MPs cannot serve three masters – Bible-quoting Bagbin demands loyalty
The Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin has demanded greater loyalty to parliamentary business than ministerial duties in Ghana’s hybrid parliamentary system.
In his opening address to parliament, he urged legislators to remain committed to their core mandate as MPs and not allow themselves to be swayed by ministerial appointments.
At least 50% of ministers are to be appointed from parliament, according to Ghana’s constitution. It is a rule which generates a hemorrhage of MPs focusing more on getting executive posts at the expense of parliament.
In welcoming the newly sworn-in Members of Parliament, Mr Bagbin used the opportunity to address this conflicting allegiance.
“By the dictates of the constitution of the fourth republic, some of you will in due course be nominated and with approval of this house be appointed by the president to positions in his administration as ministers and deputy ministers of state.
“In your case, you are going to serve three masters; Constituency, Parliament and the President. It is important to note that you cannot serve three masters at a time.
“Members appointed to work as ministers must understand that their first and foremost duty is to be Members of Parliament,” the Speaker of Parliament said with all seriousness.
Drawing from the holy bible, Mr Bagbin quoted Matthew 6:24, which states that no one can serve two masters.
The scripture adds that you can either hate the one (Parliament) and love the other (Ministerial appointment) or be devoted to one and despise the other.
He reiterated the need to pay particular attention to their substantive roles as MPs and serve constituents well.
Using his own 20 years experience in Parliament, Mr Bagbin maintained his long held belief that is “unhealthy to draw a large number of ministers from Ghana’s Parliament”.
According to him, it takes a negative toll on the performance of MPs in the house.
The debate about ministers being members of the legislature is one that continues to linger on but with no end in sight.
In some countries, ministers are chosen from amongst the members of the legislature and then remain members of the legislature while in ministerial office; ministerial office and legislative membership are fused.
In other countries, ministers are normally chosen from outside the legislature, or, if members of the legislature are appointed to ministerial office, they must resign their legislative seats; ministerial office and legislative membership are separated.
Both the fused and separated models have their own advantages and disadvantages — although the balance between the pros and cons will depend much on the institutional and political context.
Some MPs who could not manage both roles effectively were kicked out of Ghana’s eight Parliament.
A section of the populace believe the inability of MPs to separate the two roles may have caused their downfall in the just ended elections.
At least, 27 New Patriotic Party Members of Parliament failed to retain their seats in the just ended parliamentary elections held on December 7.
Notable among them is the Minister of State, Boniface Abubakar Saddique who served as the Madina MP, he lost his seat to the NDC’s Francis Xavier Sosu.
Mr Sosu garnered 62,127 votes while Mr Boniface had 46, 985 votes.
The Minister of Planning, George Gyan Baffour lost the Wenchi constituency seat to his arch rival from the NDC, Seidu Haruna.
Mr Baffour polled 23, 102 as against his contender Mr Haruna who secured 26, 068 votes.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Elizabeth Afoley Quaye lost the Krowor constituency seat to NDC’s Agnes Naa Momo Lartey.
Madam Lartey beat the then Minister of Fisheries with 41, 850 votes. The sector minister had 32, 602 votes.