Ghana: A Constitution Is - Alas! - An Inviolable Document

opinion

QUOTE: "[Political] Parties promote accountability in the sense that in the first place, a Party comes to power with a manifesto and it can be queried if its actions are at variance with its avowed and known programme."

"Secondly, there is a clearly identified group in office who are not mere 'invitees' nor 'appointees' but members of a Party who can be held responsible for all misfeasances.

"In conclusion, we may say that political parties have not failed this nation. The system has not been given a chance to work not only by politicians who have abused the process, but also, by soldiers who have raped it. By learning from the lessons of history - home and abroad - and ensuring the consitutionalization and proper operation of political parties, we shall enrich the political system, ensure stability, and promote the progress and liberty of us all." UNQUOTE

The above are words that could have come from any one of the hundreds of people who have led, or been active participants in, the operations of political parties in Ghana since the party system took serious root here in 1949, with the formation of the Convention People's Party.

But can you recognise the voice of the particular individual who was talking about the constitutionalisation of political parties, in the quotation above?

I know it's an unfair question, because, in fact, the quotation is taken from a very obscure source: a booklet entitled Ghana's Transition To Constitutional Rule: Proceedings o f a Seminar organised by the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, Legon.

Well, the voice was that of Professor Mike Oquaye, current Speaker of the National Assembly, whose contribution to the Seminar was entitled "Party and No-party Politics in a Constitutional Order". I quote him because I think his vivid description of what our rulers often get up to is spot on: civilian rulers abuse the constitutional process and then soldiers take advantage of that to do even worse damage: they RAPE the Constitution.

I do wonder what Prof Oquaye's view of the current confrontation between the presidency and the Auditor-General is. As Speaker of the National Assembly, he presides over the legislative arm of what he calls "the constitutional process." His duties are spelt out quite clearly in the Constitution and he cannot override the provisions of that document. Neither is he required to offer an opinion, the interpretation of the Constitution having been zoned, in its entirety, to the Supreme Court.

But as a political scientist, does Speaker Oquaye unofficially recognise that the dilemma he so eloquently sketched out in the quotation given above, is, in a way, being played out right here and now? And if he were free to comment on the issues raised by the confrontation, what would he say? Can he advise the presidency about this issue, in an unofficial role?

As far as I can see, the presidency is in error by issuing a direct order to the Auditor-General to proceed on the "leave" that he has not taken.

Such an order, I am sorry to say, reeks of macho politics - something which this presidency, in particular, has been seen to eschew. It has distinguished itself, so far, (has it not?) by the calm manner in which it approaches most issues, and need not change tack now..

The fact is that an auditor, by definition, is inherently required to irritate. For there are two types of persons to whom money can be entrusted - those who scrupulously observe the rules governing the expenditure of moneys entrusted to them, and those who are careless over such matters. It is the sacred duty of an auditor to make sure that both types of person obey the rules.

Anyone who quarrels with an auditor is therefore, in effect, "self-defining" himself as someone who does not welcome the attentions of the financial rule-book of his organisation.

Don't laugh, but I remember that when I took a holiday job with the Department of Agriculture's Cocoa Rehabilitation section, years ago, the accountant of our tiny branch office used to hire young boys and deposit them at the lorry station, to warn him whether any people had been disgorged by lorries, "who looked like auditors".

Well may you ask, "what does an auditor look like"? In those days, they usually wore khaki shorts with long pairs of socks or "hose" rolled down at the knee. And they usually hung pencils behind their ears, and carried huge notebooks.

Now, we were at Asiakwa and our auditors usually came from one of three places - Kyebi (no problem for the accountant!) Koforidua (serious questions to answer) or Suhum (very dangerous, as Suhum was the town closest to Accra, the national headquarters, where all disputes came to an end!)

I remember that one accountant ran away from his office one day, as soon as he heard from his spies that not one, not two, but three people who looked like auditors, had disembarked from lorries at the lorry station! He didn't even bother to come back to Asiakwa to collect his personal belongings, but apparently went straight from there to Takoradi, from where he took a ship to Liberia.

We heard later that the "Liaison Officer" of our local Cocoa Rehabilitation branch office had reported the accountant to headquarters, because the accountant had discovered that the Liaison Officer had arranged for the entire cocoa farm of a sub-chief to be "cut out", so that the chief could be paid by "acreage" (more lucrative) instead of by the number of trees cut down (the usual method).

As soon as the "pay-out" arrived at Asiakwa, however, the accountant had written an anonymous letter to the "Agricultural Survey Officer",

(A.S.O) disclosing that the first inspection of the said cocoa farm had disclosed only a tiny number of diseased cocoa trees and should not have been included in the farms marked for the "all-die" treatment.

Upon receiving the anonymous letter, the A.S.O had immediately asked headquarters for an urgent "general audit".

Now, the accountant had assumed that the audit would take the usual number of weeks, during which he would be able to lend the "payout" money to people and collect interest on it. But alas, once a "general audit" was carried out, it would be found out that the "Money Received" and "Money In Hand" columns in his ledger did not tally! He knew this would be the case. So off he went to Liberia.

The moral of the story, then, is this: "Never, but never, get yourself involved in quarrels with auditors, if you really want to live long and - in peace!"

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