Daily Graphic Editorials
Celebrating 30 years of parliamentary democracy
Without belabouring the point, the 1992 Constitution has given Parliament a huge oversight responsibility.
It has further given it enormous powers to carry out this responsibility.
As an oversight body, Parliament helps identify problems and policy challenges that require attention and assists in overcoming bureaucratic inertia.
Parliament is crucial to the achievement of good governance in the country.
As one of the key state institutions of democracy, it plays an important role in terms of legislation, oversight and representation.
Its representational role includes ensuring that the citizenry and other stakeholders have a voice at the national level and are, therefore, involved in national governance issues.
An important arm of the state, Parliament has a crucial role in promoting and protecting democracy and good governance, thereby establishing not only the necessary checks and balances but also developing norms and standards for institutions of democracy and governance.
The role and functions of Parliament in promoting and protecting democracy and good governance assume great significance today in view of the basic principles and assumptions associated with a strong democracy.
It, therefore, becomes a matter of concern when there is the slightest indication that Parliament’s effectiveness is being undermined by certain actions or inaction of the Executive.
Since the return to constitutional rule, many Ghanaians, civil society organisations and the country’s development partners have been anticipating the assertiveness and independence of our organs of state, be it the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary, as well as the media and other constitutional bodies such as the Electoral Commission.
In all of these, Parliament’s oversight responsibility over the other institutions especially the Executive has been highly anticipated and of concern to all.
This is because as representatives of the people, Parliament is expected to make laws that will be of benefit to the people and ensure that state institutions undertake their duties effectively without the overbearing hand of any other institution.
But can this be said of our Parliament in the past 30 years?
Many have expressed divergent views on the performance of Parliament from being a rubber stamp of the Executive and appendages of political parties rather than representing interests of their constituents and the nation.
These are issues that need to be subjected to a thorough debate and appropriate solutions found.
It should sit in tandem with the current debates for an amendment or a total review of the 1992 Constitution.
Fortunately, on February 22, 2023, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, launched a year-long anniversary celebration of 30 years of Ghana’s Parliament.
It is on the theme: "Thirty years of Parliamentary democracy under the Fourth Republic: The journey thus far."
Already, there are proposals for the review of Parliament, with some calling for a sealing on the number of Members of Parliament (MPs); the appointment of parliamentarians as ministers and chairpersons to boards of state institutions, and for the Speaker to be an elected MP.
Generally speaking, the argument for a review of Parliament’s architecture is to make it more effective and ensure that it carries out its functions of scrutiny, oversight and consensus building to safeguard the country's democracy.
Indeed, many saw the current Eighth Parliament as an opportunity for the House to be more poignant in the discharge of its functions.
But right from the election of the Speaker; the debate on the E-Levy; motion of censure for the removal of the Finance Minister, we had more brawl than proper dispassionate debates on issues.
The Daily Graphic believes that this cannot and should not be allowed to continue if Parliament wants to earn the respect of Ghanaians.
Our Parliament will be worth its weight in gold if the MPs leaned more towards independence of thought rather than towards their political parties and the Executive.
Ghanaians also expect them to focus more on enacting laws, scrutinising agreements and holding state institutions to account.
In fact, the former Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, in December last year, said Parliament needed to accept some blame and responsibility for not keeping the Executive in check, including excessive borrowing, which is also a cause of the economic crisis the country finds itself now.
And as he put it, when the oversight function is not carried out, "Parliament’s role as the defender of the people's interest is lost."
Indeed, it is heartwarming that since the return to democratic governance in 1993, Ghana has had eight successive elections and four government changeovers between the two major political parties the ruling New Patriotic Party and the National Democratic Congress.
As a multiparty democracy, we can look at strengthening our political parties on the ground so that they become effective alternative voices to enhancing our democracy.
We believe that the duty of parliamentarians to represent and satisfy the interests of constituents, national and partisan interests should not be limited to only the partisan interests of their political parties.
Failure to protect and satisfy the interests of the nation and constituents means our MPs have failed in the discharge of their duties.
We congratulate Parliament on its 30 years of existence since the return to constitutional rule.
We hasten to add that there is more room for improvement in our legislature.