The Speaker of the eighth Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsfor Bagbin, has commended current Members of Parliament for standing their grounds on the executive oversight.
According to him, members have at times rejected loan requests for various reasons, including lack of accountability, unsustainable debt levels and lack of a quorum. A good example, he said, was the rejection of a €116m budget for the redevelopment of the Accra International Conference Centre, among others, during the 2023 budget adoption process”.
Speaker Bagbin, who was speaking at the 2024 Post-Budget workshop in Accra, last week Friday, however, regretted that “despite these glimmers of hope, Parliament has often failed to withstand the executive’s powers over national decisions, often to the detriment of Ghanaians’ welfare.
“The first failure occurred during the vetting of ministers for the second term (2021-24) of the incumbent government. Minority members on the Vetting Committee rejected three ministerial nominees – who they said had underperformed in their first term – and deferred five others’ approval until they reappeared before the committee for further questioning. Ultimately, both the rejected and deferred nominees were approved at the plenary after some minority Members of Parliament (MPs) voted to support them.
“The second major failure involved the introduction of the electronic transaction levy (E-levy) in the 2022 budget. The levy proposed a 1.75% tax on electronic transactions above GHS100. Over 75% of Ghanaians disapproved of the tariff.
The minority in Parliament, with the overwhelming support of civil society and the general public, opposed the levy and assured Ghanaians it wouldn’t be passed. As a result, for the first time in the Fourth Republic, the 2022 budget was initially rejected by Parliament.
“However, the majority subsequently overturned the rejection and approved the budget, along with the unpopular E-levy. After a minority walk-out, the levy was reduced to 1.5% (although it has now been revised to 1%). The decision to walk out was widely criticised by the public, who hoped the minority would use its proportionate clout to fight to the end,” he said.
Bagbin believes that when democratic institutions like Parliament are strengthened, the citizen benefits and, therefore, urged the lawmakers to be up and doing with their legislative functions, as well change their attitude.
Kingsford Bagbin also told the country’s lawmakers that the public’s trust in them and that of the legislature was waning at a very alarming rate and admonished them to have a renewed set of minds that will reflect positively on the House.
His concern was well captured in the 2022 Afrobarometer Round 9 survey report, which was compiled by the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD).
In the said report, 42.3% of the public don’t trust Parliament at all, whilst 30.0% have a little trust, with 19.4% having somewhat trust in the country’s legislature.
Only 8.1% out of the 2,400 adult respondents in the survey, which was conducted from April 4 to 20, 2023 had trust in the Parliament of Ghana, compared to 14% of trust in the presidency and 10% in the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana and the courts respectively.
According to the Speaker, the percentage of the public’s trust in the legislature was worrying, stressing that now is the time to change their attitude in order to make amends.
“Hon. Members, according to the Afrobarometer survey report (Round 9) conducted in July 2022, whilst the demand for democracy in Ghana remains high, the supply side is problematic. There is an indication of trust deficit in democratic institutions in Ghana.
“What else do we expect when we, as politicians, say one thing to the citizens and do a completely different thing?” he quizzed.
He added, “Hon Members, clearly we must change our minds, our attitudes and the ways we conduct ourselves and our business. If you are not worried about the rating, I am really distressed. I know it is a global phenomenon but is it for better or for worse. Let’s all ponder over it, for I will be calling on the House soon to take a decisive step towards reclaiming the trust of the voter”.
The finding of the CDD, which has since become a worry to the Speaker of Parliament is not the first in recent times.
In January 2023, the Institute for Security Studies also published a paper to express its displeasure in the 8th Parliament for failing to meet the expectations of the public, despite having a split or hang House.
By Stephen Odoi-Larbi