Hawa Koomson's vetting and matters arising: Is the criticism fair?

Mavis Hawa Koomson Appointments Committee Minister-designate for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Mavis Hawa Koomson

Sat, 20 Feb 2021 Source: Sylvester Nuama-Mensah

I did not watch Hawa Koomson's vetting but given what's being reported, I guess one can understand the criticism somehow. Nevertheless, I think that some of the criticism is too harsh and unfair. For example, when Hawa Koomson is criticized so severely for what some see as her lack of command of the English language.

True, English is Ghana's official language; so, perhaps it could be reasonably argued that if you are going to hold a public office you are expected to be able to communicate fairly well in the English language. But I don't think that being fluent in English is a pre-requisite. At least, that's my point of view.

Again, I have not seen Hawa Koomson's vetting and I'm not sure to what extent that she failed to communicate articulately. Still, I don't think that it's fair to criticise her so harshly for the way she speaks English, especially if she is able to get her message across fairly well anyway.

On the substantive issues, some critics have questioned whether Hawa Koomson has what it takes to run the ministry for which she has been nominated. Indeed, one critic observed that, "she seems to know little to nothing about the portfolio she's going to handle." Others too have suggested that she came to the vetting unprepared, hence she could not answer simple/basic questions and at the same time displayed a lack of knowledge of the sector (fisheries & aquaculture).

Well, I am not ready to make excuses for that. There can be no excuse for not preparing adequately for an event such as that (vetting for ministerial office). As another critic observed, "a good research assistant could have saved Hawa Koomson from all this." I agree.

But I still think that Hon. Hawa Koomson deserves some credit. It can't be all reduced to her performance at this vetting -- "poor" as it may be. Remember, some people can be really nervous in such situations. And Hawa Koomson probably had reason to be nervous going before the Vetting Committee this time, assuming that was so.

One respected critic observed that he doubts whether Hawa Koomson can lead the ministry or formulate a coherent policy on aquaculture. The point is taken with due respect. But you see, there is policy formulation and there is policy implementation. So, may be Hawa Koomson lacks strength in the area of formulation/development but she might have strength in the area of implementation. I mean, this is the same woman who served as the Minister of Special Development Initiatives in the President's first term in office.

And I believe she did a good job in that capacity; at least, in my view. So, I think that we must look at the woman's strengths wholistically. She can't be portrayed as though she were a non-performer. That wouldn't be a fair or honest assessment of the woman.

My recommendation. I believe that the President may have nominated Hon. Mavis Hawa Koomson mainly because of her ability to deliver. Think results for the erstwhile Ministry of Special Development Initiatives. But if it is looking like Hawa Koomson may not be the right fit for the fisheries ministry, or if she doesn't get the nod from Parliament for this ministry, it might be worth the consideration for His Excellency the President to re-assign her a different portfolio. Perhaps the President may consider re-assigning her the same portfolio she held before (SDI).

Now I'm aware that the President has cut down drastically on the number of ministries -- and that's a good thing. But Hawa Koomson need not be a minister to handle the SDI portfolio and/or drive the SDI agenda. For example, she could be appointed as the Coordinator for Special Development Initiatives.

Of course, assuming that the SDI agenda is still relevant to the President and another person hasn't already been assigned that job. What matters is the nature of the job and the authority that comes with it; and also, the opportunity that provides you to serve your country to the best of your ability. Whether or not you have the title of a minister doesn't really matter. Just my thoughts.

Columnist: Sylvester Nuama-Mensah