Regain public confidence in politics and politicians – Speaker to MPs

Parliament

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Bagbin has called on Members of the 8th Parliament (MPs) to work assiduously to regain the eroded good image and also restore public confidence in politics and politicians.

According to him, the state of public perception about politics is not the best not only in Ghana but across the world which must be changed.

“Rebuild public confidence in our political system in a period when citizens of this country and elsewhere are losing faith in politics and politicians.

It is our duty to restore their trust through our conduct in the performance of our duties as Politicians and public office holders,” he requested in a statement he read in Parliament recently.

Mr. Bagbin also reminded the MPs that their honeymoon is over after their six months stay in the house and called for an improved attitude to the business of the house from both new and old members.

The Speaker’s full statement.

FORMAL COMMUNICATION FROM THE RT. HON. ALBAN S. K. BAGBIN, SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT, TO THE HOUSE ON WEDNESDAY JULY 21st, 2021

Hon Members,

The honeymoon period of the 8th Parliament is over. The business of Parliament, which is the of the people, will be vigorously pursued. As members of this House, we represent the people and our country, Ghana. Ghanaians are looking up to us to lead, manage and represent them to translate their values, aspirations, ethics, and aspirations into tangible goods and services. Our actions, attitudes and approaches must therefore mirror the ways of Ghanaians. Over and beyond that, we must collectively be the standard of measure of the attitudes, values, ethos and culture that we want reflected within the body politics of this country. My aspiration as Speaker is to lead this House into becoming the real trailblazer of the conduct that we want to see among Ghanaians.

This Parliament, and we as members, have done the better part of half a year since we were sworn into office. I consider it most apposite at this time for us to pause for a moment, reflect on the past six months and ask ourselves very searching questions about our stewardship so far as Members of Parliament. How have we fared as the standard bearers of the Ghanaian society, given that we are the representatives of the people at the highest level of the political superstructure of this country? How have we modelled our conduct, approach, processes, practices and procedures to reflect the hopes and aspirations of the people we represent?

Hon Members,
Given the number of novel Members of Parliament who joined this House six months ago – 123 members constituting 45% of the total number of 275 – it will not have been ideal to insist on certain expectations and responsibilities of an MP. There was a learning curve for the new MPs, which we all acknowledged. I did indicate, from the very onset, that six months, which I referred to as a period of honey moon, is enough for the new ones to negotiate that curve. I have quietly observed their progress as well as that of the continuing MPs and I am happy with the quest to learn and to catch up with the roles, responsibilities and expectations that Ghanaians have of their MPs. Consequently, I will want to declare that the honeymoon period is over!

Henceforth, my demands and expectations of all of you would be nothing short of the optimum in all areas of the work and conduct of an MP. For example, the Standing Orders exist to help maintain discipline and decorum on the floor of the House. It is to bring respectability not just to us as Members of Parliament, but also to the people we represent. Going forward, I will insist on adherence to the Standing Orders like never before. Any intervention on the floor of the House that is no respecter of our practices and procedures, and that is not in synchrony with the Standing Orders will not be countenanced.
I therefore implore all members of the House to endeavor to be conversant with the provisions in the Standing Orders of Parliament, the Code of Conduct, as well as the constitution. In addition, let us endeavor to understand the provisions of the Parliament Act, 1965 (Act 300) and the Parliamentary Service Act, 1993, as amended. I urge all members not only to read these provisions and refresh their memories, but also to read widely on the related issues. It will help to take particular note of the rules on the Privileges and immunities of Members of Parliament. We cannot be accessing privileges and immunities we have not earned. We have a Code of Conduct, which among other things, enjoins us to “rebuild public confidence in our political system in a period when citizens of this country and elsewhere are losing faith in politics and politicians. It is our duty to restore their trust through our conduct in the performance of our duties as Politicians and public office holders”. We need to do more in this regard.
For those of you who are still behind in deploying the Standing Orders and Code of Conduct as a guide to what to do and what not to do on the floor of the House, you might have to speed up your mastery of the Orders. The purpose of the S. O. is to make parliamentary business more organized, focused, and results driven. Parliament will be organizing more training through the Parliamentary Training Institute (PTI). The Parliamentary Service Board, under my leadership, has put measures in place to strengthen the Institute to organize intensive training and refresher courses for both Members of Parliament and staff of the Service.

Having said that, I should commend Members of Parliament, both old and new, who have attained admirable command over the Standing Orders. This has clearly manifested in the contributions of some MPs to the business of the House. It also shows in the discipline and decorum that attend the conduct of such members in the House.

Hon Members,
Another area which must be of concern to all of us is actual practice; decorum, etiquette, conduct and behavior, physical symbols of the House such as the Mace, Speaker’s procession, bowing to the Chair, and the seating arrangement in the House. These all have significant meanings and contribute to the maintenance of order, decorum, decency and dignity of the House. Members could get copies of a number of books such as “How our Parliament Functions” written by the late K. B. Ayensu and S. N. Darkwa and “A Guide to the Parliament of Ghana”.

This issue of punctuality and timeliness to the business of the House is an issue we must confront. Public perception on these issues is not the best and it detracts from our integrity and the seriousness that the public expects to see in our deportment. As Marvin J. Ashton an American politician and statesman said, “Being on time to appointments and meetings is a phase of self-discipline and an evidence of self-respect. Punctuality is a courteous compliment the intelligent person pays to his associates”.

Giving excuses using other committee meetings as the reasons why the Chamber is empty, or why we could not form a quorum is being questioned by members of the public. Committee meetings ought not to be showstoppers of the serious businesses on the floor of the House. Prioritization is the name of the game. Our choices are a reflection of what we hold dear, what we place a premium on and what we pass off as unimportant, and the electorates are watching all these. Besides, we all know that absenteeism is one of our challenges. No matter the justification for that. I know there could be instances where absence is inevitable. But the absence still places the entire institution of Parliament in a very negative light.
I hereby serve notice that henceforth, Parliament will take serious view of such conduct. I am putting leadership, particularly the Whips, on notice to devise measures that will ensure that lateness and absenteeism are reduced to the barest minimum. We need to restore respectability, seriousness and dignity to this House. We must strengthen the confidence of those who sent us here in what we do. Lateness and absenteeism are NOT work attitudes that we want Ghanaians to adopt. Leadership by example – that is what I am calling on all of you to do. I pledge to show the way.

Honorable Members,
I am very sure you know the next thing I will want to touch on: it is about how we turn up in the House. The parliamentary reference of being “naked” in the House was introduced for a purpose. It was to underline the fact that as Members of Parliament, we ought to conform to a dress code. It is not about expensive and designer wear: it is more about tradition, decency and discipline. It is about how the culture and tradition of dressing in the House reflects the expectations of how people. It is often said that “clothing is a form of self-expression. There are hints about who you are in what you wear”. The Russian proverb that “when you meet a person, you judge the person by the clothes, when you leave the person, you judge the person by his/her heart”, is a truism.

We have all subscribed to an acceptable way of dressing in this House – a dress code that we are all aware of. Ghana is unique and has an identity. That must reflect in our dressing. I will encourage all of you to abide by that because from now onwards, those who disregard the dress code will not find in me a pleasant person. Let us all strive to uphold the dignity and aura of Parliament.
Conducting ourselves in an ethical and principled manner should be our creed. We must identify our values as individuals and as a collective and live by them. We are aware of how events of the dawn of January 7 2021 have left a sour taste in the mouths of most observers of parliamentary process. We are also conscious of the fact that misunderstanding of parliamentary processes has at times led to suspicion of impropriety on the part of some Members of Parliament. It will require a sustained hard work to erase these misconceptions. I am talking about a conscious effort at remodeling the profile of the Ghanaian MP, through what we are seen to be doing, the transparency and integrity that govern what we do and the outcomes and impact we achieve. We need to work together on this.

I believe I am right in saying that we all subscribe to our organizational vision of making Ghana’s parliament a model one in Africa, and one of the best parliaments in the world. This we cannot achieve if we continue with the “business as usual” approach to our work. We need a step change, and this will come with us taking ourselves a little bit more serious. Ours is a strong institution with a strong culture. What we need are a few changes here and there and we will be on a path towards achieving our vision.

To the leadership of the House, I say your support in this regard is most crucial to the success of parliament. Encourage, guide and advise your membership in accordance with what we have all agreed on. However, if you encounter challenges, I am always available to assist. The network of Parliamentary Monitoring Organizations is also now wide awake and will keep an eagle eye on the House and Members. I have given the network my assurance of full cooperation and partnership in ensuring that Parliaments deliver, not just in Ghana, but in West Africa.

Hon Members,
We need to give the citizenry enough reasons to keep addressing us as “Hon Members of Parliament”. As such we owe it a duty to our compatriots and to ourselves to handle this house with the decency it deserves. We cannot afford to lower the standards of Parliament and lead this country into an attitudinal decay. I am confident that Hon Members will support the leadership and the Speakership to implement the vision of this Parliament to become a model parliament in Africa.

I thank you for your attention.

By: Isaac Dzidzoamenu/capitalnewsonline.com

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