Members of Parliament have expressed worry at the inadequacy of their share of the District Assembly Common Fund – a situation they say inhibits them from undertaking some development issues in their communities as expected of them by their constituents.
While some admit that the primary duty of a Member of Parliament is to make laws and not be development agents in their constituencies, others argue that some substantial amount can be extended to them to enable them take up these projects for constituents.
MP for Ejisu, John Ampontuah Kumah – who raised the issue during the vetting of Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu as Minister-designate for Parliamentary Affairs, enquired from the nominee whether he considers it prudent to allow MPs to be credited with extra funds for developmental projects.
“The current construct of our laws shows the primary duty of Members of Parliament is to make laws. How do we reconcile this with the overwhelming public opinion that MPs must also become development agents in their constituencies? We also know that the MP is elected, the Assemblyman is elected, but these people do not have access to development funds.
“With emphasis on MPs, do you agree; and will you take steps to ensure that our laws are amended to give MPs some funds to serve as development agents in our constituencies?” Mr. Kumah asked.
Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is the MP for Suame and Leader of the Majority Group in Parliament, admitted that the current money given to MPs as their Common Fund is too small to fund some major projects like roads – as expected of them by their constituents.
“The MPs’ Common Fund,” he said, “is supposed to serve you to do some ‘patch-patch’ work. In case there is a rainstorm in the constituency, the roof of maybe a classroom is ripped-off and you go visit – and you realise that if you have to apply through the Ministry of Education it is going to take a while, so if you have that amount in your coffers you link up with the DCE and apply to go and have the classroom re-roofed. That amount serves you for such purposes – it is not much.
“So, that is the extent of assistance that the fund offers you; in terms of major development activities, it cannot help you in any way.”
He further added that: “There has been debate over a period, that because of the misconception perhaps the amount should revert back to the assembly, so we wash our hands of the issue of monies being given to us for development – but we have not made that determination yet.
“The other side is that because the amount is too small, can we have a meeting with the administrator of the Common Fund and minister responsible for local government, and have it increased so that it is able to assist us in a bigger way to impact development activities in the constituencies? It is a decision that the House should come to.”
In an interview with the B&FT, MP for Tamale Central, Murtala Muhammed Ibrahim, called for a 50-50 share of the District Assemblies Common Fund between Members of Parliament and district assemblies to take up projects.
He argued that MPs should be given the opportunity to submit their proposed projects for approval, and thereafter be made to give proper accountability for them in accordance with law.
“Many people see MPs as development agent when in actual fact, it is not supposed to be so, but it will take a very long time for people to understand. But be it as it may, why not give 50 percent of the District Assembly Common Fund to MPs and give 50 percent to the district assemblies, so that MPs can also execute projects and then account for the monies taken.
“Do not give MPs Common Fund again; whatever fund that is supposed to be given to any district, divide it between the District Assembly and the MPs. Let the MPs come out with their development plan, let the plan be vetted, let it be approved by a body, and let them execute their projects,” he recommended.