Spotlight on John Kwabena Bless Oti (NDC), MP for Nkwanta North

In recent weeks, Odekro has carefully observed the nomination and vetting of Mr. John Bless Oti, MP for Nkwanta for the position of Deputy Minister for Local Government and Rural Development.

Although media has primarily focused on Mr. Oti’s gaffes ranging from confusion regarding his official name to his use of contemptuous language , there has been paltry scrutiny of his parliamentary record. Mr. Oti’s consideration for Deputy Minister is likely firstly based on his position as a Member of Parliament. Article 78 of the constitution mandates the President to appoint “the majority of Ministers of State...from among members of Parliament.”

Some commentators have suggested that Mr. Oti’s appointment is a reward for capturing the Nkwanta North seat from the NPP. The trend of results in the Nkwanta North Parliamentary and Presidential elections over the past 12 years lends credence to this claim.

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Prior to John Bless Oti’s contesting the Nkwanta seat on the NDC’s ticket, the NPP’s two previous consecutive wins were in closely contested elections. As evidenced in the graph above, the average NPP margin of victory in both elections was 3.57 percent. Mr. Bless Oti reversed that trend dramatically—beating two time incumbent Joseph Kwaku Nayan in 2012 with a 25% margin of victory.

NPP victories at the parliamentary level also correlated with smaller margins of victory for the NDC in presidential elections. From 2004 to 2008, the NDC’s margin of victory in the presidential elections decreased from 12.53% to 2.48% —both years in which the NPP dominated the parliamentary elections. In 2012, when John Bless Oti captured the Nkwanta seat for the NDC, the party’s margin of victory in the presidential election increased to 25 percent as shown below:

Nkwanta North Election Analysis

Given these trends, Mr. Bless Oti’s candidacy contributed to gains in NDC support within the Nkwanta North constituency. He is an electoral asset for his party.

The primary responsibility of an elected Member of Parliament is to make laws. The Parliamentary Manual states:

“ The Member (MP) finds himself in a web of onerous duties first to the nation; second to his constituents; and third to his Party."

This article will investigate whether Mr. Oti has performed his parliamentary duties well.

Attendance Record

Article 97(1) (c) 1992 constitution
“A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he is absent, without the permission in writing of the Speaker and he is unable to offer a reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from fifteen sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet”

The most basic duty of any Member of Parliament is to attend parliamentary sessions. An MP cannot contribute to debates on bills if he or she is not present in Parliament. The table below highlights Mr. Oti’s attendance record between January 2013 and August 2015:

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Mr. Oti missed 17 meetings of the second 2013 parliamentary session (June-August 2013) without the written permission of the Speaker. If he failed to provide reasonable explanations for missing these meetings to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges, Mr. Oti breached Article 97(1) (c) of the Constitution. Consequently, his seat should have been declared vacant in 2013 and a by-election held to elect an MP.

Statements Made and Questions Asked in Parliament

On the occasions when Mr. Oti attended Parliamentary sittings he was often a silent observer. Based on the January 2013- March 2016 Hansard records in Odekro’s possession, Mr. Oti contributed only one statement during the 38-MONTH period. Unsurprisingly his only statement was a correction of his name in the Order Paper:
snapshot of John Oti Bless Odekro search

snapshot of John Oti Bless Hansard Entry

Committee Membership

The constitution requires every MP to be granted membership in at least one standing committee; however, Odekro’s database does not include parliamentary committee meeting minutes. Mr. Oti is a member of Government Assurances Committee, which is tasked with ensuring Ministers deliver on commitments made in Parliament, and the Roads and Transport Committee which exercises parliamentary oversight over the Ministry of Roads and Transport.

Ironically, as recently as July 2, 2016, the residents of Nkwanta North — Mr. Oti’s own constituency — threatened to demonstrate over the delays in the construction of the Nkwanta-Oti Damanko stretch of the Eastern Corridor roads.

The poor state of the Nkwanta roads may shed some light on the reasons behind Mr. Oti’s appointment. The recent agitations are a sign of trouble in a swing constituency, only a few months before the elections. Is the President attempting to resolve constituent’s agitations about the Government’s failure to complete roads by appointing their MP Deputy Minister for Local Government?

To his credit, Mr. Oti has publicly bemoaned his constituency's poor development. In 2013, during an Adom FM and Asempa FM appearance, he lamented the lack of a single tarred road in his constituency. While Parliament has the power to allocate funding, MPs do not have any power to complete large scale development projects.

Nevertheless, his role on the Roads and Transport Committee gives him a unique position to investigate and demand that the government fulfills its commitments — one of which is to complete the Nkwanta-Oti Damanko road. Has he used this position effectively?

Use of District Assemblies Common Fund Allocation

Another key litmus test of an MP’s contribution to constituency development is the use of the District Assemblies Common Fund. Established by Article 252 of the Constitution, the Common Fund guarantees the disbursement of at least 5% of total national revenues to Districts.

By law, 5% of the District Assemblies Common Fund is allocated personally to each MP. The purpose of this allocation is to “provide funding for Constituency Labour Projects undertaken by Members of Parliament.”

District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) Allocation to John Bless Oti (2013- 2016 Q1)

District Assemblies Common Fund Allocation to John Bless Oti 2013-2016 Q1) As shown by the table above, Mr. Oti was allocated GHC 245,653 between 2013 and the 1st Quarter of 2016.

We have a question for you Mr. Oti : What have you used this money for?

We call on all constituents of Nkwanta North to comment on this blog or call their local radio stations to share any progress on development projects Mr. Oti may have completed using his allocation of the common fund.

Conclusion

Our data shows that Mr. Oti failed to regularly attend parliamentary sittings and also failed to make any contributions on the floor of Parliament between 2013 and 2015. These two facts suggest that he is inactive MP.

Due to a lack of data on committee contributions and use of the MP’s common fund; however, we cannot make definitive conclusions regarding his performance as an MP.

It is unfortunate that Odekro does not have access to this information. It is the kind of basic information which every citizen needs to form informed opinions.

As his vetting controversy continues, we expect Mr. Oti’s performance of basic parliamentary duties to become a matter of greater public scrutiny. We hereby call on Parliament to:

  1. Release the minutes of any committee meetings Mr. Oti has attended to the public, and

  2. Consider Mr. Oti’s performance as an MP when arriving at the decision to approve or reject his nomination.

During a crucial election year when Ghanaians face a tumultuous economy, we cannot afford to appoint an ineffective MP who may fail to make any meaningful contributions to Ghana’s development.

Disclaimer: Odekro’s analysis and conclusions are all based on publicly available documents which are verifiable by all interested parties.