus” on the issue!
In most mature democracies, including the US and UK, the head of their central banks testify regularly before their legislative bodies in pursuit of executive oversight and in the public interest. If Parliament cannot inquire into the activities of the Bank of Ghana, who can? Who are our independent bodies accountable to?
Then a few days ago, in response to plans to introduce a Private Members bill to reform Ghana’s legal education by Hon. Defeamekpor and Hon. Sosu, they were read the riot act by the venerable Sam Okudzeto, speaking, presumably , for the Ghana Legal Council. He indicated, amongst other things that “If you misbehave, we will deal with you in accordance with the rules and laws that have been laid down”. Such language, respectfully, is contemptuous of Parliament. This was after the Attorney General, on the same issue had written to Parliament in a tone that left a lot to be desired. These exchanges are notwithstanding Parliament’s broad oversight and public interest authority and article 109(1), which states, “Parliament may by law regulate professional, trade and business organizations “.
Now, there is no living Ghanaian I hold in higher esteem than Sam Okudzeto– for his courage and determination in our valiant struggle to end the PNDC dictatorship. But he is dead wrong on this one. If Parliament cannot pass a law on education–any education, who can? What the GLC ought to do is to give input to Parliament as it seeks to reform a legal educational system and profession that no longer serve our needs.
My fellow Ghanaians, constitutions must be given life by organizations and citizens and no constitution can enforce itself.
Parliament is the crown jewel of our democratic dispensation and it must be up and doing.
If it was performing to expectations, it would have fixed the number of Ministries the President–any President can stand up.
If it was up to task, it would fix the number of our Supreme Court justices and determine how long cases before courts can take and delineate a clear appellate process that would increase the people’s confidence in our judiciary. As things stand now, we deliver more justice to goat thieves than to state thieves.
We can’t have ten percent of America’s population and have twice the number of Justices of the Supreme Court they have.
If they were on point, they would inquire into the 2020 elections with particular reference to the Takyiman deaths, the SALL disenfranchisement and the invasion of Parliament by uniformed soldiers during the election of the Speaker.
But it is better late than never.
This Parliament is in the middle hour of a transformation into the independent, vibrant Parliament we need it to be.
That transformation will be a foundational pillar of the “democratic accountability ” that this President eloquently described.
As Monet said, “Nothing is possible without men but nothing is lasting without institutions “.
Together, as “citizens, not spectators “let us build a Parliament that will help our democracy grow from strength to strength.
Long live Ghana
Arthur Kobina Kennedy ( 4th November, 2021)