MPs Common Fund must be scraped – Okudzeto Ablakwa

Accra- Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, Member of Parliament (MP) of North Tongu Constituency has called for the abolishing of the MP’s Common Fund, a component of the District Assembly Common Fund (DACF) allocated to MPs.

He said electorates acknowledged the role of MPs as agents of development, however, the MPs Fund was woefully inadequate to undertake any significant project, yet the perception has always been that such funds could be used to address infrastructural challenges.

He said as a country it was time to have a discussion on whether MPs should be development agents or focus on their legislative duties, but most importantly there is a need to overhaul the entire constitution architecture and opt for strict separation of powers.

Mr Ablakwa made these remarks during a round-table on how voters select their legislators.

The round-table was organised by the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD – Ghana) on the theme: How do voters select legislators? A choice experiment in Ghana.

Initial results from a conjoint survey experiment conducted by Dr George Kwaku Ofosu, an Associate of CDD-Ghana, on how efforts by politicians to provide constituency services affect citizens’ vote choice and whether such effects vary by different types of voters (by gender and partisanship) and by the level of electoral competition in Ghana, was presented to set the pace for the discussions.

In a recent survey by the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, most potential voters expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of their MPs.

In response, the MPs believed that citizens do not have an appreciation of the work they do behind the scenes and are unable to rate them fairly.

Mr Ablakwa said there is the need for economic transformation and was of the view that low level of economic opportunities was driving constituents to make certain demands.

Dr Isaac Owusu Mensah, Senior Lecturer at the Political Science Department of University of Ghana, called for a change of mindset of both constituents and parliamentary candidates, saying candidates should not be promising so much as compared to available resources.

He said a major challenge MPs encountered was infrastructure demands, adding I am of the view that as much as we the electorates will expect the MPs to be able to do the legislative work well, promise within the confines of what you can do.

Dr Ofosu also recounted that his research revealed that Ghanaian voters were twice as much likely to vote for parliamentary candidates who provide infrastructural development than those who promise financial support to individuals.

According to the findings of the research, in competitive constituencies, such a promise works whether or not a candidate and the voter belong to the same party, whereas, in non-competitive constituencies, this pledge only influences voters who belong to the candidate’s party.

Dr Ofosu said the research showed that candidates who offered to attend or financially support social events, or helped deal with government bureaucracy or secure state employment were more likely to be voted for than those who did not.

Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, the Executive Director of CDD-Ghana, said such investigations by researchers would help improve Ghana’s democracy, as it contained certain ideas as to some constraints that are exposed and how they could be solved.

I do not think we should see citizens demanding development from MPs as something negative, I get the sense that some people are uncomfortable with that idea because it does not allow MPs to do their jobs, I disagree, he added.

Prof Prempeh said if it becomes clear that MPs could introduce legislation as one way of proposing a public solution to a public problem then it would be fair for citizens to give judgement.

Source: Ghana News Agency