Let's Have Ceiling On Number Of Ministers - Ato Dadzie Advocates (Monday,May 31, 2010, pg 14)

A former Chief of Staff, Nana Ato Dadzie, has called for a ceiling to be placed on the number of ministers and deputy ministers that can be appointed by the President.

Dadzie, who served in the Rawlings-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) Administration, observed that although a limitation on the number of ministers might pose challenges to the country’s constitutional governance, the present “carte blanche, all bills paid, open-cheque approach may be inappropriate” as it burdened the President with all sorts of pressures.

Dadzie was making a presentation entitled “The absence of a ceiling on the number of ministries created and the number of ministers appointed” at a forum organised in Accra by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).

The discussion attracted current and former Ministers of State, Members of Parliament (MPs), leaders of political parties, members of the Bar and academia and formed part of IEA’s Constitutional Review Programme, which involves research and advocacy on provisions of the Constitution.

A number of roundtables have been organised to discuss some grey areas and provisions in the 1992 Constitution. The consensus reached is expected to be documented and presented to the Constitutional Review Committee.

Last January, President John Evans Atta Mills appointed a nine-member commission under the chairmanship of Prof. Albert Fiadjoe with the mandate of collating views from Ghanaians for the review of the 18-year-old Fourth Republican Constitution.

Mr Dadzie said the constitution now literally empowered the President to appoint as many ministers and deputy ministers of state as necessary for the efficient running of the state.

He noted that the implication was that “in the hands of an insensitive and an overambitious President, the taxpayers may groan heavily as a result of costs occasioned by unbridled political appointments.”

Mr Dadzie stated that a more open and transparent operation of the presidency and its staffing was required to ensure that competent persons and efficient staff were employed instead of the practice of job for the boys.

He said, the need for a hybrid system in the 1992 Constitution where ministers and their deputies were to be chosen within and outside Parliament was as the result of two events in the Second and Third Republics.

In the Second Republic, the 1969 West-Minister-type (British) Constitution required the then Progress Party (PP) headed by Professor K.A. Busia to appoint ministers from Parliament.

He explained that because the PP did not win any seat in Parliament in the Volta Region, Prof. Busia could not, therefore, appoint a minister from the region; a situation which deepened the region’s perceived exclusion from the government and proved to be a major hindrance to national development.

He also said under the Third Republic which employed the US presidential style constitution under Dr Hilla Limann’s administration, the executive had a hard time pushing policies and legislation in Parliament because of the absence of members of the executive in Parliament.

The situation, Mr Dadzie observed, culminated in the rejection of President Limann’s 1981 budget even though his party, the Peoples’ National Party (PNP) commanded a majority in Parliament.

Contributing to the discussions, the MP for Akim Oda, Mr Yaw Owusu-Boateng, stated that strengthening state institutions remained an alternative to putting limitations on or increasing the number of ministers.

Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, National Chairman of the People’s National Convention (PNC), for his part, stated that putting a ceiling on the number of ministers or deputy ministers was not necessary as what was more important was the achievement of the government’s objectives to ultimately better the lives of the people.

“It is the failure to achieve the hopes and aspirations of the people that raise questions concerning the number of ministers in a government,” he said.

Prof. A.K.A. Kludze, a former Supreme Court Judge, who chaired the function, called for the de-politicisation of the civil service to ensure that civil servants had the free hand to do their work without fear of being removed during changes in political administrations

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