On September 11, 2023 there was a news item entitled “EC to create new constituencies for 2024 election-Dr Bossman reveals” .(https://expressnewsghana.com/2023/09/11/ec-to-create-newconstituencies-for-2024- ) based on a TV3 interview by Deputy Commissioner of the EC in charge of Corporate Services, Dr Eric Bossman Asare.
I chuckled and thought it might be fake news. Who, I thought would be deluded into adding huge expenditure to the public purse after the Nana Addo led NPP government took us to IMF with over bloated public expenditure?
The president remains adamant and still maintains so many ministers, so many CEOs and 2 or 3 deputies in some organisations: Agric., NADMO etc. The government payroll is top heavy and even despite going to IMF it still remains so.
One begins to wonder whether this government’s excessive expenditure is perpetuated because our government could care less about the sufferings of its citizens or could not care about the nature of the economy it wants to leave for future generations.
I read the article and to my utter disgust I read that the political EC was going to add 25 more seats to the current 275 !!!!!
I could not believe that the President’s politically activist appointed members of the EC would try to further sink its tarnished image after its gamesmanship of the 2020 elections again (weaponizing some constituencies by bringing military personnel to some areas especially Volta Region during registration and voting, 4 or 5 different declaration of Presidential results by the EC chairperson, Jean Adukwei Mensah). One would have thought the EC would take positive steps to redeem its sinking image from the abyss but it looks like we in for another repeat.
As a Ghanaian, given the chance, I will forever vote against creating more than 1 constituency except GUAN aka SALL. Even that if there was a way my preference would be to add Guan or SALL to Hohoe but the creation of Oti had probably made this a nonstarter. If you have informal conversation with most Ghanaians and you ask them to rank the most disappointed or hated institution in Ghana from the worst, you would get
- The presidency……the worst ever in the history of Ghana even military regimes were far far better
- The judiciary especially the politically loaded Supreme Court
In fact, the Parliament and Supreme Court will be jostling for 2nd or 3rd positions. Parliament’s reputation began to sink after 2016 election when NPP with 63 seat majority (168 vs 106) could pass needless agenda to prosecute its mandate. That was the era we had the notion of Angel Gabriel visiting our President and requesting a cathedral from him. With this huge majority NPP could pass any law and bad laws they passed. After the 2020 elections, Ghanaians were hopeful that the days of excesses of incompetence, lack of transparency, creeping dictatorships, open thievery, firing of our Auditor General and other political chicanery would be things of the past. The initial jubilation by NDC that it won 143 seats turned to 137 seats after “special military operations” in six constituencies which resulted into deaths of some NDC supporters.
Ghanaians were happy they had almost a hung parliament. Ghanaians were happy when NDC retired MP, Honourable Alban Bagbin won the speakership. We were excited when Hon Okudzeto Ablakwa started revealing the rental of the luxury jetliner and other related profligate spending by the President. The cathedral spending and related state capture endorsed by those men of God were all exposed. Sure, democracy was once again on the rise and we were conned to believe.
Where it mattered most, that is pocket book matters, (money, money) the NDC MPs capitulated or were outfoxed by the NPP. Ghanaians still remember the flesh mortal wounds they were dealt when NPP once again got its way:
- Passing eLevy
- Approving Nana Addo's ministers including Ken Ofori Atta, and others for example army gunner Ms. Hawa Koomson in 2007.
- As if the above were not enough, Ghanaians (NDC and NPP supporters and independent voters) had a big betrayal when the last five ministers nominated by the president were approved. Bryan Acheampong the chief architect and butcher of Ayawaso West Waugon bye election where mayhem was visited on the NDC PC Kwabena Brempong and supporters and the tribal hustler and pimp Mr. KT Hammond with significant votes from NDC parliamentarians. How could NDC MPs soon forget their people who were killed in 2020 election or the victims of Ayawaso West Waugon by-election and vote to confirm as Ministers, those architects of mayhem, people began to wonder?
In fact, Parliament’s image has sunk so low that people who follow or watch politics have been wondering if Ghana really needs 275 MPs. Some are even calling for 140 or maximum 200. They even want to know how much an MP costs us a month or 4 years !!.
Some are even wondering why being an MP should be a full-time job. Thus to even think of creating additional 25 constituencies in the current harsh economic conditions by this government adds more currency to Nana Addo’s EC lack of sensitivity and callous impunity. Please don't tell me the EC is independent of Nana Addo's government. Then again one wonders whether the intentions are noble or cloaked in sabotage should ex President Mahama win the December 2024 elections.
In its crafty way, the EC would create more constituencies in NPP stronghold in Ashanti and Eastern regions combined and throw some tiny bones to NDC. As a student of democracy, I have never seen NPP MPs join NDC MPs to oppose NPP government. Please just give me 2 instances. How many times have NDC MPs voted for NPP causes .....too many times. So why should NDC think come 2025 when JM is in power and NPP MPs are in the majority, JM can even have his ministers approved?
The EC in a sneaky way may argue that it has the constitutional mandate under Article 47 (subs 1, 3, and 7) which stipulates that
(1) Ghana shall be divided into as many constituencies for the purpose of election of members of Parliament as the Electoral Commission may prescribe, and each constituency shall be represented by one Member of Parliament.
(3) The boundaries of each constituency *shall* be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota.
(7) For the purposes of this article, "population quota" means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Ghana by the number of constituencies into which Ghana is divided under this article.
Based on my knowledge of demography, with a population growth of 2.6% annually the population doubles about every 25 to 26 years. This means, following the above EC implemented has met the constitutional requirement of having almost equally-sized constituencies based on population growth by increasing the number of constituencies and consequently parliamentary seats.
With this provision ushering in the 4th Republic in 1992 there were 200 constituencies/parliamentary seats compared to 140 in the 3rd Republic. in the 1992 The 2004 elections saw 230 seats and the in the 2004 elections, and 2012 and 2016 elections 275 seats were contested. Without a constitutional amendment, and with 2.6% annual growth there would eventually a 450-seater parliamentary chamber which according to current estimates would cost more than cost more than US $200 million
Typical of African politics or decision making by our top brass we like taking the easy way out because we either lack the capability hence we “kick the can down the road ” for another person eventually to solve. Rather than increase constituencies with reckless abandon, why not consider merging constituencies when there is population growth or a demographic shift? This move avoids increasing the number of constituencies but can result in having constituencies in approximately equal in size. Increasing the number of constituencies is not the only solution to the aforementioned constitutional requirement which can also result in approximately equally-sized constituencies.
- History is replete with tough political decisions. The USA which is considered the citadel of democracy and we can learn from them. Prior to 1929 USA faced a similar problem Ghana is facing. It capped the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435 by passing Reapportionment
Act of 1929 Signed into law on June 18, 1929, the Permanent Apportionment Act capped House Membership at the level which was established after the 1910 census and created a procedure for automatically reapportioning House seats after every decennial census. The fixed 435 seats are allocated to each state (region) in proportion to its share of the US population and each state is constitutionally guaranteed at least one seat. This implies that, over time, some states will lose seats while others will gain seats. The US solution is not a perfect solution but a solution to forestall a runaway Congress. The USA has managed to maintain the number of seats in the House of Representatives at 435 for 90 years or 106 years.
- Similarly, India’s constitution has a ceiling in its lower house (the Lok Sabha or House of the People) at 552 and in the Upper House. It caps the number of seats (MPs) in her upper house of parliament (the Rajya Sabha or Council of States) at 245.
- The two-term presidential limit was not a law. The country’s first president, George Washington retired after two terms, hence setting up setting a de facto informal “law”. This was respected by the country’s first 31 presidents that there should be rotation in office after two terms for the office of the presidency. This carried on until President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt (a Democrat) ruled USA from 1933-1945the only president who has ever held four terms in office due to global and national issues of the 1930s. With the establishment of the Hoover Commission and with Republicans winning a majority in Congress after the 1946 elections, they introduced an amendment to the US Constitution in 1947 called the Twenty-second Amendment, which was ratified in 1951 which says
“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice,……..” effectively limiting to two the number of terms a US president can serve.
Ghana needs to save money and not be caught in this perennially increasing parliamentary seats. Why are we trying to always reinvent the wheel. Why don’t we want to learn from others but keep treading a parochial and self interest steps. In addition the question is “How much does an MP cost us in terms of salary and emoluments”. Using Prof Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Report of the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for Article 71 Office Holders (January 2017 to December 2020), I have listed the items below and computed the cost using very conservative estimates thus arriving at the minimum cost.
1.Salary 28, 017 GHS (2020)
- Office accommodation which should be fully equipped and appropriately staffed,
- A functional constituency office provided by the state or in lieu of that 10% of consolidated salary to rent;
- Official accommodation of 20% consolidated salary in lieu of official accommodation,
- State should facilitate a car loan not to exceed the cedi equivalent of 80,000 GHS. The State should take responsibility for the payment of 60% of the cost of the vehicle and also take responsibility of the interest on the loan
- 5% of consolidated salary should be provided as allowance for security
- Travel for official business: Business class airline ticket’ 4 star hotel accommodation, appropriate protocol courtesies to be arranged by the Ghana missions at the destination
- Medical and dental including health insurance …For MP and spouse and 4 children in public hospitals in country.
- Other benefits: Installation grant equivalent to 2 months salary paid once only on assumption of office. Committee chairman gets 30% of 1 months consolidated salary and committee members 25% of one month’s consolidated salary payable quarterly
- Gratuity: Four months of each year served
Using the above recommendation, the total cost per year for an MP is 1,768,056 GHS (1 million, 768 thousand, 56 new Ghana Cedis).
For the 275 Chamber the total is 275 x 1,768,056 GHS = 486,215,400 GHS (486 million, 215 thousand, 400 new Ghana cedis)
So, for 4 years an MP costs the Ghanaian tax payer 1,768,056 x 4 = 7,072,224 GHS (7 million, 72 thousand, 223 new Ghana cedis)
and the 275 members cost 1,944,861,600 GHS (1 billion, 944 million, 861 thousand, 600 new Ghana cedis)
To be continued in part two (which may be published today or tomorrow) where I will show how the above figures were arrived at and what we can, as a country, do with that extra money if we do not have additional 25 MPs being proposed.
The writer, Professor Anthony Mawuli Sallar, is a Professor of Epidemiology and obtained his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Apart from his academic discipline he has other interests in Political Economy, Ethics, and Governance. He can be reached via email on email@example.com
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