The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has urged the political leadership in the country to work towards winning the trust of the people in the political system.
In line with that, he said, they must involve citizens in decision-making processes since the Constitution guaranteed that sovereignty resided in the people.
“The government must deploy the powers vested in it in the interest and well-being of the people, and the best way to do this is to involve them,” the Speaker said.
Mr Bagbin, who was speaking at the inauguration of Citizen’s Bureau in Parliament in Accra yesterday, added that “our ability to consistently engage significant others and understand their perspectives will determine the quality of our representation.
It is that narrative of engagement that the citizen’s bureau intends to rewrite”.
The Citizens’ Bureau is an office in Parliament that facilitates engagements and information sharing between Parliament and civil society organisations (CSOs).
The bureau also facilitates dissemination of information on relevant research works conducted by CSOs to members and officials of Parliament to enhance their work.
It is equally responsible for the formulation, implementation and reporting on Open Parliament initiatives under an open government partnership.
The Speaker said the mandate of politicians, as duty-bearers, would only have meaning, if their work advanced the best interests of the people by including their thoughts and perspectives in whatever they did.
“As the world evolves, so do the beliefs, needs, challenges, hopes and aspirations of the people we represent.
We fail as legislature, if these do not find expression in the laws we pass, and the decisions and interventions we make,” he said.
Mr Bagbin mentioned the growing disconnect between Africa leaders or the political elite and the people they served which, he said, was manifesting mostly in the sahel region.
“Consequently, in today’s Africa, we have seen military coups d’état in Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Guinea, and Niger.
“This should be of concern as it detracts from efforts to consolidate democracy in Africa,” the speaker said and added that reconnecting Parliament to the people was “our responsibility as MPs”.
On the significance of the bureau, Mr Bagbin said CSOs and the media played very important roles in a democracy as the intervening force between the governed and governments.
He said the two were the conscience of society and shaped laws, policies and regulations using their research findings.
“By constantly setting the agenda for public discourse, the media shines the light on issues requiring oversight and scrutiny and they also give a voice to the voiceless by amplifying the issues that are of concern to the man on the street,” the speaker added.
He, therefore, said formalising relationship between Parliament and civil society, including the media was a must do as “it is a win-win for Parliament and the citizens”.
Parliament commissioned a survey in 2022 on experiences of CSOs in their interaction with the House over the years.
“The survey showed that 80.9 per cent of respondents supported the creation of a unit to deepen citizens’ participation in Parliament’s work given the disconnect between the House and the people they serve, hence the establishment of the bureau,” Mr Bagbin further explained.
The Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, said over the years, CSOs and members of the public had been seeking information from MPs which ideally should have been made public.
“We would be engaging the CSOs and the public to ensure openness and transparency in the work we do,” he said.
The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, for his part, said soliciting input from civil society and citizens was relevant.
“To this end, conscious effort needs to be made to integrate feedback from citizens into the legislative process,” he said.