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Rise above partisanship: Opare-Ansah urges MPs

BY: Albert K. Salia
Mr Frederick Opare-Ansah —  Former MP for Suhum
Mr Frederick Opare-Ansah — Former MP for Suhum

A former New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Suhum, Mr Frederick Opare-Ansah, has asked Parliament to rise above the partisan differences and work collectively for the interest of the people.

According to him, the role of Parliament was to check the government on behalf of the people so that the government did not always have its way on what it wanted.

“And this Parliament is woefully failing because it has become so partisan,” he stated in an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday.

“I will say they (parliamentarians) are failing. I have been an MP for 16 years and I have seen a number of bills come in as proposals and I have seen what Parliament did.

Lost opportunity

Sharing his experiences as a former MP and Deputy Minister of Communications, Mr Opare-Ansah said Parliament, since the inception of the Fourth Republic, had been criticised for being a rubber stamp of the Executive “although I disagree.”

He said with the choice of Mr Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) everyone was expecting that it was an opportunity to take away the perception that Parliament was a rubber stamp.

“However, from what I see and where I sit, the Speaker seems to be doing the bidding of the opposition party. So for me, the opportunity to clean that image of Parliament is lost,” he stated.

He said he had, on a number of occasions, criticised the current Parliament, especially the current Speaker “in whom I am so disappointed by the way he has handled the affairs of the House”.

Mr Opare-Ansah said having being a member of the House “I have seen a lot of independent work; I have seen Parliament standing up to the wishes of government and changing things.”

Legislation

Mr Opare-Ansah said Parliament was also failing in its responsibility of legislating policies or Acts that would benefit the people.

Citing the E-Levy as an example, he said the President through the Minister of Finance made a proposal to Parliament.

The proposal, he explained, was the view of the government and it was the responsibility of Parliament to either amend portions of it or even change the rate.

“The work of Parliament is to scrutinise this bill and then make the necessary modifications that it thinks will inure to the benefit of the people.

According to Article 174, the imposition of tax is the responsibility of Parliament. So the President and his ministers bringing that bill is only a proposal,” he said.

Regrettably, he said, what he had heard from Parliament was some members of the House advance arguments on what they thought the E-Levy should do, including withdrawing and making amendments.

“No. Parliament in its wisdom must make the necessary changes and modifications and pass the bill,” he stated.

“It is not for the government to determine the rate of a tax or to impose the tax. The government brought a proposal, so if collectively Parliament thinks that it should go in a certain direction, and then it has to propose those amendments, so be it. I am yet to see any amendment tabled in Parliament to change the rate or modification of the tax. What proposals has it made to safeguard those transactions,” he queried.

Lotteries

Citing two examples, Mr Opare-Ansah said when the Lotteries Bill was presented in Parliament in 2005-2006, the government of former President John Agyekum Kufuor sought to monopolise lottery in the country so it was outlawing all private lotteries in the country.

He said after engaging the Association of Private Lotto Operators, Parliament came to the conclusion that “we will not allow the government to monopolise lotteries”.

“What was agreed upon was to allow the government to regulate the operations of lotteries. The government created the National Lottery Authority (NLA) to be a regulator,” he added.

Mr Opare-Ansah also cited changes to the National Cybersecurity Authority bill which asked the government to go to court to justify why they needed the records of individuals to safeguard the interest of the ordinary people.