The Member of Parliament (MP) for Suhum in the Eastern Region, Mr Frederick Opare–Ansah, has refuted claims by certain people that the country's legislature is a rubber stamp which merely does the bidding of the Executive branch of the government.
He also denied assertions from certain quarters that MPs had an unflinching allegiance to their political parties to the detriment of the interest of their constituents.
Rather, Mr Opare–Ansah said MPs made informed inputs into bills before they were passed and also scrutinised the government's initiatives to ensure the passage of good policies.
“I do not think one is justified in saying that our Parliament is a rubber stamp. This is my fourth term as an MP and I don’t think I’m a rubber stamp,” he said.
The legislator was speaking to the Daily Graphic during a training programme for MPs from the country’s Parliament and the ECOWAS Parliament in Accra on monday.
The three-day programme is meant to equip the MPs and the supporting staff of Parliament with the requisite skills for generating evidence that will enhance the oversight function of Parliament.
It will focus on data collection, data analysis, monitoring and evaluation and also how MPs can speak to facts during contributions on the floor of Parliament to help them make more meaningful contributions.
The event was organised by the Centre for Learning on Evaluation and Results (CLEAR) of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), with support from the World Bank.
Participants in the training programme
Rubber stamp debate
Critics have accused MPs of always supporting the stance of their political parties — either the ruling or the opposition parties.
That, critics say, has made Parliament a weak institution which has failed to effectively execute its mandate of putting the Executive arm of the government in check as required by law.
In his response, Mr Opare-Ansah, who is also a member of the ECOWAS Parliament, said such criticisms were far-fetched because people did not understand or had failed to appreciate the work of the legislators.
He gave many instances in which he said MPs defied the wishes of their political parties and took a different stance on a bill or certain appointments.
For example, he said, MPs defied the wishes of the government and made significant changes to the National Lotto Bill in 2006 before it was passed into law.
“The bill that the Executive was envisaging was the creation of a monopoly where only the government had the power to operate any form of lottery in the country. What we did was to convert the NLA into a regulatory body and allow other lotto marketing companies to come under the NLA to be able to sell their lotto products. This was far from what the Executive wanted,” he said.
He gave another instance where Parliament added a component of youth employment to the Communications Service Tax Law.
“I remember Mr Inusah Fuseini was the one who made the proposal and we accepted it,” he said.
Mr Opare-Ansah gave another instance where he filed an amendment for a 12-month delay in the implementation of the Right to Information Bill to allow the government to put the right infrastructure in place for a successful implementation.
To further improve the work of Parliament, Mr Opare–Ansah said there was therefore the need for the committees of Parliament to be strengthened since bills were discussed at the committee level before they ended up on the floor of the House.
He said MPs who were also Ministers should be excluded from Select Committees since those MPs were part of the policy formulation process in the Executive.
“Such MPs can be part of the Standing Committees and not the Select Committees which normally work on bills in Parliament.
The NDC MP for Anlo in the Volta Region, Mr Clement Kofi Humado, also said the strengthening of the committees of Parliament was the best way to ensure that Parliament discharged its mandate effectively.