Of Parliament's profligate chamber and the outrage of Ghanaians

It has been quite a tumultuous week in the media for the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Ocquaye and leadership of the house since the news broke of an intended new chamber for the legislature.

Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, Minority Leader in Parliament

This proposed chamber, though its final cost isn't yet known, is estimated to cost the Ghanaian taxpayer close to $200m.

Last Friday, the world acclaimed Ghanaian born British architect, Sir David Adjaye visited the leadership of the house to brief them on the design for the new 450-seater chamber.

In his interaction with the media after the meeting, Sir Adjaye said: "We are hoping the project will sometime this year start on site. Parliament, government has committed to it in the budget that was revealed; that has already happened and they are seeking additional funding."

“But we know we have been given the direction to prepare starting sometime this year to be able to allow this to go on site; if we are able to start this year, it should be completed within the next three years,” he added.


Speaker of the house Prof. Mike Ocquaye in his remarks stated that government is committed to the project and is already exploring external funds to shore-up the funding.

He also hinted about how much the edifice will cost which he estimated not to be more than $200m.

This was reiterated by the Majority Leader of the house, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu in subsequent interview on Citi FM.


“We all think that the facility should not exceed a certain amount; that is $200 million. We are looking at anything between $150 million and $200 million,” Mr. Kyei-Mensa-Bonsu told Citi News.

There. That statement. That was the statement that has caused the massive uproar among Ghanaians in regards to this project. Hitherto, there was less controversy about this project when it was made official on Friday as government has already allocated GHS75m for it in the 2019 budget.

But for it to be estimated at an astronomical $200m, many Ghanaians feel it is a wasteful expenditure in light of the numerous priorities facing the nation.

It is estimated that over 20% of Ghanaians live without potable water and are compelled to share very dirty and infested water with animals and about 16% are without access to electricity and sleep in darkness.


For instance, in the 2019 budget, government costed one ambulance to be GHS 354,750. With the measly 22 functioning ambulances serving all the 16 regions of Ghana, $200m dollars can buy over 2800 ambulances for the nation.

Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority leader, has been the main defender of this project since the outrage. Of his numerous media interviews, he had argued fiercely that despite the lack of basic amenities and poverty in many parts of the country, governments over the years have built schools, hospitals, roads and other capital intensive infrastructure.

Therefore, the calls for government to fulfill social intervention projects before embarking on such projects are untenable. This also fueled the already wild fire that was burning especially on social media.

Led by ace broadcast journalist Nana Aba Anamoah of GhOne, Ghanaians on social media trended a hashtag of 'DropThatChamber' to call on parliamentarians to shelve the idea of a new chamber.

Under this hashtag, users labelled legislators and their leaders as insensitive to the plight of ordinary Ghanaians. They argued that there a lot of challenges in the health sector, educational sector, graduate unemployment and the incessant high cost of living that this money can cater for.


In one of her rants on Twitter on the chamber, Nana Aba ridiculed the idea by saying: "MPs want a better working environment? Our doctors, nurses and other health professionals in public hospitals need that too. Do you have any idea what they go through at their work places? Take a seat, Ghanaian MPs".

This agitation has also attracted the backing of some minority MPs like Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa and Ras Mubarak. They have maintained that a new chamber is not needed and that there are far more pressing needs that government has to focus.

In fact, the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has distanced itself from the proposed chamber and has warned to sanction any of their MPs who support it.


Though the agitators against the project have set Saturday, July 13 to hit the streets and demonstrate, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu has hinted that Parliament is willing to listen to the complaints of Ghanaians and shelve the idea.

Whether that will happen willingly or the massive demonstrations threatened by Ghanaians will make them cave in, remains to be seen.


Unblock notifications in browser settings.

Eyewitness? Submit your stories now via social or: