The on-going public hearings at the Parliament of Ghana’s Public Accounts Committee on how state institutions have been spending tax payers’ money in the past fiscal year have given the legislative body a new face. By tackling the public perception that corruption is growing and accountability low, Parliament is gradually neutralizing the public feelings that it does not reflect Ghanaians’ concerns genuinely.
Despite lack of research assistants, shortage of staff, effective communication gear, and offices for fuller legislative work, the 230- member parliament has performed some superb legislative works such as passing the controversial Domestic Violence Bill that seeks to protect women against violence. Parliament has criminalized the dreaded cultural practice of female genital mutilation, banned “trokosi,” a cultural practice in some parts of the Volta where teenage girls are enslaved to shrines for sins committed by their parents, decentralized the Ghanaian system, and passed the Whistle-Blowers Act.
While grilling of senior public officials on how they have been spending public money in the nascent democratic system is not exciting, it is out to enhance governance, transparency and accountability.
In its 21 years of military regimes and 6 years of one-party governments, Ghana never heard about any report from its Auditor General. Even during President Jerry Rawlings regime, with its high sounding accountability, probity and transparency campaigns (some of came in the form of executions of senior military officers for corrupt practices) the Auditor General’s report on the accountability and transparency of Ghanaian public institutions was either never made public nor presented to Parliament for debate and scrutiny. This makes today’s public cross-examination of head of public institutions “not an indictment of government, but an attempt to promote transparency in governance and check corruption,” says Presidential Spokesman, Mr. Andrews Awuni.
Scrutinizing heads of public departments and agencies isn’t enough; Parliament has to broaden its anti-corruption networks by encouraging state and private anti-corruption ventures like Serious Fraud Office, Ghana Integrity Initiative, and Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition.
Even if Ghana Audit Service, a key light of transparency and driver of its democracy, is riddled with challenges such as staff performance and logistics, this can be solved by parliament asking for support from the private sector. While cultural, ethical, religious, moral and scientific approaches have to be mixed and juggled constantly to address corruption, the Parliament of Ghana, a symbol of Ghana’s democracy and developmental reasoning, should be reminded frequently where the country’s democracy has come from and where it is headed.