Each passing day, this nation wails, moans and mourns about so many things, our roads, poor educational infrastructure, a dearth of good and healthy water for the majority of our people, unemployment among the teeming youth who have had the ?privilege? of being educated or trained for the job market but cannot find any job. There is also the teeming school dropouts without skills and yet the other group without any form of education at all whose future we cannot guarantee.
Homelessness is increasing by the day, street children are growing with increased population and the future becomes uncertain each passing hour.
Ghana is still whole because Ghanaians generally live on hope and have the belief that things would be better in the future. Greet the most suffering Ghanaian and ask him or her the state of affairs and the response would always be ?it shall be well?. On the basis of the hope for the future, the ordinary citizen of this country swallows the bitterest of pill in the hope that a brighter future, as those in leadership positions keep on assuring them, will one day come. Over the years and in recent years in particular, the hope for better living conditions has become a tantalizing mirage.
I am sure when this nation returned to democratic governance, majority of us heaved a sigh of relief in the sense that with the rule of law as the bedrock of the process, nobody was going to knock on anybody?s door in the cover of darkness and pick the person away without the knowledge of his kith and kin. By and large, this impunity by military dictators has been taken off our backs and no Ghanaian goes to bed with the fear that state agents would curtail their liberties without due process of the law. It must be stated however that freedoms and liberties cannot be defined narrowly as the absence of arbitrary arrests and detentions. Freedoms and liberties broadly include the right to enjoy the good things of life without any hindrance, veiled or blatant.
Citizens have the right to decent work, access to social facilities, amenities and services that will empower them to improve their economic wellbeing and also contribute their quota to nation building. With coming into force of democratic system of governance, the key protection of the citizenry is premised on the fact that the separate arms of government would work independently and as a check on each arm to avoid arbitrariness but without compromising the national interest in the process. The 1992 Constitution, its weaknesses notwithstanding, explicitly protects the ordinary citizen of this country via the three arms of government.
Over the years, it seems that one particular arm of government, the Executive, has coerced one of the most potent arms with the oversight responsibility over its activities. Parliament, which is supposed to be the voice of the people, seems to have lost its voice over the Executive on very critical matters which impinge on the lives of the people every day. In recent times, it has become very obvious that the Executive has refused to tell the truth to the people of this country as regards basic social facilities which are being poorly delivered to us and Parliament which is supposed to extract answers from the Executive rather in docility whines and moans about Ministers refusing to appear before it to answer questions.
I am going to say what I want to say with the knowledge that Parliament can intimidate me by inviting me before the Privileges Committee. Well, I will be a happy man in jail for criticizing Parliament than to be in jail for stealing because of Parliament?s acquiescence or collaboration with the Executive to mismanage our resources and impoverish all of us. Our democracy today has become moneycratic democracy. Our Parliamentarians buy the votes of their constituents rather than be voted for. They go to Parliament and the first consideration is to recoup their campaign ?investments?.
Running an election even at the Parliamentary level is one of the most expensive things to do in the Fourth Republic. It is strange to see people who are not known to be averagely well to do doing everything including selling the little they have to go to Parliament, ostensibly to serve the interest of their constituents. When one hears a Member of Parliament shouting publicly in the interest of his or her constituents, then those constituents are at the wrong side of the law. So you can for example, hear the MP for Adentan, shouting in defence of some people in that constituency who have illegally taken over public property and the state has decided to take it back just as the MP for Tema East would shout in defence of people who have stolen our collective property in Tema.
The late Hawa Yakubu in 1993, as a Member of Parliament once described Parliament as useless even when she was an independent member of the august House. Today, one of the longest serving members of the House is accusing some members of the House of taking bribes. Each one of them is taking cover and portraying an angelic posture. As I said earlier, politics and competitive politics have become so expensive in this country today.
Aspirants from the same party contesting to be elected as Parliamentary candidates for an impending general elections, depending on the size of the delegates could spend as much as Gh?50,000.00 to pay for the votes of the delegates to win. Aspirants must be ready to buy refrigerators, TV sets, pay school fees and others too numerous to mention here. In many instances, the delegates vote for those who pay more and not for the person who can best represent their interest in Parliament. Having spent that amount of money for just the primaries, the candidate then goes ahead to look for equal amount or twice that amount to run the general elections.
So the minimum any person will spend to get to Parliament is conservatively Gh?100,000.00, he or she goes to Parliament, and is put on a Gross annual salary of Gh?84,000.00 as we are made to believe, what will be the sense in making that investment if there are no other ?incentives? which have now come to be known as bribes? They go to Parliament and their constituents never let them rest, funerals, weddings, school fees, hospital bills, add the rest. Come the next four years, they are out there buying votes again instead of being voted for.
One funny rationalization of the bribery and corruption in Parliament is that the Legislative arm of government is poorly resourced to enable committees to do their work efficiently. So if there is a body whose Bill is before the House and a Committee of the House which is supposed to discuss the Bill and bring its recommendations to the House has no money to do that job, the body which the Bill concerns can sponsor a Workshop and get the Committee to discuss the Bill. What will be the outcome of the Bill when the interested party foots the hotel, feeding and transport bills of members of the Committee? And perhaps pay them some ?inconvenience? allowances?
Parliament approves monies for the Executive, the Executive overspends by over GH?8,000,000,000 without Parliament?s approval. It comes back the next time to Parliament for money, Parliament does not question the previous unapproved expenditures, goes ahead to approve another chunk of money for wilful dissipation again, in spite of such deafening knowledge of criminality in the use of public funds. It turns round and takes bribes from some bodies because the Executive is not giving them money.
The other time, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) wrote for financial support from a private body whose financial dealings with the Government has been anything but honest. Should any Auditor-General?s report indicate a financial malfeasance with that body, what would be the position of PAC? Parliament should not forget that should there be any change of our system other than through the ballot box, it is Parliament that will cease to exist. If there is corruption in Parliament then this country is gone and gone for good.
Daavi, three shots, as usual, mahogany bitters I mean.