Politics

Accountability will suffer if Parliament is not financially independent – Research Analyst

The Speaker says Parliament is currently running on arrears because the Finance Ministry does not release funds for operations.

A research analyst with the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Godfred Boateng Asiamah, has reiterated the need for Parliament to be accorded some independence in the management of its financial affairs.

According to him, if Parliament is not able to independently manage its financial affairs, its oversight responsibilities will be compromised.

Speaking in an interview with Benjamin Akakpo on the AM News on Friday, Mr. Asiamah stressed that in order for Parliament to diligently carry out its function, it must be made financially independent.

“Parliament has some key mandates and some key responsibilities. They have oversight mandate. And sometimes, we see Parliament moving to the field to check, inspect projects and ask questions and come back and hold the Executive accountable.

So if Parliament does not have the resources at their disposal to do the basic and fundamental things that they’re supposed to do, then accountability suffers at the end. So I think this is something that all of us must come on board to discuss”, he explained.

Godfred Boateng Asiamah added that, “some state institutions need to be financially independent. Once we take that financial autonomy from them, then their work can even be undermined by the Executive. And that is something that I think going forward, we must be thinking about.

Some agencies are horizontal agencies of accountability who have some powers granted to them by the Constitution to hold the Executive accountable.

And so when the Executive has a lot of leverage in terms of deciding how and when they should receive their funds to do the work that they’re mandated by the Constitution of Ghana to do, then I think its something that’s challenging. We need to go back to that conversation about how to make Parliament a little bit financially independent in order for them to execute their mandate”.

Mr. Asiamah’s comments were in the wake of a recent complaint by the Speaker of Parliament, where he expressed his unhappiness about the lack of funds for Parliament to carry out its duties.

Speaking on the floor of Parliament on Thursday, Speaker Alban Bagbin protested the delay in the disbursement of funds to the House. According to him, Parliament is a distinct organ of government, and therefore it must be treated with respect and the needed priority.

In expressing his pleasure, Bagbin stressed that the status of Parliament cannot be compared to that of a Ministry or a District Assembly, and thus he will not tolerate any act that seeks to belittle Parliament.

Accountability will suffer if Parliament is not financially independent - Research Analyst
Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin chairing Parliament proceedings on January 25, 2022.

Reacting to these concerns by the Speaker on the AM Show on Monday, the Executive Director for the Africa Parliamentary Network, Sam Obeng, also expressed worry over reports that Parliament lacks funds to carry out its duties.

According to him, Parliament is an integral part of the country’s governance structure, therefore there is the need for the Legislature to be adequately resourced for the execution of its mandate.

He noted that the lack of funds for Parliament to run its affairs, can derail its work and hamper its effectiveness.

“If Parliament has a challenge with resources to be able to do its work effectively, that is really a very big problem. Parliaments the world over require resources to be able to do their work effectively and we have been talking about the independence of Parliament.

If Parliament will be independent, if Parliament will be able to assert as a co-equal branch of government, that will have to do the work that it has to do through making laws, overseeing the executive branch and also representing the people, then it must be adequately resourced”, he said.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament has directed the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, to appear before the House. Alban Bagbin wants the Minister to provide a detailed breakdown of all monies approved for spending during the Covid-19 pandemic.

His directive came after the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Kweku Kwarteng moved the motion for the approval of €75 million for the Covid-19 health response project.

However, the Minority in Parliament resisted the motion, throwing the House into a state of disagreement. The Speaker, after listening to the MPs directed the Finance Minister to account for the Covid-19 expenditure.

He insisted that until that is done, the approval of the loan would be suspended.

 “So I will complete my submission by directing that the Finance Minister should appear before this House and account for all the monies that have been approved for the utilisation of Covid-19 management.

It is only then that this motion would be expressed on the floor again to approve or disapprove,” he said.

According to Bagbin, the legislative arm of government wields the power to make the Executive accountable, therefore, his order is in line with making government accountable to the people.


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