Akufo-Addo scraps ministries, reduces ministerial appointments by a third – A political cul de sac

Nana Akufo Addo Large President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Mon, 18 Jan 2021 Source: Ekow Arthur-Aidoo

President Nana Akufo-Addo has done away with eight of the new ministries he created in his first term.

It is trite knowledge that the space he had to create an inordinately large number of ministries and appoint 127 ministers against all advice has now been checkmated by Ghana’s hung parliament status.

In the end, there were 59 ministers with various designations; 16 regional ministers; and 48 deputy ministers, bringing the net total to 123.

One or two were sacked without replacement, otherwise, at the peak, there were as many as 127 ministers, according to some tabulations.

Ghana’s constitution requires that at least half of the ministers must be MPs. For his second term, the President’s NPP party has 137 seats, the same number as the NDC.

For about two weeks now, some social media sources have had it that there shall be 52 ministers. And then another source later gave the total number of new ministers as 80.

All those were attempts to test the waters.

On Sunday, a news report by Asaaseradio.com, a quasi-government mouthpiece, sighted by GhanaWeb indicated that for the President’s second term, some seven specialised ministries that were created when he assumed office on January 7, 2017 will not function in his second term, giving two reasons.

This is because they “have accomplished the purpose for which they were set up, which was the work of establishing those priority projects and programmes. Also, the ministries are being collapsed in response to public criticism of the record size of the President’s first term government,” read the report by Asaase.com.

In his first term, President Akufo-Addo appointed 127 ministers and deputies, defending his horrible decision with the quip “I am in a hurry” to deliver on my promises.

It took three months from January to March 2017 for the President to complete his main list of appointments.

He defended that one too by saying he needed to to investigate the backgrounds of minister nominees and thus appoint quality material. It turned out it was all fluff and bluster as the performance of the ministers earned the NPP a public disgrace with their mantra “we have the men” being trolled on social media. For example, the Sanitation minister could not deliver the President’s promise of making “Accra the cleanest city in Africa'' by the end of his first term. The railway minister promised skytrains in Accra which are nowhere to be found.

The water resources, works and housing minister watched Ghanaians continuously drink sachet water for another four years, and never ever mentioned that the 20 odd years old practice must end.

Then there was a promise to fight Galamsey, but Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, Ghana’s best known heart surgeon and one time presidential candidate of the NPP rather ended up misappropriating unto themselves and their cronies, excavators together with the Inter-Ministerial Committee against Illegal Mining (IMCIM).

In the end President Akufo-Addo appointed 59 ministers.

These comprised 36 ministers to man various ministries. Indeed some ministers had no ministries.

For example, Osafo-Maafo the Senior Minister, and Boniface Abubakar Siddique, who was assigned to the Office of the Vice President.

The 59 included seven (7) ministers of state, which means some ministries had two ministers with one of them being designated the substantive minister.

There were also 16 regional ministers whom the constitution recognises as ministers of state. The 16 regional ministers comprised six new ministers for six new regions.

Indeed, due to the public outcry, the President could not appoint deputy ministers for the six regional ministers.

Some pundits have observed that had the President had the luxury of numbers in Parliament, he would have appointed deputies for those six new regional ministers, increasing the number of ministers from 123 to 129.

Of the 123 ministers, only a maximum of 19 are allowed at cabinet meetings according to the constitution. Once only 19 of the 59 ministers - only about a third - could have a voice in cabinet decision making, fancy what the 48 deputy ministers were doing.

They had very little to no influence, and certainly no clout.

No wonder many of them lost their seats.

For example, both deputy ministers of roads lost their seats because they could not lobby for road projects for their own constituencies.

Ditto for the ministers of state including Professor Kwesi Yankah, a minister of state at the Ministry of Education who contested for the Agona East seat and lost, and Boniface Siddique who lost the Madina-Abokobi seat.

Both will not be appointed if the same social media sources through which the waters are being tested are to be believed.

The pro-NPP news portal reports that the President will cut down the number of ministers by at least 30%. It will mostly affect deputy ministers of state.

Affected ministries

So far eight ministries have been pencilled to be made redundant, with their functions being given back to the so-called traditional ministries.

They are:

1) Ministry of Aviation;

2) Inner City and Zongo Development Ministry which struggled to find a decent office space for at least two years;

3) Business Development Ministry;

4) Ministry of Mobilisation and Regional Reorganization which was created to implement the creation of new regions and districts and help the NPP win a second term by reducing the powerful Rawlings legacy on the erstwhile three northern regions;

5) Ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation;

6) Ministry for Public Procurement;

7) Ministry of Planning; and 8) Ministry of Special Development Initiatives.

“The research department of the Office of the President at the Jubilee House is expected to be revamped to perform the function” of the Ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation and will be headed by Dr. Isaac Owusu Mensah, according to the Asaase report.

Victor Newman, who was head of research at the Jubilee House died recently, shortly after his daughter had won the Okaikoi South seat for the NPP.

It will be interesting to see if Darkoa Newman is among the new MPs appointed minister.

Pundits expect her to be appointed at least, as compensation for the long years of loyalty her father showed to Akufo-Addo, even before the days of the Alliance for Change in 1995.

All told, Akufo-Addo and the NPP are walking a tightrope and playing with fire, because once they fail to appoint ministers and appointees who lost their seats, apathy in their party grows further. And further, when incumbent MPs do not get appointments - ministerial or otherwise - there shall be more apathy towards government business in Parliament.

The race for the 2024 elections can be foretold in the current reshuffle, which many expected, but hardly saw one.

Yes, there was virtually no reshuffle of ministers for four years- a first in Ghanaian politics.

This reduction of ministers has thus been thrust on the President on account of the huge loss of the NPP’s 63 seat Majority - 169 seats versus 106 seats for the NDC in the previous Parliament.

Commentators such as Kwesi Pratt have hit hard at the suggestion that the NPP and NDC were elected to collaborate in Parliament, thereby dispelling the nascent idea that President Akufo-Addo should appoint some NDC MPs as ministers or that there should be consensus on the passage of bills.

In the event of the 80 ministers being appointed, at least 40 must be MPs and the incumbent party will lose a lot of votes in Parliament.

The President’s hands are indeed tied.

Gabby Otchere-Darko, the President’s nephew and strategist has hinted of “bye-elections” to untie the President’s hands.

The author is a journalist, communications and media analyst and a writer. The views expressed are solely his and do not represent the organisation he works for.

Email: paanyan7@gmail.com

Blog: ekowrites.blogspot.com

Twitter: @earthur_aidoo

Columnist: Ekow Arthur-Aidoo