The Executive Director of the Africa Centre for Parliamentary Affairs (ACEPA), Dr Rasheed Draman has called on African Parliaments to invest more resources in research for effective and efficient parliamentary work.

According to him, research does not only support effective scrutiny of policy and the achievement of executive accountability, it also enhances the work of parliamentarians in churning out evidence-based legislation.

Dr Draman made the call during a two-day workshop on strategic approaches to evidence for staff of the Research Department of Parliament from Saturday 30th to Sunday 31st October 2021 at Koforidua, in the Eastern Region.

The workshop was part of the Centre’s Data for Accountability Project (DAP)which aims to support parliament and its staff, especially the research department to understand the importance of their role to the business of parliament and the parliamentarians.

DR RASHEED DRAMAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ACEPA

The participants were taken through topics including Essentials of Legislative Research, Communicating Research Findings, among others which were expected to help the staff to understand the information needs of MPs, the kind of information needed, what legislative research entails, and how to make such information relevant to members.

Speaking to EXPRESSNEWSGHANA, the Executive Director of ACEPA stressed that research is useful for enabling MPs to form well-grounded views about issues, as well as supporting their arguments with scientific evidence.

It was also to increase the knowledge of the staff of the Research Department on ways of overcoming organizational obstacles that affect the use of evidence in line with the objectives of the DAP.

Dr Draman explained that research has proven to be a compelling component of parliamentary work globally, given that it provides credibility and improves parliamentary discourse; emphasizing that, “it boosts parliamentarians in their debates.”

“MPs need the information to support effective scrutiny and to inform policy, in other words, MPs need research data to hold the government accountable, as well as guide their work at the select committees level,” Dr Draman added.

For him, even though some parliamentarians are professionals and have areas of expertise, they are not outright knowledgeable in every aspect of society. This, for Dr Draman, makes the research, data and evidence to support their work even more critical.

In most cases, Dr Draman  said, the  national budgets or some laws are passed on wrongful assumptions or poor information and data, which in his view become irrelevant after approval  or passage…“this, therefore, makes the research department of our parliament important because it plays a critical role in our parliamentary legislation, and if we want quality  and more critical policy scrutiny in our democratic governance, the research department needs to be equipped with not only logistics but also with the needed capacity, knowledge and skills for which this workshop is very important.”

STAFF OF RESEARCH DEPARTMENT OF PARLIAMENT

Ghana, he said, is doing well in terms of parliamentary democracy but expressed concern that excessive partisanship on some decisions is clouding the gains made in the past 25 years.

Nevertheless, Dr Draman said he hopes that the current composition of parliament with 137 MPs on either side of the House will allow parliament to assert its independence and free itself from the control and dominance of the executive arm of government.

While urging the participants from the research department to try their best to render politically impartial services, and provide advice and analysis in which all MPs could have confidence, Dr Draman expressed confidence that after the workshop, the research department staff would be in a better position to support the MPs to enrich their knowledge in parliamentary issues and policies of governance.

He further challenged the staff to go beyond the ordinary and develop a personal skill of providing up to date information that meets the needs of MPs, saying,” in parliamentary research, the results are bound by time and relevance, the information needed by an MP in the 7th Parliament would not be needed in the 8th parliament and same goes to when the MP needs a piece of the particular information to support debate on a particular policy.”

He thus encouraged participants to develop a quest for producing real-time information to service the current needs of members.

He again urged participants to strive to be nonpartisan and mindful of some fundamental issues like taking into consideration the analytical integrity, political feasibility, ethics, technical and institutional code of conduct in order not to be seen as bias.

A Senior Governance Advisor with ACEPA, Mr Issifu Lampo said the Workshop was necessary because it would equip the research staff with the capacity to provide the relevant support to satisfy the information needs of parliamentarians and parliament as an institution.

According to him, the work of legislators revolves around information and data, for which MPs rely on the research staff. He noted that such evidence from research is key in assisting members to work on policy solutions, prepare speeches, participate in debates, and maintain discussions with peers and constituents.

MR ISSIFU LAMPO

He added that the legislators also need data that would give them a persuasive advantage to be able to influence government decisions, monitor implementation progress of ongoing programmes, review national budgets and economic policies.

The overall aim of the workshop with the staff of the research department, Mr Lampo said, was to ensure that they gained a better understanding of legislative research, a good appreciation of the information needs of MPs, enhance their capacity on writing policy briefs and memos, among others.

The Director of the Research Department of the Parliament of Ghana, Mohammed Nyagsi said, the workshop was necessary because the core mandate of the research department is to assist Members in their parliamentary work by providing them with independent, objective and authoritative analysis of, and research on, policy issues relating to the Parliament of Ghana and beyond.

He explained that the Research Department is considered the engine of parliament since it is responsible for providing up to date secondary data and information to MPs in the performance of their duties.

Mr Nyagsi noted that despite its critical role in parliamentary duties, after years of low staff challenges, the staff strength of the department has only been augmented from 9 to 25 staff through a recent recruitment exercise, which in his considered view is the best for now.

He however urged the participating staff members to utilize the opportunity of the training in order to gain the knowledge and skills expected of them, to enhance their capacity to provide more analytical data and information to improve the output of members.

STAFF OF RESEARCH DEPARTMENT OF PARLIAMENT AT WORKSHOP

 Source: expressnewsghana.com

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