President Mahama has re-aligned his team, but.....

Fri, 18 Jul 2014 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My good friends, President Mahama has moved on to reshuffle his team, bringing in new faces, shifting some appointees around, disbanding the Ministry of Information (to gladden my heart!), and retaining some appointees at post.

The “old faces” have either been moved to new portfolios or retained to suggest the amount of that President Mahama has reposed in them, even if there is much to prove that their performance isn’t above reproach. The Minister of Education and her Deputies (Samuel Okudjeto-Ablakwa and Alex Kyeremeh), for instance, have been kept at post, although the Ministry faces much turbulence in many areas—lack of resources for the schools, industrial actions by teachers and lecturers at the polytechnics and universities demanding better service conditions, and many more. Will they gear up to prove their critics wrong now that they have been given the nod to remain at post?

Seth Terkper (Minister of Finance) is still at post, thanks to President Mahama’s insistence on keeping him there no matter how much pressure is put on him by his critics. And he has been in Parliament, pleading for well over 3 billion Cedis more in a supplementary budget to enable the government accomplish its goals. The Ministry of Finance has a lot to do and Terkper will have to redouble efforts if he can. Otherwise, the situation will worsen.

Others who have been shifted around are expected to outdo their predecessors. Knowing them for what they did or failed to do at their previous posts, what guarantee is there that they will perform much better in their new calling to help the government solve problems? Being re-assigned suggests that President Mahama trusts them to deliver the goods to prove critics wrong that this re-aligning exercise is not just a mere game of musical chairs.

Those kicked out (e.g., Kwesi Ahwoi, formerly of the Ministry of the Interior) may have good reason to complain but should look for other opportunities to serve the country.

The list did not contain the names of the Deputy Regional Ministers. Why?

One major problem that I have with the President’s re-alignment of his team is the retention of the large portfolios/Ministries. It is unacceptable for Ghana to have 33 Ministries (out of which 10 are for the Regions) in addition to the hollow shell of “Minister of State”. So appalling is it too to have 34 (or more) Deputy Ministers. This is extremely large a government team to be supported by the tax-payer!!

I daresay that the Ministries and Deputy Ministries are too many and the President should have cut them down by collapsing some into others and disbanding many outright. In my own assessment of issues, Ghana doesn’t need more than the Ministries that I have determined below:

1. Foreign Affairs & Regional Integration

2. Attorney General & Ministry of Justice (to be split into two separate institutions)

3. Defence

4. Finance

5. Interior (to be responsible also for Local Gov’t & Rural Development, Chieftaincy, etc.)

6. Agriculture (to be responsible also for Fisheries & Aquaculture)

7. Transport (to be responsible also for Roads & Highway)

8. Education (to be responsible also for Youth & Sports, Gender, etc.)

9. Health and Human Services (to be responsible also for Children & Social Protection)

10. Environment, Science, Technology (to be responsible also for Lands & Natural Resources, Energy & Petroleum)

11. Works & Housing

12. Commerce (to be responsible also for Trade & Industry)

You can see that many of the existing Ministries that I have excluded from my list are not really needed and can at best be designated as Departments or Agencies under substantive Ministries to be managed as such.

Where some of the Ministries that I have designated appear to be too large (e.g., the Ministry of the Interior, which will have additional responsibilities for Local Gov’t and Rural Development, Chieftaincy, etc. or the Ministry of Science, to be given additional responsibilities for Lands and Water/Natural Resources, Energy and Petroleum), Deputy Ministers can be appointed to head the divisions instead of one Minister being responsible for the whole lot. In that sense, appointing Deputy Ministers will be apt.

As for the Ministry of Communications (and the one now collapsed into it—Ministry of Information and Media Relations), it is irrelevant and should have been done away with. The government can find better ways to control that sector without necessarily raising it to the status of a Ministry.

Others that I have ruled out are mere wine bottles being filled with appointees whose impact has not and will not be felt. Take them one by one: Roads & Highway, Gender, Children and Social Protection, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Water Resources, Transport, and Employment and Labour Relations. Too much duplication and waste of resources on them. All those many Deputy Ministers and the 5 Ministers of State are not really needed.

Ghana’s democracy should be improved as local government structures are established and strengthened. To that effect, all Regional Ministers, Chief Executive Officers for the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies should be elected by the citizens in the various areas and serve as such. No need to concentrate everything in the hands of the President. Then, opportunities should be created for the citizens in major towns and cities to elect their own Mayors.

The Ministry of Education should ensure that the management of schools is localized. The people should also be directly involved in the management of affairs (especially through the establishment of School Boards, etc.).

The Police Service (and the other security-oriented services like the Fire Service, Prisons Service, and the Immigration Service, etc.,) should be decentralized for us to have local, regional, and national set-ups. These local institutions will be responsible for specific areas, even though they are to collaborate with other set-ups throughout the country if need be.

The courts must also be decentralized for the administration of justice to be expedited and felt.

The citizens should feel the impact of all these changes so that they can contribute their quota toward improving local government administration!!!

I hope these appointees will realize that they are in office to solve problems and not lock horns while being supported by the tax payer whose living conditions continue to deteriorate.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.