Wednesday, March 14, 2007

House Must Exercise Oversight Over Executive

By Stephen Kwabena Effah
Wednesday, 14 March 2007

A law lecturer, Professor Henry Kwesi Prempeh has expressed concern about the non-existence of legislative oversight of the Executive in the country.

He observed that Parliament has failed to utilise its "approval power" to keep the President in check, noting that Parliament has the power to question or let the President justify the creation of new ministerial portfolios or appointments.

He noted that parliamentary majority has also ceded the appointment of the Speaker of Parliament to the President and at the same time lost its role as the leader of Parliament by the appointment of a Minister of Parliamentary Affairs by the Executive.

Prof. Prempeh, a lecturer in law at Seton Hall University Law School, in the USA, made the observation in Accra on Monday, at a roundtable discussion on the topic, "Progress Towards the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism in Ghana."

It was organised by the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana to commemorate the country’s golden jubilee.

Prof. Prempeh questioned the Executive’s supremacy in law making, which he said provides avenue for wide discretionary powers, adding that the Executive discretion is even widespread in making subsidiary legislation.

He indicated that the statutory grants of rules making authority to the Executive often leave individual ministers, and for that matter the President, wide discretion to apply provisions of the law to individual cases with little or no regulatory guidance to constrain such discretion.

He explained that since government must rule through law, it is necessary that anything designed to have the force of law could become law unless it had been enacted in accordance with constitutionally approved process.

On judicial function and constitutionalism, he said that there is a low level of legal literacy, which has come as a result of under reporting of judicial decisions.

Prof. Prempeh described as "problematic," the unregulated administrative discretion of the Chief Justice within the judiciary.

That, he said, creates risk and the perception of compromising the decisional independence of lower level judges.

In spite of challenges, he lauded the respect for "constitutional commands" in the fourth republican constitution.

He said these included freedom of speech and the media, improved climate of liberty and civilian control of the military.