I have always called for the regulation of discretionary powers granted to our public officials in the majority of our statutes.
Unfortunately and with all due respect to the justices on the bench of the highest court, the Supreme Court has till date failed to appreciate the harm the non regulation of discretionary power in this country is causing to the public purse and public interest. I insist that the 1992 constitution under article 296 contains enough provisions for the checking of discretionary power. What we badly need is enforcement of Article 296.
Fortunately, the decision of the Electoral Commission to compile a completely new voters register presents another opportunity for a reconsideration of the issue of abuse of discretion in Ghana.
This is a statement of the problem:
Does the fact that the electoral commission have the discretion to compile voters register for elections in Ghana mean they can throw away existing voters registers every 4 years and compile completely new registers each time we have an election?
My answer is NO. The creation or compilation of a new voters register every 4 years is not only unreasonable but wasteful and criminal considering the social needs of the state. You May have the discretion but God gave us all brains to acquire wisdom and understanding and even though you have the power to compile the register as many times as you wish you cannot do it anytime it crosses your mind.
What do we do if the people are confronted with a dumb and insensitive public official who insists on creating a new voters register every 4 years? Must we always take to the streets to find solutions to our governance issues?
The drive to reform must not always come from the people but the public official. That is why you are paid so much for the work you do.
These are some of the reasons why the law that gives the Electoral Commission the power and discretion to compile the names of voters must be further amended to state the conditions that will necessitate the exercise of that discretionary power to compile names of voters.
The following immediately comes to mind.
1. The need to capture names of people who turn 18 after the last registration.
2. We can also think of the loss of existing data.
3. In the case of dead persons all it takes is to delete such names from the register using data from the birth and death registry. The data from the birth and death registry is very authentic because no burial takes place without a certificate from the Regiatry.
So clearly if these conditions/reasons are legislated and become binding, our insensitive and corrupt public officials will not wake up one day because their pockets are empty and conjure reasons to convince us why we need a new voters register. We would all know before hand what would necessitate the compilation of new voters register.
Because the reasons for compilation of the voters register is not independently determined in a law and backed by collective wisdom, the people and the electoral commission have had to jump from one media forum to the other shouting for attention and endorsement of reasons. The wisdom of the 7 Commissioners alone is not enough to convince a population of 24 million why their personal data that is not corrupted should be thrown into the dustbin and re collected.
The call for the checking of discretionary power may not find favour with the Supreme Court for now but I will change that by legislative reform at the least opportunity. The abuse of discretionary power in this country is more destructive to the society than colonialism or slavery. The earlier we reign it in the better.
By: Elikplim Lorlormavor Agbemava, A Private Legal Practitioner