PRESIDENT John Mahama yesterday opened the 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference Africa Region,with a call on Parliaments in Africa to hold their members to a high-level of integrity and conduct.
According to the President, public confidence in parliaments had diminished due to the conduct of some members (MPs) whose actions and inactions had brought the image of their august houses into disrepute.
“I speak on this issue with great empathy as a former MP, with 12 years of experience under my belt. The legislature is an indispensable tool in all governments in Africa,” he said, and urged the Speakers of the various parliaments to put proper measures in place to check the conduct of their members.
He said an increasing worrying development in Africa which threatened the integrity of MPs, was the misconception that they were directly responsible for the provision of the needs of their constituents, as well as meeting the personal needs of individuals in their constituencies.
“This puts the MPs under severe strain, and has the potential of putting their integrity to the test. The MP’s duty, first and foremost, is to represent his people in Parliament, participate in debates and also serve as the voice of his people.
“Unfortunately, demands for monies for school fees, funerals and weddings put MPs in very precarious positions,” he said, and added, however, that some MPs were also responsible for the development.
He said during election campaigns, MPs made promises “to deliver heaven on earth” and urged them to make realistic promises to their people which they could realise.
President Mahama indicated that some MPs had been voted out of office for acts of omissions which were the responsibility of their district assemblies, and appealed to the Speakers to educate the public on the works of MPs
“The citizenry must also have adequate information on what we do in Parliament, parliamentary proceedings and policies, and be able to engage in dialogue with their parliamentarians,” he said.
The President touched on the Job 600 building meant to provide office accommodation for the MPs, and hinted that the building would be inaugurated soon.
The Speaker of Parliament, Edward Adjaho, expressed similar concerns over the low public confidence in parliaments in Africa, and urged his colleagues to help change that perception.
He said the Speakers bore a heavy responsibility of building a high public confidence, because low public confidence in the legislature could threaten the core foundation of their democracies.
“There is no democracy without a strong parliament. We are not angels or saints, but we need to maintain a certain level of integrity,” he advised, and urged the Speakers to use the opportunity offered by the conference to share experiences on best practices on how they could engender public confidence in their institutions.
He advised his colleagues to stand firmly against wrongdoing in their parliaments, irrespective of who was involved, and serve with integrity and honesty.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Ike Ekweremadu, said the issue of low public confidence in parliament was a global issue, and urged the Speakers not to give up in the fight to whip up the citizenry’s confidence in their parliaments.
By Yaw Kyei