A repeat call for a part-time legislature

Posted by By at 15 April, at 12 : 58 PM Print

A repeat call for a part-time legislature
ghana parliament

ghana parliament

A repeat call for a part-time legislature


Predictably, the news that the government has released money to pay ex-gratia to parliamentarians was greeted with outrage by Ghanaians.

The timing alone shows gross dis-respect to the good people of Ghana.

At a time when citizens endure paltry electricity and water supply, it is nadir of insensitivity for our ruling elite to keep doling our money to themselves.

At a time that about four to five public sector workers are either on strike or agitating to go on strike, it is callous of our governors to even think of paying themselves whopping amount as ex-gratia.

I felt totally galled as I listened to some of our MPs making utterly imbecilic justifications.

Why do our ruling elite simply lack the compassion to endure with us the hardship they wrought on the rest of us.

At a time when we see US President Obama cutting his salary by 5% to empathise with the economic hardship his compatriots face, it’s unconscionable to see our MPs frothing at their mouths and talk about their ‘entitlements,’ in their contemptible attempts to justify their outrageous pay-check.

The big question here is: How on earth do we end up paying MPs ex-gratia every four years?

Even MPs that win back their seats are also entitled to receiving end-of-service allowances!

How on earth do MPs come out to justify receiving from us GHC200, 000 as ex-gratia after only four years of very dubious work?

What work exactly did these so-called honorable did that qualified them for end of work pension?

Many of them just decorated the chambers throughout their stay.

Given the parlous state of our economy and the whopping leakages we see in our extra-budgetary expenditure, these MPs terribly shirked their responsibilities to oversee our national financial affairs.

It was the late inimitable Nigerian musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti who said it all when he said that: “Authority Stealing pass armed robbery.”

I went through my notes and discovered that just last year, I wrote a piece that called for our adopting a part-time legislature.

This is what I wrote in “A call for part-time legislature“:

Readers will bear me out when I say that this column has done its best in chronicling some of the shortcomings we all see around us in this country of ours.

Where possible, we have also proffered ideas and suggestions on how we think that we could move things forward.

As we have often said: it is the sad duty of writers to chronicle the ills of their society.

It is onerous task that, at times, overwhelm both body and soul.

This is most especially so in societies such like ours where, it appears, we take one small step forward, and twenty giant steps backward.

Writers are also humans; they face the same problem like everyone else. Yet, they must keep fighting what, at times, looks and feels like hopeless, losing battle!

When it appears that we can no longer be dazed by the hanky-panky of our governors – they are governing us all right, then comes along something that dwarfs all the silly and stupid pains they have inflicted on us.

God knows that we do our best to make life comfortable, very comfortable for our governors.

We are a poor country that relies on ‘donor’ support for a big chunk of our budget, but that has not stopped us from maintaining an imperial presidency.

Even though many (I don’t know if it is most) of our people are impoverished beyond description, we continue to make our officials live lives that will make our former colonial masters envious.

For example, we give free accommodation, free cars, and free fuel to all our ministers. They also get other freebies like free telephone calls.

It should be said that Ministers in most of the countries that ‘give’ us money live in their own house, buy and fuel their own vehicles.

Sadly, despite all the best that we do for them, our leaders continue to treat us with contempt. Actually, contempt is not strong enough word, but let’s settle for that.

We are poor and HIPCed (Highly Indebted and Poor Country) but we still do our utmost best to cater for the well-beings of our rulers.

Whilst the British Prime Minister travels on commercial flight, we do our best to buy a jet (or is it two?) for our president.

And please don’t ask me why a country that lacks a national airline even thought of buying jets for its president.

We borrowed money from the Indians to build a presidential palace befitting our status as the (what to say here?) Gateway to Africa (don’t laugh).

Ok, the whole edifice is an eyesore and is already falling apart, but we did our best.

Our president should have taken up residence there but for the silly oversight of our officials who didn’t noticed in time that it was not up to par, presidential par, that is.

Our security-unconscious officials approved the building of a presidential palace next to the French Embassy, so that the Frogs can listen to the most intimate of conversation of our Chief Executive, ah!

Of course, the officials still get paid despite their stupidity.

We took it all in great stride; complaining loudly is not in our nature.

Almost all our top officials now tools around town in expensive four-wheel jeeps that consume petrol like there is no tomorrow.

But why should they care; they are not paying for the petrol – we are!

And to ensure that they are not inconvenienced by the hardships that is our daily grind, our top officials zoom past us in siren-blaring convoy, leaving us, the hoi-poloi, to roast in the African sun.

Even our top policeman, the Inspector General of Police who receive salary to, among others things, ensure the free flow of traffic on our roads, now go around with a siren blaring dispatch rider.

Don’t ask me whether or not the man is simply beyond irony.

That is the situation in our land. All animals are not equal and the big fish thinks that it its birthright to oppress the small fish.

We, the people, take it all in stride. We continue to wallow in our largely self-induced poverty. We continue to praise our gods for their infinite blessings, even as we wallow in conditions that would be deemed unacceptable for pigs in some countries. We continue to love our women and bring forth our children in conditions that would shame savages. We continue to shout our hallelujahs as we sleep in darkness and continue to drink from dirty streams.

One of the very first acts of President John Atta Mills on assumption of office was to raise the car loan allowance of our MPs to US$50,000.

The good professor did this with the hope that the MPs, so well remunerated, will work hard to help solve some of the country’s developmental problems.

For a country of some twenty four million people, we had two hundred MPs. This was later increased to two hundred and thirty. Now with the addition of some forty-seven new constituencies, we will soon have close to 280 MPs.

Not bad at all for a country that struggles in every facet of life!

Of course, the new MPs have to be put on salaries and allowances. Each of them will also collect the US50,000 car loan.

They will also collect GHC50,000 as Housing Allowance even though most of them already own homes in our national capital, Accra which they could have used if they are truly interested in ‘serving’ their people as they so often claimed.

That ought not to be a problem if we see our MPs doing their best to help the country.

But alas, the truth is that our parliament is one big joke.

Rescue me if I’m wrong, but apart from debating loans from China, Korea and Brazil, what else occupy the time and attention of our honourables?

According to our constitution, the parliament has oversights over government expenditure; don’t we need to ask why our MPs why they fell asleep when our money was being doled out in dubious judgment debt?

If parliament is statutorily charged with looking after our government finances, where did the Executive arm of government find the money to play Father Christmas and pay huge sums in judgment debt ‘settlement’?

If our MPS had performed their duties, would we be saddled with all the cacophonous noises of ministries and department over-spending their budgets why mammoth amounts?

Did parliament approve of the money, if not, what is parliament doing about it?

What type of Banana Republic do we run when unelected bureaucrats can spend money not approved by parliament?

Why are heads not rolling – I meant literally?

It is not only the charge of dereliction of duty that our parliament is guilty of:

On Tuesday, July13th, 2012, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, adjourned sitting because most members of the House failed to show up.

There were only 40 MPs in the 230-member House.

An exasperated Mr. Adjaho, who could not hide his disappointment, expressed his dissatisfaction with conduct of the parliamentarians.

He was quoted as saying that “people who fight tooth and nail to win elections and come to Parliament must recognize that they owe their constituents ‘to attend upon this House to transact business of this House.’”

According to parliamentary sources, papers regarding some loans being contracted by the government were supposed to be laid before the House but the Finance Minister, Dr Kwabena Duffuor failed to turn up.

The Minority, contending that the deputy minister, Mr Seth Terkper, had just returned from a trip and had probably not even read the documents he was about to lay before the House, objected to his presenting the papers.

The Public Health Bill which is at the Third Reading stage and was expected to be passed was also put on hold, as both the Chairman of the Health Committee, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, and his deputy, Mr Wisdon Gidisu, were not even on the floor of the House to move the motion for the passage of the bill into law.

According to Order 48 of the Standing Orders of Parliament, at least one-third of MPs are required to form a quorum before decisions can be taken at the parliament.

There is no indication that our honourable MPs will not, at the end of the month, collect their salaries and allowance for work not done.

It is a crime neither you nor I can get away with, but very sadly there is absolutely anything any of us can do about it.

It is simply unconscionable that those that are supposed to make laws that govern our country should behave so immorally.

So what do I suggest we do?

I will repeat my call here that it is time we adopt a part-time legislative system.

We do not need full-time legislators; it is simply too expensive.

I suggest that we divide our twenty-four million population into 240 constituent parts, that means that each representative represent 100,000 people.

Let these 240 men and women be drawn from all the professions and let them sit for one to two months to consider all the legislations for one calendar year.

They get paid allowances for their sitting, after which they revert to their professions.

Yes, of course, this is not an original idea. The Chinese are using the system.

“The National People’s Congress is held in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing, capital of the People’s Republic of China; with 2,987 members, it is the largest parliament in the world. The NPC gathers each year along with the People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) whose members represent various defined groups of society. NPC and CPPCC together are often called the Lianghui (Two Meetings), making important national level political decisions.” – Wikipedia.

Aside from being the world’s manufacturing powerhouse, China is at the forefront in making breakthrough in science and technology. The country has just sent its first female astronaut into space. It has successfully started its own space-station project.

It makes absolutely no sense at all that whilst China, with its mammoth economy and currency reserves of some 3Trillion dollars, make do with part time legislature, whilst we with our beggarly economy continue to maintain a full-time legislature.

Here are some statistics:

China’s economy boast of a GDP of US6.98trillion; Ghana’s economy, even after much recalibration, is still a paltry US$35billion.

According to the ECONOMIST magazine, the Chinese economy will shoot past the US to become the world’s number one by the year 2020: http://www.economist.com/node/21528987

PS: Why do we see our MPs energetically defending constitutional provisions only when it has to do with their entitlements; why don’t we see them show some passion when it comes to other constitutional provisions that guaranteed us good education and health?


About the Author

Femi Akomolafe is a passionate Pan-Africanist. A columnist for the Accra-based Daily Dispatch newspaper and Correspondent for the New African magazine. Femi lives in both Europe and Africa, and writes regularly on Africa-related issues for various newspapers and magazines.

Femi was the producer of the FOCUS ON AFRICANS TV Interview programme for the MultiTV Station.

He is also the CEO of Alaye Dot Biz Limited Dot Biz, a Kasoa-based Multimedia organisation that specialises in Audio and Video Production. He loves to shoot and edit video documentaries.

His highly-acclaimed books (“Africa: Destroyed by the gods,” “Africa: It shall be well,” “18 African Fables & Moonlight Stories” and “Ghana: Basic Facts + More”) are now available for sales at the following bookshops/offices:

  1. Freedom Bookshop, near Apollo Theatre, Accra.
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Where to buy them online:

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Africa: it shall be well

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A FREE Chapter of ‘Africa: Destroyed by the gods’ could be downloaded here: http://alaye.biz/africa-destroyed-by-the-gods-free-chapter/

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Femi Akomolafe



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