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How many ministers of state should Ghana have?

President Akufo Addo NHC Addresses President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

Fri, 10 Mar 2017 Source: William Yaw Ansah

By: William Yaw Ansah

Each time Ghana comes out of an election and it was time for the nomination of Ministers of State, the most debatable issue that sparks off is the number of Ministers that a government should have. Is it a business question, a political question or an emotional question?

I have often pondered over this statement and sometimes get confused over strong arguments that people make concerning ministerial numbers. The simplest and easiest of solutions I hear civil society groups make is that let’s compare Ghana to Britain, the United States, and Germany among others. Does this presuppose learning from these countries in terms of their population against persons in ministerial positions? Will Ghana succeed?

There are millions of arguments, however, the question of right size is often at the discretion of the policyholder and not the outsider. The outsider can only advice based on his experience and not from an emotional point of view.

Politicians have also not done well to themselves as they criticise each other over the ministerial number with no one talking about the output. I wish therefore to adduce business logic when it comes to deciding on human and physical resources needed to run a business.

In the world of business, one philosophy which business owners never argue on is the objective of setting up a business which is to make profit. But when it comes to number of employees, no two business managers will agree on the right number.

The required number of Ministers like any other business should be dependent on the business strategy which should also clearly spell out the intended output. The business strategy determines the required resources needed for its accomplishment. The number game, therefore, is clearly irrelevant. There are businesses with small staff number of 10 and incurring a loss of 1 million Ghana cedis or lower per year and other businesses with huge staff strength of 2000 or more people making a profit of GH¢500.00. Which will be the preferred business to choose from? This is clearly to demonstrate the dynamics of using numbers before thinking of the business strategy. I would prefer to hear people say with this strategy you do not need this number of people and not before the strategy is rolled out.

There is another school that waits to hear of the names of new ministries and advise on synchronisation with other ministries or merger. I wish all these theorists will rather ask the President to show us the mandate given to each of these Ministers as the Parliamentary Appointments Committee tried to do. In some cases, the Committee was pleased with the rationale behind the new ministries created, in other cases they were not because either the appointees’ could not express themselves properly or have not asked further questions to understand their job descriptions well

There is another school of thought whose argument is very basic. Each minister will be paid x-amount of amount and also provided with an official vehicle and therefore a drain on the national resources. This is very simple. I started the discussion by underlining the need for us to know the business strategy or the objective which the President wishes to achieve.

Let’s adduce some reasons for the number of Ministers. In context, one can say that the current government made more promises than any other political party prior to the election. They have been elected into office strictly based on their messages and they must fulfil them. The urgency to do this within the next four years is probably the reason for the number of Ministers.

The main objective of the government is to create more jobs and this cannot happen in a vacuum. The creation of new regional capitals will definitely come with additional jobs and costs such as Regional Police Command, Regional House of Chiefs, Regional Education Office, Regional Minister, etc.

The Minister for the Inner Cities and the Zongo is new but it is meant to create menial jobs, I suppose, and improve upon the living conditions of the Zongos. All the ministries may have purposes, the question that we need to keep asking is whether these Ministers and ministries will help the government achieve its objectives within the four-year mandate period.

One great argument that I often find difficult to subject myself to is also from the same business philosophy which says that businesses should keep operating into the unforeseeable future. Should the business stay in business while making losses or should it close down, cut down some of its operational lines.

This is the slate on which I expect all to judge governments. Should we allow the same approach and team to continue working even when the targets are far from reach? The President has the choice to reshuffle and this he must do.

Some leaders stubbornly refuse to reshuffle or change their approach when all can see that there is something fundamentally wrong. This is the point of decision that separates a good manager from a bad one. The good manager has the power to take decisions and he /she does so when it matters. A bad manager sees a problem but finds it difficult to take a decision.

The unique part of business that guarantees continuity is the business’ objective and the leaders’ ability to pull together the requisite human and physical resources to accomplish the set objectives. It is not about numbers. Once we talk about numbers, we cloud our judgements which should rather be opened to see the job descriptions and strategies laid out by the Ministers to ensure that they are working in line.

The writer is the CEO of Origin8 Limited, an Advertising, Marketing, Research and Public Relation Company in Ghana.

Columnist: William Yaw Ansah