28 January 2013

Ghana: Public Agenda Scores Mahama B+


Public Agenda can safely conclude that if President John Dramani Mahama's ministerial nominations were taken for an examination, he would have made marks, earning him an overall grade of B+.

Undoubtedly, he will score full marks when it comes to indicators on competence and regional balance and score fairly for gender balance.

Overall, the President's appointees are persons we can say are coming to their respective offices with little or no excess baggage like corruption, sheer arrogance and greed. Indeed, their attested level of competence would perhaps pre-empt any description of the team as a "Team B" as happened to the team picked by President Mahama's former boss, late President John Evans Atta Mills.

He has come for praise for the inclusiveness of his team considering that a region as small (in population and size) as the Upper West Region has four Ministers-designate. Equally, his ability to weave persons from outside of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) into his team is considered remarkably admirable.

In terms of gender considerations, President Mahama appears to be a lot conscious of the fact that women empowerment largely depends on involvement in decision-making, hence the naming of eight women who many consider to be well-qualified among the first 37 ministerial appointees.

Also, the President's decision to appoint a woman for the Health Ministry is perhaps a reiteration of the point he made when he announced the Critical Policy Actions of the John Dramani Mahama Administration [September to December 2012].

At the time, he said: "Ghana is also lagging behind in the attainment of several important MDGs, such as child and maternal mortality, as well as sanitation. Gender disparities, which mostly manifest themselves in unequal access to economic opportunities and high maternal mortality rates, remain high."

The women so far appointed by the President include Ms Hannah Serwaah Tetteh, Minister designate for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration; Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, Minister designate for Justice and Attorney-General; Ms Hanny-Sherry Ayittey, Minister designate for Health; and Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman, Minister designate for Education. The rest are Nana Oye Lithur, Minister designate for Gender, Children and Social Protection; Mrs Dzifa Attivor, Minister designate for Transport; Mrs Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare, Minister designate for Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; and Hon. Comfort Doyoe Cudjoe Ghansah, Minister of State designate at the Presidency in charge of Social and Allied institutions in the Office of the President.

In terms of representation, these women represent 21.6 per cent of ministerial appointments, suggesting that the President would have to up his game, especially in appointing the four other regional ministers as well as deputy ministers. For now, he is far from the 40 per cent target for gender representation that would be acceptable to many facets of society, particularly gender-based advocacy organizations. The task is even more daunting if one considers appointments in their entirety. So far there have been 46 appointments - including those of the "three wise men", five advisors and Mawuena Dumor Trebah as Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC). That puts women's representation at 19.5 per cent (9 out of 46).

Equally, the President should be keen not to depart from the focus he has so far kept on competency and all-inclusiveness when appointing his deputy ministers. It would be suicidal if he engages in any pandering as has been seen with some of the special appointments he has made.

It is commonplace now that the failings of the President lie in appointments which are considered to be potentially problematic because of the possible conflict in role-play that could arise. Clearly, the President was attempting to satisfy certain individuals and groupings who would have considered the individuals so named as "Ministers of State in Charge of..." and "Coordinators for..." as too big to be left out of the government.

Criticisms for this apparent pandering have come in a flurry as we reported in our banner story for Friday January 25, 2012 under the heading: "JM STABS SPIRIT OF CONSTITUTION."

Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby, a leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), is one personality who has taken swipes at the President over the appointments. Speaking on Joy FM's Super Morning Show last Wednesday, he desired that "I wish our people had gone to Parliament and asked, 'what is it that the ministers are going to do at the presidency that sector ministers in well established ministries cannot do?"

Similarly, the Managing Editor of Insight, Mr Kwesi Pratt Jnr, has characterised some of the appointments as "sloppy" and fraught with "confusion". According to him, there was "no clarity" of the kind of message the President is trying to send with his appointments describing it as "disappointing".

Mr Pratt contends that President Mahama appeared to have sown seeds of conflict in his government with the kind of appointments he has made so far.

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