By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
I have written about our functionally toothless legislature in the past, and therefore have no intention of belaboring the same in this very brief write-up, which largely concerns the dictatorial decision by President John Mahama to unilaterally slash the parliamentary budget for the 2015 fiscal year, by a whopping 30-percent (See “Mahama Slashes Parliament’s Budget By 30%; MPs Furious” MyJoyOnline.com 12/22/14).
Ordinarily, I would have absolutely no qualms, whatsoever, in unreservedly lauding what clearly appears to be quite a bold attempt at fiscal discipline. Already, as we all know, the country has been in dire economic straits for sometime now; and even as I write, the Mahama-led government of the National Democraic Congress (NDC) has been desperately negotiating with the IMF-World Bank for a bailout, which the Ghanaian leader blandly claims would be the last of such S-O-S calls to the Bretton-Wood institutions.
The irony here, however, is the fact that at the same time that the President is slashing Parliament’s 2015 budget by a whopping one-third, the Presidency, which is another politically imperious term for Mr. Mahama himself, has been widely reported to have overspent its budgetary allocation for the current fiscal year by nearly 100-percent or more, if memory serves yours truly accurately. If the foregoing report has validity, then it well appears that our rather profligate Head-of-State is gratuitously scapegoating the very institution and membership of our National Assembly for his own fiscal lack of discipline. And this inexcusable posture ought to be roundly condemned.
In other words, it is rather the Presidency that ought to be slashing its budget and learning to live within its means, and not the other way around. But what amuses me in quite an annoying way, is the alleged decision by the Speaker of the House, Mr. Edward Doe Adjaho, and the Parliamentary Majority Leader, Mr. Alban S. K. Bagbin, to save the President the utter embarrassment of a parliamentary veto, by promising their fellow members and associates that they intend to take up the issue sometime in the coming year, during the mid-year reading of the supplemantary budget.
Earlier, Messrs. Matthew Opoku-Prempeh and K. T. Hammond, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament for Manhyia-South and Adansi Asokwa, respectively, had led the charge for the round, or outright, rejection of the President’s budget slash, only to be cynically cajoled into submission by the parliamentary majority. I have repeated time without number that as long as parliamentary conduct and proceedings are guided by skewed partisan lenses, rather than conscientious leadership in the mode of statesmanship, our parliamentary culture is destined to totter on the brink of the theatrically absurd and farcical.
Now, let’s get one thing clear here: I am no staunch supporter of parliamentary culture in the expediently opportunistic and lurid manner in which it is presently practiced in Ghana. Whatever support I choose to offer the system is more as a matter of principle. I don’t, for instance, side with the decidedly jaded idea of pumping millions of cedis into renovation and expansion work on the nauseatingly “over-cosmeticized” Job-600 year in and year out. By now, it ought to be quite obvious that an entirely new Annex-Complex of Job-600 has to be constructed elsewhere not very far from the location of the original one.
To be certain, cyber-technology has so effectively nullified spatial distance that it wouldn’t really matter whether a Job-600 Annex-Complex were constructed in Tema or Tamale. In other words, far more innovative and creative thinking is required of them here than our parliamentarians seem to be either willing or capable of serving us.
On the question of the recruitment of research assistants and support staff, whatever the latter category of para-parliamentary workers may be, Messrs. Adjaho and Bagbin had better tear off their partisan blinkers and have a prompt and serious sit-up with Mr. Mahama, if the institutional development of Parliament is to become a constructive and qualitative force to reckon with.