parliament
parliament

The building block of every democratic process is the parliamentary system. This system provides the room for fair representation of the views of Ghanaians on the discourse of matters affecting the nation.

parliament
parliament
Their work as parliamentarians makes the democratic process wholesome and the ordinary Ghanaian more involved in the administration of the country. Parliamentary absenteeism is a serious hindrance to the discharge of duties by a body contracted by the constitution to make laws for and on behalf of the people.

Article 97 Clause 1(C ) of the 1992 constitution stipulates that a members of Parliament will have to vacate their seat if the parliamentarian in question fails to write a permission to the speaker of the house and when he or she is unable to offer reasonable explanation to the parliamentary committee on privileges for his absence during fifteen sittings of parliament.

More than once members of parliament had to be sent home because the House did not form the needed quorum to help them sit and debate issues of national importance. On February 22nd, 2013 the then Speaker of the House, Rt Hon. Joyce Bamford Addo had to send parliamentarians home since attendance for that sitting was not only poor but very abysmal.

This resulted in the House not being able to debate not to talk of even passing the Petroleum Revenue Management Bill till the next sitting. This is just one of several litmus tests which has proven that, parliamentary absenteeism has caused the country to delay the passage of certain bills and overall a financial loss to the state if we want to look at the bigger picture of the logistics involved in calling a sitting for Parliament.

It must be emphasized that, parliamentary activities do not consume all the time of parliamentarians. Because per the dictates of the House there is a flexible system which creates more than enough space for parliamentarians to perform other responsibilities assigned to them or duties they themselves wish to perform. Members of parliament are expected to attend their first sittings between January to March, Second Sitting between May and mid-July and the third sitting which is also the final sitting between October and December.

Clearly the work of parliamentarians cannot become an albatross around the neck of the men and women, who on their own volition have decided to serve Ghana. What excuse then should we accept or can they give for their continuous absence from the labour room for all laws in Ghana.

What the Numbers Reveal ? Constitutional Breach?
In research conducted by Odekro on parliamentarian attendance using open data from Parliament between January 2013 and July 2014, interesting revelations were made about absenteeism in a body we call the second arm of government. The research revealed in plain figures, shocking possible constitutional breach by Parliamentarians who we expect to know better and to be the main proponents, making a case for us to uphold the letter and spirit of the 4th Republican constitution.

The very constitution which gives them the power and functions based on which we all addressed them as honourables. The research by Lolan Sagoe Moses of Odekro (an organization whose aim is to promote transparency, provide online access to public records and empower citizens to keep an eye on public officials, especially parliament) showed that the average Member of Parliament missed 24% of sitting days.

The research showed that Hon Clement Kofi Humado, MP for Anlo, and Hon. Akwesi Oppong-Fosu MP for Amenfi East only attended parliament for 44 days out of 158 days closely followed by Hon. Evans Paul Addo MP for Sefwi-Wiaso, Honourable Hannah Tetteh, MP for Awutu- Senya West, Hon. Eric Opoku, MP for Asunafo South were all at Parliament for 46, 47 and 52 days out of 158 days respectively. They have successfully earned the badge of being the 5 most absent members of Parliament between January 2013 and July 2014. The report raises grounds for one to suggest some constitutional breaches by the second arm of government.

This is evident in a portion which points out 6 members of parliament who may have flouted Article 97 Clause 1 ( C ) of the Constitution. Hon. Wahab Wumbei Suhuyini, MP for Tolon, Hon Alijata Sulemana, MP for Sissala East, Hon Nii Oakley Quaye Kumah MP for Krowor, Hon Nana Amoakoh, MP for Upper Denkyira East and Hon. Emmanuel Brown Opam Akolbire MP for Bolgtanga Central are the members of parliament likely to vacate their seats if Article 97 Clause 1 (c ) should be unleashed since they all missed parliamentary sittings for 15 times or more between January 2013 and July 2014.

The research therefore begs for answers to these questions: whether or not Article 97 Clause 1 ( C ) was ever evoked ?, whether these MP?s provided timely explanations to the privileges for their absence among several other very important questions with the aim of assessing the performance of parliament.

Beyond Attendance
Even a child in primary school holds the view that parliamentary works goes beyond just attending parliamentary sittings. Attendance is just a prerequisite to good parliamentary work. Your worth as a parliamentarian is evaluated by the kind of submissions you are able to make on the floor of the House. One core duty of members of parliament is to hold the executive accountable in the performance of their duties as State officials.

Again in the discharge of this duty, some members of parliament have failed to leave up to expectations, making one wonder if parliament to a larger extent is performing its duties. Do MPs only take delight in summoning people to the House over contempt of their House, especially when they have failed to check the executives on how they run the affairs of the country.

Because based on the research and data available, for close to a period of two years, only 48 members of the house out of the 275 members , which is 17.45% of the entire house, questioned ministers on the floor of the house with regards to how they are delivering in their various sector. Aside this the information from the research available suggests that members of parliament failed to questioned sector ministers on the SADA scandal-a practice which casts huge dark clouds and a serious indictment on the commitment of the house to promote transparency, accountability and to prevent mismanagement of the country?s resources.

The bottom line is that not only have some members of parliament failed to show up when the House needed them. But they have failed in using a power conferred on them by the constitution to question ministers. We must once again revisit the school of thought on whether or not members of parliament should also be ministers. Especially when the research showed that majority of them were caught in the web of not attending parliamentary sittings. It is paramount to add that the research shares a similar view on the need for us to appoint Ministers who are not members of parliament.

The Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon Edward Doe ? Adjaho must also be reminded to put to action a statement he made in December 2013, when he said that the house will not approve budgetary estimates of ministries whose political heads (Ministers) fail to show up in parliament. Such measures if implemented will at least ensure that parliamentary business is taken serious by the people we elect to represent us.

However the boat has not sunk yet in terms of parliamentary absenteeism and the ability to query matters brought before the floor of the House. Hon. Justice Joe Appiah, MP for Ablekuma North and Hon. Nelson Abudu Baani, MP Daboya/Mankarigu have been regular at the House of parliament earning 158 out of 158 on the attendance sheet between 2013 and July 2014. Joining them are Christian Chorletey Otuteye, MP for Sege, Hon. Frank Boakye Agyen MP for Effiduase Asokore and Kwame Seth Acheampong, MP for Mpraeso scored 157, 155 and 154 out of 158 days on the attendance sheet.

By Nathaniel Alpha

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