One of the bold proclamations President Mahama made in his recent announcement of presidential bid in Volta Region is the reduction of ministers to 60. I guess with this approach we can also have drastic reduction of ministries to fit into our fiscal equation in 2025.
This is a clear prudent departure from his previous tenure when he had 88 minsters and deputies. Whiles these days the chorus for reduction of quantum of ministers has been getting louder, the silence on how many ministers represent the ideal has not been loud.
One of the issues rather discussed severally is the doubling of roles as members of parliament and ministers of states. In this regard many people have advocated the amendment of Article 78 that requires presidents to appoint majority of their ministers from parliament. In the US what comes close to a minister is a secretary. Secretary is derived from the word “secrets” and “Secretary” is the appointee of presidents who keep executive secrets. Therefore, Secretary of Energy is literally the one who keeps executive secrets on energy. However, their roles have evolved to those who constitute cabinet and oversee the presidents’ policy direction. Similarly, in Ghana ministers exercise oversight over departments and agencies. In the US after election most presidents will persuade people to join their government because they are not sinecure positions as we have them in third world countries, where incomes are low. Therefore, whiles most secretaries in the US, often millionaires see their appointments as a platform to show love of country, it is seen in third world countries, as instruments of reward from the president.
Therefore, President Mahama’s bold proclamation should provide a start of a deeper conversation on this important subject at a time NPP’s government’s economic mismanagement has reached its apogee. Whiles the economy is chocked by fiscal indiscipline, the government has refused to realign ministries, reduce ministers, and eliminate self-imposed recurrent expenditure because the free and patriotic advice is often coming from President Mahama, who remain their political nemesis.
In article 76 (1) of the constitution there is no ambiguity on the number of members of the cabinet a government can have. It enjoins not less than 10 and not more than 19 members. This provision would have drawn the line on the quantum of ministers the president can appoint into their cabinet or government if not for article 78(2) which states that “The president shall appoint such number of Ministers of States as may be necessary for the efficient running of the state.” This provision if interpreted correctly gives the president the prerogative to appoint even up to 30 million ministers if he determines that this number is what it takes to run the state efficiently.
Provisions such as that of article 78(2) have reinforced our president’s reminiscence with Janghis Khan or an elected tyrant, who can practically do anything with the political capital given to them by the electorate. In the case of the 1992’s constitution the boycott of the Consultative Assembly by the opposition gave PNDC’s Legal Supremos such as Martin Amidu, Nana Ato Dazie, Kwamena Ahoi, Obed Asamoah, and co to craft provisions that sought to retain the powers of Chairman Rawlings as President. This account for Ghanaian President being one of the powerful constitutional leaders in the world. The other thing that the constitution ignored is the criteria for determination of a competent person for appointment as ministers. The qualification for a minister is very general and that has allowed just anybody to be a potential ministerial appointee. Lack of provision on determination of competence has caused significant erosion of quality of our minsters over the years especially under the current president. He dished out ministerial positions to NPP’s activists as if they were Candies or Cool Aids on a hot summer afternoon.
I think with President Mahama’s plan, after the sixteen regional ministers are appointed, he will be left with 44 ministerial positions to fill. He can then appoint 22 ministers and 22 deputies which is fantastic for a country struggling to pay its basic bills. In this regard he will need to align a lot of the ministries. I propose the following changes. Ministries of Defense, Interior, chieftaincy and culture, information, sanitation, environment, sports, Roads and highways and gender should be scrapped or re-aligned. The president should also scrap all non-cabinet ministerial positions. The Chief of Defense Staff and IGP should be elevated to cabinet level. The cabinet should comprise the following ministers and heads of institutions:
-Agriculture and Fisheries
-Transport, Road & Highways
-Education and Sports
-Science, Innovation, and technology
-Health and Social Welfare
-Housing & Urban Development
-Local Government & Rural Development
-Ministry of Labor,
-Land, Environment, and Mineral Resources
-Trade and Industries
-Finance & Economic Planning
-Tourism and Creative Arts
-The Chief of Defense Staff
-Inspector General of Police
God Bless Our Homeland Ghana
Long live the NDC PROFORUM
The writer is a Management Consultant and Member, Research & Communications Team of PROFORUM USA
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