STATEMENT DELIVERED BY DR. PAPA KWESI NDUOM ON THE REFORM AGENDA IN GHANA ON THURSDAY 29TH DECEMBER, 2016 AT THE PPP HEADQUARTERS, ASYLUMDOWN – ACCRA.
The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) was formed in 2012 largely as a reform movement with leaders who were determined to press for positive, fundamental change in the lives of Ghanaians. After four years of existence, the PPP has not won elections to produce a Member of Parliament or President, but has established itself as the up and coming alternative political party to the NDC and the NPP. After two elections in a row, 2012 and 2016, our party has placed third in presidential elections admitedly with fewer votes than we had expected. The PPP in 2016 also placed second in some parliamentary contests in four regions. We are here this morning to fulfill a pledge we made to the nation that we will not be a political party only during election years. We will stay active to push our change agenda and promote job creation. That is what we are here to do today.
During this Fourth Republic, it has become abundantly clear to us that Ghana cannot continue this “see-saw”, “forward then backward” growth and development. The only way out is to implement fundamental change to strengthen our foundation and provide springboard to ensure prosperity that is not limited to a few but one that spreads to the majority of citizens. Ghana must become more democratic, disciplined and decentralized.
B. NATIONAL IDENTIFICATION
An essential public policy decision occurred when Parliament passed into law, Act 707 which was given assent by the then President on 18 April 2006. This brought into being the National Identification Authority. According to the law, “The object of the authority is to create, maintain, provide and promote the use of national identity cards in order to advance economic, political and social activities in the country.” The PPP believes that the mandatory use of the resultant national identification number by all citizens from birth until death will help greatly to bring about greater discipline into all aspects of our national lives. All areas – banking, broadening the national revenue base, criminal justice, voters registration, etc. will benefit from the implementation of the national identification system. It is our understanding that a lot of work was done and progress made In this direction by the National Identification Authority. Therefore, we are asking the incoming Administration to provide adequate financial, human and technical equipment support so that this work can be completed by the end of 2017.
C. 1992 CONSTITUTION
Ghanaians have since January 7, 1993, chosen to run their nation under constitutional democracy. Despite Ghana’s high democratic credentials, it has yet to attain the status of good governance. Democracy is a social contract between the rulers and the ruled, but for good governance to exist, the government must exhibit transparency, responsiveness, accountability, consensus-building and effective and efficient State institutions. We believe that there are some aspects of the 1992 Constitution which has to change to reflect the urgent need for reform in our governance architecture. We acknowledge that we are not the only political party that has recognized the need for making changes to our Constitution. During the first term of the NPP’s Kufuor Administration, the promise of change to the Constitution was written into the first Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy. It did not happen. The late President John Atta Mills went a few steps further by appointing a Constitutional Review Commission in January 2010. This Commission travelled throughout the country, spent a good amount of rresources and documented the views of many Ghanaians. Indeed, I was one of the first people to make a written submission to the Commission. Unfortunately, we did not get the change we were looking for.
The PPP after the 2012 elections made changing the 1992 Constitution a national crusade – we went out in many parts of the country on demonstrations to create public awareness on this important matter. We submitted petitions to the Council of State, Parliament and President John Dramani Mahama. During the recent elections, this was the centerpiece of our campaign. We wish to rekindle our crusade for immediate and complete constitutional reforms to make our constitution a development oriented document that responds to the present and future challenges. We specifically would like to see that the following reforms are undertaken in the next 24 months.
1. Appointment of Majority of Ministers from Parliament
We are of the view that the current arrangement where Ministers of State or majority of Ministers of State must come from parliament does not support good governance and it must be changed. This arrangement as captured in article 78(1) that “Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament”, disables parliament from performing its oversight responsibility role effectively. This is because those who are appointed by the president are compromised and those yet to be appointed will be conducting their affairs in such a way to catch the attention of the president for future appointments. It also defeats the principle of effective separation of powers and allows the president and the executive arm of government to control the legislature.
It is obvious from previous records and appointments that about 20% of the members of parliament are under the direct control and influence of the president. This number is likely to increase with an increase in the number of ministers and this, we are afraid, has been the trend since 1992. This is why we disagree with the government white paper on the CRC recommendation that the President be given a free hand to appoint Ministers from within or from outside Parliament and the person appointed from parliament may retain his or her seat in Parliament. This arrangement is more dangerous since a president can decide to appoint all his/her ministers from parliament or increase the number of ministers of state and by extension increase the number that will come from parliament in order to control the legislature.
We believe that the strict separation of powers between the executive and the legislature will make available for governance a large pool of qualified, experienced Ghanaian talents whose expertise is currently unused and therefore lost to Ghana. It will also allow members of parliament to concentrate on passing good legislation to ensure accountability and have effective oversight over the work of the executive.
2. Election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executive (MMDCEs)
Article 240 (1) of the Constitution says that “Ghana shall have a system of local government which shall, as far as practicable, be decentralized”. It is the same Article 240 that gives authority to Parliament to enact appropriate laws “… to ensure that functions, powers, responsibilities and resources are at all times transferred from the Central Government to local government units in a co-ordinated manner”. But Parliament’s ability to bring about full decentralization is hampered by the Constitution.
However, there are parts of the Constitution that are most offensive in terms of usurping the powers of the people:
1. Article 242 “A District Assembly shall consist of the following members:
(a) One person from each local government electoral area within the district elected by universal adult suffrage;
(b) The member or members of Parliament from the constituencies that fall within the area of authority of the District Assembly as members without the right to vote;
(c) The District Chief Executive of the district; and
(d) Other members not being more than thirty per cent of all the members of the District Assembly, appointed by the President in consultation with the traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district.”
2. Article 243 which reads, “243 (1) There shall be a District Chief Executive for every district who shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of not less than two-thirds majority of members of the Assembly present and voting at the meeting.”
3. Article 243 (3) which says that:
“The office of District Chief Executive shall become vacant if:
(a) A vote of no confidence, supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of the District Assembly is passed against him; or
(b) He is removed from office by the President; or
(c) He resigns or dies. “
Our local areas remain underdeveloped mainly because the leaders, the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives are selected by one person, the President, based on political patronage. Sometimes the people who become Chief Executives are the ones rejected by the same people when they stood for elections to become Members of Parliament. As a result, they listen to Accra and NOT the people they are put there to serve. When the people freely elect their Chief Executives, they will remove them if they do not deliver at the next election.
The problem of empowering the people at the local level has persisted in Ghana because the Constitution we are working with took a big part of that power and gave it to the President. This problem many believe is still with us due to the usual problems people in power have had in parts of Africa and other less developed countries. What else accounts for the fact that we are still talking about the people electing their own MMDCEs when the first Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS 1) promised to remove all constitutional impediments by the end of 2004?
Those who kick against the election of MMDCEs citing the cost of another election forget that we already have an election of Assembly Members every four years. The Electoral Commission will only have to add one more ballot for the election of MMDCEs. The others who wonder what will happen if the MMDCE and the President have different ideologies or political party affiliation should consider how this works in other countries – it happens in London, New York, Cape Town, Abidjan, etc. and it works. Those who say we are not ready should consider that if we are able to cast a vote to elect a President and Members of Parliament, then we are certainly ready and better placed to elect our own local Chief Executives.
What is at stake today is the existing White Paper the government issued on the mode of selecting Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives in the wake of the work of the Constitution Review Commission:
“…Government does not accept the recommendation that Parliament should be empowered to determine specific mechanisms for choosing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. Government does not also accept the recommendation that in Metropolises, Metropolitan Chief Executives should be popularly elected. Government is of the view that in decentralizing in a unitary state, a delicate balance ought to be struck between central control and local autonomy. Consequently, Government is of the view that article 243 (1) of the Constitution should be amended for the President to nominate a minimum of five persons who would be vetted by the Public Services Commission for competence after which three nominees would contest in a public election.”
If the Constitution is amended as stated above, local development will continue to be dictated by Accra and will therefore not be based on the urgent priorities and needs of the local people. Our local areas will consequently continue to be under-developed. Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives must be elected at the local level by the people so that they, the people and not Accra, will have control on the development agenda of their local areas based on their established priorities. This is the only way to ensure sustainable development at the local level.
We are urging the incoming administration to rather accept the recommendation by the CRC that Parliament should be empowered to determine specific mechanisms for choosing Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives and also accept the recommendation that the election of MMDCEs should be by popular election. If citizens are capable of electing the president and members of parliament, they should be credited with the wisdom to decide who governs them at the local government level.
3. Separate the Attorney General from the Minister of Justice
According to article 88 (1) “There shall be an Attorney-General of Ghana who shall be a Minister of State and the principal legal adviser to the Government”. This Attorney General (AG) who shall be a Minister of State and by extension a member of the Executive and Cabinet has been given enormous powers when it comes to criminal prosecution. Corruption is an offence under our criminal offences laws and the AG per article 88(3) has the power for the initiation and conduct of all prosecutions of criminal offences. In more disturbing cases, the AG has supervisory jurisdiction over the Economic & Organized Crime Office (EOCO), CID and even prosecution of findings of corruption by the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) is at the instance of the Attorney General.
This makes the AG, a cabinet member, the most important and powerful person when it comes to the fight against corruption. This makes political corruption impossible to fight, reduce and eventually eradicate. Political corruption is the abuse of political office for private gain, the over-pricing of infrastructure projects, deliberate schemes designed to syphon funds from the State, tax evasion and pure stealing by political appointees. This phenomenon causes this country to lose USD3billion every year.
The current phenomenon whereby one person serves in the positions of the Minister for Justice and Attorney-General does not allow for transparent and accountable governance. We are of the strong belief that the establishment of an Independent Public Prosecutor who will have the security of tenure and have the powers to prosecute all crimes including those committed by the political appointees will solve this problem of pervasive political corruption with the use of the powers of the AG as an insurance against prosecution. The Independent Public Prosecutor, the Attorney General, Special Prosecutor or however the position will be described shall prosecute all criminal and civil matters of the State and should only be answerable to the Supreme Court or Parliament. This recommendation is ably supported by the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan adopted by parliament of the Republic of Ghana.
4. Income Tax by the President
Article 68(5) exempts the president from paying tax. This is wrong and does not permit the president o set a good example for the citizens to follow. The president and the vice president should be made to pay tax on their emoluments and other allowances. This is supported by the Constitutional Review Commission and supported by the government White Paper. This amendment to the Constitution will provide the moral authority on the part of the president to go after tax evaders whether they are the appointees of the president or ordinary citizens.
5. Public Declaration of Assets
According to article 286 (1) A person who holds a public office mentioned in clause (5) of this article shall submit to the Auditor-General a written declaration of all property or assets owned by, or liabilities owed by, him whether directly or indirectly. However, article 286 (3) shields the declared assets from public scrutiny by concealing the contents of the assets declaration form until a court, a commission of inquiry or CHRAJ requests for it to be produced as part of evidence gathering during a trial or an investigation. This arrangement is absurd and does mean that until a complaint is made and an investigation is underway, the people of Ghana will not be privy to the assets declaration forms of our public officers.
We believe that those who are given complete access to our public finances, resources, power and responsibilities of the State, should be prepared to live by a certain high code of transparency and accountability. We need to amend the constitution to implement a real public declaration of assets regime. This arrangement is fully supported by the Constitutional Review Commission which recommended that clear provision are made for a more effective assets declaration regime and provide for how the public will verify the contents of such declarations.
6. Ghanaians in the Diaspora
Ghana amended its nationality law in 2000, to the 2000 Ghana Citizen Act Dual Citizenship Scheme, which came into effect from Friday, November 1, 2002 in accordance with the provisions of the Citizenship Act 2002. Ghanaians in the diaspora are a great source of human and financial capital and the PPP does not only want immigration of skilled labor but full rights to jobs in the public sector, voting and all areas of human endeavour. We must make sure that we amend the Constitution to give equal rights and benefits to all of our people.o
What will be Needed to get this Done
We believe that this exercise will not be an easy task but we must commit to the process and initiate the first step so that we can have these amendments effected within the next 24 months. Postponing this exercise further is to continue to delay our quest for efficient governance system that will give us the rapid development required to take care of the huge population of Ghana. We need to appreciative the anti-developmental tendencies of these current provisions and have the required leadership, muster the courage and the political will to take up the processes for the various amendments.
The provisions on constitutional amendments are spelt out under chapter 25 of the 1992 Constitution. Some of the present proposed amendments are classified under the entrenched provision under article 290 and that include the separation of the powers of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the appointment of Ministers from Parliament and the provision on the payment of taxes by the president. These provisions are entrenched clauses and therefore the country requires a referendum to effect the desired changes. We urge the new administration to take immediate steps to initiate the processes of amendments. This category can be classified as part of the phase two of the constitutional reform project.
However, we can begin with phase one where the provisions are non-entrenched and the procedure requires a resolution of two-thirds of all the members of parliament to effect an amendment. This rule applies to the provisions on the election of MMDCEs and all District Assembly members under articles 242 and 243. This phase one exercise will demonstrate clearly to the people of Ghana that the new administration is committed to the constitutional amendment process and the desire to end the intensely exclusionary political system, also known as the winner-takes-all.
This national exercise calls for tactical, committed, pragmatic and visionary leadership to bring along all sides together to support this all important agenda. Ghanaians have voted for change but there will be no significant changes in our socio-economic status if the governance and the constitutional arrangements do not see all these five fundamental and important changes. Let us all support this crusade to make our nation great and strong.
D. ELECTORAL PROCESS
On 11 December 2012, the PPP wrote to the Electoral Commission to provide suggestions for “…Urgent Reforms in our Electoral Process and System”.
I wish to reproduce the letter sent on the Party’s behalf by our National Chairman Mr. Nii Allotey Brew-Hammond.
“The Progressive People’s Party (PPP) wishes to bring to the attention of the Electoral Commision (EC) the fact that we identified serious lapses in the voting, collation and declaration of Presidential and Parliamentary results. The PPP finds the anomalies identified very disturbing as they indicate a real likelihood of compromising the integrity of the entire 2012 results and future ones as well. For example, in the Assin South constituency, the PPP was initially assigned 134 votes for both the Presidential and Parliamentary contests but upon a protest to recount by the Parliamentary Candidate our parliamentary vote count was confirmed at 1,487 and that of the presidential result was changed to 521. This is only one example of the problems we recorded. We find it unfortunate that the EC did not take its time to re-check the provisional results before declaring a winner in the presidential election. If that had been done, it would have guaranteed the integrity of the results. It would have also been better if the EC had published the numbers from the verification machines to enable proper cross checking with the results obtained by our polling agents. The question is why the haste in declaring the results?
The PPP has come to stay and is a party for the future. Therefore, we are interested in the long term viability and credibility of the electoral system. Since our registration as a political party, we have identified problems with the implementation of the Political Parties Law that if not resolved can lead to chaos in future elections. The EC must enforce the political parties act and disqualify parties that do not meet the minimum criteria within the next six months.
The Political Parties Law requires that that parties meet the following requirements:
1. Be national in character.
2. Have offices opened in at least two-thirds of all districts in the country.
3. Have officers elected at the constituency, regional and national levels under the supervision of the EC.
4. Provide financial reports.
The EC since 1992 has failed to audit the ability of the existing parties to meet these requirements. No political party has been disqualified or removed from the register of parties as a result of not meeting these and other requirements.
It is clear that the Law places limits on who can make contributions to fund political parties and campaigns. However, the EC has not made any attempt to enforce the provisions of the Law in this area. We have every reason to suspect that foreign governments, individuals and companies are funding the campaigns of political parties in Ghana. The 2012 election is one case of blatant participation of foreigners in the funding of political parties and their campaigns. This places parties like the PPP that are self-funding from its members and Ghanaian supporters at a huge disadvantage. This is one of the reasons why we the PPP cannot agree that the 2012 elections have been truly free and fair. We recommend that the EC begins the process immediately to put steps into place for the verification, documentation and auditing of campaign funding.
On the matter of voting we recommend that the EC moves to a fully electronic voting system similar to those found in Brazil, Mexico etc. with some minimum conditions:
• Votes are transmitted electronically to two separate locations.
• International observers are allowed full access to the entire process, no closed door sessions at the polling stations.
• Two internationally recognized audit firms, under 50%/50% contracts with local audit firms, audit the results independently and cross-check each other’s work.
• The electronic voting machinery should be designed by a Ghanaian technology firm in partnership with an international major in technology. It will be designed such that “rejected ballots” shall be zero. Each political party that meets the Political Parties’ Law criteria to become a political party will be granted a seat on the board of the voting machine company. We can no longer accept a system where over 250,000 votes are not counted. 250,000 votes are enough to decide an election.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet and discuss our concerns. Our aim is to ensure that the EC, an important independent institution is strengthened for the benefit of all Ghanaians.
God bless our Homeland, Ghana.”
Unfortunately, we were not even given the favor of a reply to our letter. Subsequently, the Supreme Court and others have Ade firm recommendations in these areas. We are asking that the the Electoral Commission opens a big window for reformsto make our system ore credible.
In conclusion, he PPP will redeem its pledge to Ghanaians to continue to be an active agent for change as a political party in opposition. E are glad to note that the leader of the incoming NPP Administration has repeatedly committed himself to the implementation of many of the reforms we are advocating for. We will be there to advocate, support and play whatever positive role will ensure the legal adoption and implementation of the change agenda. At the same time, given our recent experience, we will hold the incoming leader of the nation to his word – his promises must be redeemed.
Thank you for your kind attention.
We remain, wide Awake!
Papa Kwesi Nduom
Chairman, National Committee