Majority and Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed varied views on the need for the construction of the proposed 450-capacity chamber for Parliament.
While the Minority side felt that the construction of the new chamber was a misplaced priority, since there were more pressing issues, such as poor roads and challenging health care, the Majority MPs argued that having an expanded chamber would cater for any increase in the number of MPs in the future.
The Majority MPs, led by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Bantama, Mr Daniel Okyem Aboagye, and the NPP MP for Manso-Adubia, Mr Yaw Frimpong Addo, and the Minority side, headed by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, and the NDC MP for Buem, Mr Daniel Kwesi Ashiamah, were sharing their views on the proposed new chamber in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday.
The new chamber is to house other facilities, including diplomatic offices, a library, a museum, a church, a mosque, eateries, press conference rooms, galleries, a car park, an upper gallery garden, a post office and other facilities to complete the Parliamentary Enclave.
Leading the debate for the Minority side, Mr Ablakwa said the money that would be used for the construction of the new chamber should rather be used to beef up research staff for MPs.
He said good calibre researchers could be attracted to conduct more research to aid the work of MPs.
Mr Ablakwa, who is the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, said in developed democracies, such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Kenya, legislators had offices in their respective constituencies.
Therefore, he said, the money should rather be channelled into the construction of offices for MPs to aid their work and deepen Ghana’s parliamentary democracy.
He said the Parliamentary Service Board (PSB) should have consulted MPs for their inputs before arriving at the decision to construct a new chamber.
He asked the PSB to take a second look at the proposed new chamber project, since it was not a priority now.
He suggested the capping of the number of MPs to avoid any increases which might not inure to the benefit of the people.
For his part, Mr Ashiamah said MPs did not need any expanded chamber and suggested that the money should rather be used to address the infrastructure challenges militating against the country’s development.
“On the scale of preference, the construction of a new chamber is not a pressing need for now,” he said.
He mentioned roads, hospitals and investment in industries as some of the areas that needed urgent attention but not an expanded chamber for MPs.
“If the government will do that (invest in infrastructure development), then I am ready to stand on my feet in Parliament to work as an MP,” he said.
Leading the defence for the Majority side, Mr Aboagye said “the proposal for a new chamber is not out of place, as this is the type of governance we have chosen for ourselves”.
He said he supported the proposal for an expanded chamber because it would ensure equal representation of people in Parliament.
For instance, he said, a constituency with a population of about 10,000 had one MP, while a constituency with a population of about 130,000 also had one MP, which was not fair.
He said legislators from constituencies with small populations and those from constituencies with big populations received similar Common Fund allocations.
That arrangement, he said, was not fair, since MPs from highly populated constituencies faced huge demands from their constituents.
Therefore, Mr Aboagye said, there was the need to carve new constituencies from the big ones to ensure fairness in the representation of the people in Parliament and equal distribution of resources.
He said the construction of an expanded chamber would, therefore, cater for the expected increase in the number of MPs.
For his part, Mr Addo said the proposed chamber had received the approval of the PSB and indicated that the intention to have a new chamber to accommodate an expected increase in the number of legislators was germain.
He said the current chamber was built as a conference centre and, therefore, it was important for Parliament to construct a new chamber fit for purpose.
Mr Addo proposed that Parliament should explore other sources of funding for the construction of the new chamber.
For instance, he said, the Jubilee House was funded by the Indian Government and indicated that other countries or organisations could be ready to support the construction of a new chamber.