There is something fundamentally “not-on” in the House of Parliament, which can be corrected only by an amendment of the Constitution.
This call is informed with the current brouhaha going on about the US-Ghana military cooperation agreement.
Based on a secret document signed between the two countries during the Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in 1998, when we were under constitutional rule, and another document again secretly signed by the two countries in 2015, and again by an NDC administration, this time under John Dramani Mahama, which was even kept away from the Ghana military, the current administration was compelled to implement the agreement, so it took the constitutional approach by informing the people of Ghana through Parliament, and also it informed the military.
As the standards of Parliament require, the document was to be first discussed at the relevant sub-committee, and in this case, it was the defense sub-committee.
We hear that the NDC members on this committee overwhelmingly outnumber the NPP. The members went to work and debated the document and took a vote on the way to go – accept or throw out. The vote had majority in favour of wholly accepting the document as it was, and this was introduced to the floor of Parliament for debate and a final decision.
With such majority vote in favour at the sub-committee level, it can safely be said that either all or majority of the NDC members voted in favour.
So, with the document on the floor, one would expect the other members to allow the sub-committee to explain how it came about its decision, before putting in their inputs. Before the debate could begin, the NDC members rose to say that the document could not be accepted, since it was not appropriately documented – it had no signature. So, they chose to walk out, and, with this, someone is heading to court to challenge the constitutionality or otherwise of the agreement endorsed by Parliament.
The question is, how come the majority NDC members on the sub-committee, and in fact all the members as such, did not notice this anomaly, if, indeed, it is an anomaly? Or documents can come to Parliament without signatures on them?
Whichever way we look at things, there is certainly a problem with the calibre of MPs in our august house.
In the last Parliament, a member thought there should be the need to look into what qualifies someone to be a Member of Parliament. Another disagreed, claiming the status quo was just right.
We had a bill accented into a law, only to notice that it had lots of holes in it. When the MPs were asked what happened, they claimed it was an oversight.
The construction of a road cost $80 million more than the budgeted $40 million, because of no or poor supervision by the parliamentary sub-committee in charge of road construction. When asked how that could be, the members responded that they had no adequate logistics to visit the site. And the site was in the capital, and these MPs have SUVs.
Corruption and unprofessional conducts have been allegedly levelled against the MPs by their own. Remember the $5,000 each from the Vodafone deal, and Alban Bagbin’s charges of dishonesty and corruption against the House.
To suggest a straitjacket line of qualification with the academic playing a major role would only partly solve the problem, because we know, sloth, corruption and professional misconduct do not respect personalities, it is always to whom it may concern.
I can only suggest that firstly, the onus lies on the electorate to choose the right product as MP, irrespective of the party they may belong to. That will be the first major step, and the MP will, first and foremost, owe allegiance to the people in the constituency and not to their party.
Under this dispensation, anyone who wants to be MP in their party’s stronghold will only need to win the party’s primary. They could be semi-educated and their command over the English language could be seriously contested. This, however, will not be an issue during the interaction with the electorates, since the campaign would be limited to vernacular or the language of the indigenes.
The problem comes when the MP is presented with documents written in English and in jargons of whatever discipline they represent. Even reading simple English could be a problem, how much more digesting technical documents. This is where the MP sees what is not there and does not see what is there. So, he or she sits on a sub-committee and makes no meaningful contribution and even derails the main focus with unacceptable comments.
I feel that since the accepted constitutional language on the floor is English, let us make the command of the language as the supreme qualification to enter the House, then others may follow.
As we have it now, the whole world will be laughing at us, because, if it is true that only documents that have been signed could be dealt with in Parliament, then how come some MPs did not see that there was no signature or signatures on the appropriate page of the document submitted for debate?
Is it not amusing to see these MPs protesting in our streets that the document they had studied and accepted and had tendered in for debate on the floor of the House was fraudulent, because it was not signed? Did they not see that in the first place? We need to amend our laws, yes, we do.
Meanwhile, the NDC could exhibit how honest it is by protesting Presidents Rawlings and Mahama to force them to explain why they secretly sold our sovereignty to the US, and how much money they pocketed. This is what probity and accountability are all about.
Hon. Daniel Dugan