By Maxwell Ofori
The research report released on Monday, this week, by the Political Science department of the University of Ghana, Legon, about the performance of Members of Parliament has incurred the displeasure of the legislators.
The Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, who is also the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who led the onslaught during the sitting of Parliament yesterday, described the survey report as a “threat to our survival.”
According to him, the report has been released at a time MP aspirants are lacing up their boots to contest incumbent MPs and that it could be used as judgment against them.
Haruna further argued that some people are already painting parliament as an ineffective institution and that the report has come to worsen the situation.
“The way we have been evaluated and the way judgement has been passed, we cannot interfere with their (UG) academic work. But they need to have a better understanding of who an MP is, what our responsibilities are, relative to it,” Haruna stated.
Portions of the survey tagged most MPs as non-performing, but the Minority Leader contended that, “without prejudice to their findings, Mr Speaker, we are not non-performing MPs. I am not, relative to Tamale South and I can say so for many of my colleagues.”
The Minority Leader was commenting on a report published by the Political Science department of University of Ghana, which captured among other things that, about 180 MPs may not retain their seats, due to poor performance.
It said some MPs do not visit their constituencies, whilst others do not engage well with constituents.
Referencing order 191 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu also called for the setting up of a special committee to engage the researchers on the modalities for the research and explain the findings to the committee.
Standing Order 191 allows the House to set up a special committee to investigate any matter of public interest. He acknowledged that there is confusion on the construction of roads and others by MPs, but University on Ghana should not lead this claim.
Also, commenting on the subject, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei Owusu held the view that the report raises the question of how they (MPs) were evaluated.
He said that all the commentaries that he had heard on the report suggested that the evaluation was not based on the constitutional responsibility of the MPs.
“Per this report and the subsequent discussion in the media, permit me to say that it is time members got involved in how they are evaluated. I am proposing that we engage them (researchers), agree on what will be the perimeters for evaluating Members of Parliament.
“Otherwise, if I spend all my time here as you (Rt Hon Speaker Oquaye) do and I’m evaluated on being absent from the constituency, where was I voted to work?” Joseph Osei Owusu quizzed.
He concluded his remarks by saying that MPs cannot stop anybody from evaluating them; as it is in their own interest and in the interest of the public, but the right thing must be done.
On his part, by way of ruling on the call to set up a special committee to meet with the researchers, the Speaker of the House, Rt Hon Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye, described as a sad mistake, if researchers concluded that an MP may lose the seat because he or she does not give freebies.
According to the Speaker, the work of the MP is clearly stated in the constitution, which does not include constructing roads and giving monies to constituents, but out of generosity, MPs may do so.
The Speaker advised researchers that they are the people who must help to correct the misconception about the roles of MPs, rather than contribute to the misconception.
“…And this is very important for our national development. Otherwise, they will be promoting an attrition rate that will not be in the interest of this country,” the Speaker said.
According to Prof Aaron Mike Oquaye, who is a former lecturer at the Political Science department of the University of Ghana, an MP who is assessed without his or her work at committee, cannot be said to have been properly assessed.
“… Therefore, you need to know the person’s contribution at committees because the committee is the workshop of Parliament; well established throughout the world. That is where we do the nitty-gritty before we come to Plenary and we should all understand these and make them part of our assessments.
“I would not want anybody to say that MPs and the Speaker don’t want them to be assessed. But assessment – one- methodology, two -the areas for assessment. If you don’t get the subject areas for assessment right, then you cannot assess a person. In other words, what is he or she supposed to do and when you know what he or she is supposed to do in perfect harmony with the rules of the game, then you can assess him.
“But you cannot assess him or her over something that is not constitutional duty of that person. I will, therefore, invite that our doors are open. All those who want to carry out such exercises – please, it is not a matter that should be done in secrecy, it must be done openly.”
Following the comments from members, the House is expected to set up an Ad-Hoc committee to meet with the researchers.