Tuesday, June 2, 2009

CDD objects to appointment of MPs to Boards

The Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), on Monday expressed grave concern regarding the appointment of several Members of Parliament, to chair or serve as members on boards and governing councils of state agencies and corporations and called on President John Evans Atta Mills, to reconsider his decision. In a statement signed by Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director, it said it was the Centre's long-held view that such appointments undermined current efforts to promote good governance and consolidate democracy in Ghana."In particular, the practice whereby Presidents appoint MPs, including some members of the Parliamentary Leadership, to extra-parliamentary quasi Executive-positions is harmful to the already weak system of checks and balances, that underpins Ghana's constitutional democracy," it said.The statement said this action by President John Evans Atta Mils, which followed precedents established as far back as the early years of the nation's history and carried on through the Fourth Republic, reinforced the dominance and influence of the Executive arm of government over the Legislature."This is against the backdrop of the constitutional requirement mandating the President to appoint majority of his ministers from within Parliament."It said past administrations in the Fourth Republic as well as constitutional experts and peer reviewers had had occasion to reflect on this aspect of the Constitution, (including the African Peer Review Mechanism), noted the deleterious effect that this provision had had on the prospects for building a strong and effective Parliament in Ghana. It said CDD-Ghana shared the publicly expressed concern of the President and some MPs about the need to strengthen the independence of Parliament and ensure appropriate separation of the functions between the Executive the Legislature.CDD-Ghana said these cross-branch appointments deepened the perception that Parliament and especially ruling-party MPs existed to serve the interest of the Executive, rather than serve as a counter-check on the Executive."The appointment of MPs to state boards and governing councils, with some of them serving as chairs, runs contrary to the prospect of enhancing the autonomy of the Legislative Branch of Government and creates another unnecessary layer of executive -legislature fusion." CDD said such cross-branch appointments also weakened the already feeble systems of public accountability and integrity and impeded the country's progress towards good governance and democratic consolidation. It said when MPs became dependent on the patronage of the President for remunerative board appointments they lost the independence and objectivity they were expected to bring to the important duty of exercising appropriate oversight over these same agencies, corporations, and boards within the Executive branch.CDD said instead of drawing sitting allowances as chairpersons or members of public corporate boards and agencies, the proper role of MPs was to make use of parliamentary committees and the powers of Parliament to investigate abuses and failures in state organisations such as Shell in order to ensure the appropriate and timely follow-ups on the findings of the Auditor-General's reports concerning these organisations. "Coupled with the prevailing strong party whip system in our Parliament, the effect of these cross-branch appointments of MPs can only lead to a further weakening of parliamentary oversight and checks on Executive power and behaviour, as well as intensify partisan opportunism in the conduct of parliamentary business."Moreover, such appointments entrench the deeply troubling problem of conflicts of interest in our national political culture." CDD said the best way to manage and ameliorate this national crisis of conflict of interest was to avoid the conflict completely. "We note that unlike the appointment of MPs as Ministers, the President is not constitutionally required or authorised to appoint MPs to serve in any other extra-parliamentary capacity. It is one thing for a President to appoint MPs as Ministers out of obedience to the letter of the Constitution; it is, however, another thing altogether for a President, acting without any constitutional command, to co-opt MPs to serve on boards of state corporations and agencies."In the same vein, the Centre calls upon our Honourable MPs to pass up this offer," it said, adding that the fact that such cross-branch appointments followed a long-established tradition did not make them right or appropriate to the needs of our times or the demands of good governance."Indeed a commitment to 'Change' must mean a commitment to undo and abandon those practices and habits from the past that undermine, rather than advance, the cause of good governance and democratic accountability."

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