I somewhat agree with the President of the IMANI-Africa policy think-tank, Mr. Franklin Cudjoe, that the proliferation of the creation of districts and constituencies needs to be done by the book, that is, according to the stipulations of the country’s Constitution. In areas like the Volta and the so-called Three Northern Regions, for example, where the population density is relatively low, constituencies were created by the Electoral Commission (EC) that ought not to have been created. Then-Electoral Commissioner Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan was most guilty of such flagrant constitutional breach. And for the most part, the creation of the needless number of constituencies by Dr. Afari-Gyan was clearly aimed at stacking the proverbial deck in favor of the then-ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and against the political and/or electoral strength and fortunes of the then-main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
I vividly recall writing several columns decrying such politically motivated policy initiative all to no avail, of course. For instance, the Constitution stipulates that every constituency needs to have a population of at least 50,000 residents or inhabitants. But in a quite remarkable number of constituencies in the so-called Three Northern Regions and the putative World Bank of the National Democratic Congress, that is, the Volta Region, constituencies were created under the tenure of Dr. Afari-Gyan with populations as low as 35,000 or even less. In terms of the distribution of the scarce fiscal resources that Mr. Cudjoe talks about, such a politically tendentious demarcation or creation of constituencies and districts did not favor most of the five Akan-dominated regions of the country, namely, Asante, Brong-Ahafo, Eastern, Central and Western regions, as well as the Greater-Accra Region.
Now, what needs to be done presently, is to have the number of constituencies in the relatively sparsely populated regions of the country reduced to proportionately synch with the constitutional stipulation. Better yet, I have argued for the number of citizens and residents that make up a constituency to be upgraded from 50,000 to at least 75,000 and possibly even doubled up to 100,000, rather than needlessly creating more constituencies or chaos and confusion, and thereby wasting the limited resources of the country in double-dipping salaries of thievish MPs and ministerial appointees. You also have the gratuitous creation of municipalities that are a little more in population sizes than hamlets and villages. Capping the number of districts and constituencies for at least the next decade or two would also not be a bad idea at all.
But I sincerely disagree with IMANI-Africa’s Mr. Cudjoe that our Members of Parliament are elected to exclusively focus their attention and energies on lawmaking. That may be the primary focus of our legislators but, of course, our legislators are also bona fide citizens of the land who are equally concerned, like the rest of us, with the general development of the country. I also see absolutely nothing wrong with the MPs Common Fund being appropriated for social intervention programs, if such social uplift programs are well-thought-out and satisfactorily meet the basic needs and requirements of the most impoverished and deprived among Ghanaian citizens. Simply cutting off or scrapping the MPs Common Fund so that District Assemblies would have more money in their coffers is not necessarily a constructive policy initiative, especially in places where the leaders and representatives of these District Assemblies have not demonstrated any progressive vision and agendas for the development of their districts and constituencies.
In other words, more money to the constituencies does not automatically translate into more development projects. The leaders of these District Assemblies need to have coherent and pragmatic agendas for the development of their areas or localities. Where I came up vehemently against the establishment of the MPs Common Fund in the past, was when the late President John Evans Atta-Mills made it capriciously discretionary for MPs to use some of such funds to determine where in their districts or constituencies these MPs desired to establish their offices. This bizarre proclamation, as I vividly recall, was contained in the first State-of-the-Nation Address that President Mills presented to Parliament. It was an inescapable recipe for wanton corruption and irrational political patronage.
What I am clearly saying here is that the MPs Common Fund must be retained, but its use must be closely monitored by a team of development experts specially selected or constituted for the purpose. In other words, tapping into the fund must not be automatically predicated on one’s status as an MP. Rather, it must be predicated on the presentation of meaningful development proposals submitted to the managers of such fund, be it the Office of the Finance Minister or the Office of the Minister of Policy Evaluation and Monitoring.
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