Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The unprecedented number of Ministers appointed by President Akufo-Addo

The President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on March 15 released a list of 54 Ministers and Deputy Minister Nominees. If approved by Parliament, it will bring his administration's ministerial appointments to 110. For now, this is the highest number of ministers to have ever been appointed in the history of Ghana. It is not surprising therefore that there is a huge public outcry over what can be termed the gigantic appointments.

With focus on the Fourth Republic, President Jerry John Rawlings administration worked with 83 ministers. President John Agyekum Kufuor appointed 88 and that of Prof J.E.A Mills was 75. The immediate past President John Dramani Mahama appointed 84. Now we have 110 Ministers, even with the likelihood of adding more when new regions are created. 
What is worrying is the Minister of State portfolios, attached to certain ministries, which already have substantive minsters and deputies. It must be admitted that the Minister of State portfolio is not new in the Fourth Republic.

However, one may ask how has this contributed to governance in the country? It appears the Minster of State portfolio phenomenon is creating duplication of roles where there are substantive sectoral ministers and deputies. For instance, there is a Minister of Education with two deputies, yet there is going to be a Minister of State in charge of tertiary education. There is a Minister of Agriculture, and a Minister of Fisheries, yet we will have another Minister of State in charge of Agriculture. This really calls for explanation. Let it not be said that it is simply job for the boys.

Ghanaians deserve to be convinced beyond reasonable doubt why this huge number of ministerial nominees. Can we take a cue from developed democracies, like the US, Britain and Japan with large population and better economy, yet their government have fewer ministers. Is it the case that the large number of Ministers will ensure efficient and competent administration that will impact qualitatively on the life of Ghanaians? The government must be guided by the definition of efficiency which is the ability to do or produce something without wasting materials, time, or energy or the ability to produce something with a minimum amount of effort.

In an attempt to justify this turn of events, Minister of Information, Mustapha Hamid said and I quote "The Akufo-Addo government has inherited a country whose economy is at its weakest, and therefore he requires a strong army that will confront these challenges and resolve them in the rapid manner we require in order to put our country back on the path of progress and development. We never promised a lean government "unquote. Really?

It is misleading to suggest that the President needs a large army of ministers to deliver on his campaign promises. What is needed is competent, efficient and innovative individuals to achieve the results. In the midst of all manner of reasons to justify the large ministers, one is at a loss to accept them, at a time when there are reports that the government is cutting down on statutory allocations to NHIS, District Assemblies Common Fund and GETfund.

Let us pause for a minute and ponder over the bureaucracies that will come with the workings of the of new ministerial portfolios, in terms of the cost to the nation, which include the salaries and other conditions of Service of the Ministers and their staff. The President must be reminded that he promised to protect the public purse. There is no doubt that the President has the constitutional powers to appoint as many ministers as he deems fit for the efficient running of the country. It is important for this to be guided by public interest and the sentiments of the citizenry.

Perhaps it is about time the constitution is amended to place an upper limit on the number of ministers a president can appoint. Ministerial appointments must not be used to reward campaign financiers, party loyalists and foot-soldiers. To quote Prof. Ransford Gyampo of the University of Ghana, it is a fallacy to think that a big government with numerous Ministers would be competent enough to meet the needs of the people. A government that is big enough to supply everything is also big enough to gobble the very things it has supplied "unquote.

Mr President, it is not late to prune down on the list.


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