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Parliament tops 13 West African countries in openness, accountability

BY: Vincent Amenuveve & Jemima Okang Addae
Joseph Osei-Owusu, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, speaking at the launch of the African Open Parliament Index Report. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo
Joseph Osei-Owusu, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, speaking at the launch of the African Open Parliament Index Report. Picture: Maxwell Ocloo

Ghana’s Parliament topped 13 parliaments in West Africa in the maiden African Open Parliament Index (OPI) report.

With an overall score of 63.03 per cent based on three indicators of Open Parliament — transparency, civic participation and public accountability, the country beat its closest rival Cape Verde, which scored 61.86 per cent and Sierra Leone, that scored 57.97 per cent.

According to the report launched in Accra, Ghana scored lowest on public accountability with 14.32 per cent out of 30 per cent while it scored highest in the transparency category with 27.71 per cent out of the 35 per cent allotted to that category. It scored 21 per cent for civic participation out of 35 per cent total scores for that area.

Context

The OPI is a mechanism put in place to assess Parliaments across Africa using the three criteria of Open Parliament: Transparency; Civic Participation and Public Accountability.

This criterion has been chosen considering the standards of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the Principles of Parliamentary Openness and the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s (IPU) Indicators for Democratic Parliaments.

Other countries

At the bottom three are Togo with an overall score of 36.28 per cent, Liberia with an overall score of 33.65 per cent and lastly Guinea Bissau with 22.36 per cent as the overall score.

The rest of the countries that were assessed were Nigeria fourth, with a score of 49.21 per cent, Benin fifth with 45.32 per cent, and The Gambia sixth with 45.03 per cent.

The others are Cote d'Ivoire, seventh with 43.86 per cent score, Burkina Faso eighth with 42.69 per cent as the score.
Senegal and Niger both placed ninth and 10th respectively with a score of 41.24 per cent and 37.15 per cent.

Presentation

Giving highlights of the report at the event, the Executive Director of Parliamentary Network Africa (PN Africa), Sammy Obeng, observed that the OPI would enable civil society to work together with national and regional parliaments to identify systemic challenges to achieving parliamentary openness and create reforms to enhance openness.

“The Index would also measure the level of openness across two regional legislative bodies — the ECOWAS and Pan-African Parliaments — however, they will not be ranked together with the national parliaments," he noted.

Ghana's Parliament

In a speech read on his behalf by the first Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, noted that “the public was losing faith in the legislature and politicians as their interests were being sacrificed for personal gains”.

He said the OPI report would challenge African Parliaments to respond to the collective call and aspirations of the people.

Mr Bagbin said the institutionalisation of the public hearings of the Public Account Committee (PAC) had brought progress in Parliament’s accountability and oversight responsibilities.

“Parliament is unique in being the only institution with a political mandate from the people to monitor the management of the state by the government,” he added.

Engage citizenry

The National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, urged PNAfrica and its partners to engage the people on the ground to incorporate their views into the report.