Governance experts and socio-political commentators have taken issue with the creation of new ministries and the realignment of others whenever there is a change of government in Ghana, describing the practice as a drain on state coffers. The practice is not peculiar to President John Dramani Mahama.
Releasing lists of ministerial nominees for parliamentary vetting, President Mahama realigned some ministries without explaining why they were renamed. Experts say the realignment of the ministries causes duplication in function and responsibilities, and imposes unnecessary huge costs on the Consolidated Fund.
President Mahama also created the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, which was named the Ministry of Fisheries during the Kufuor administration but was dropped when President John Atta Mills took over from President John Agyekum Kufuor in 2009. The issue of duplication arose as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture already existed to cater for all the agricultural sectors.
In the official communication announcing the first list of 12 ministerial nominees, the Ministry of Food and Agriculture was redesignated as Ministry of Agriculture while the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning was renamed Ministry of Finance. "Food" was an unnecessary addition to "Agriculture." By dropping "Economic Planning," President Mahama may be about to make good his proposal at the Tamale IEA presidential debate that the planning function of the Ministry should be added to the mandate of the National Development Planning Commission(NDPC).
The Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology became known as Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation whilst Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection replaced the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs.
The statement issued by Dr Raymond A. Atuguba, the Executive Secretary to the President, announcing the second batch of ministerial nominees have the hitherto Ministry of Energy called Ministry of Energy and Petroleum and the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare became Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. A later press release from the Presidency had the Ministry of Culture and Chieftaincy transformed into Ministry of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs while the Tourism Ministry was rechristened Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts. President Mahama also designated the Majority Leader as Minister in charge of Government Business in Parliament.
In an interview with Citifm, Dr Michael Whyte Kpessa, a policy analyst at the Institute of African Studies of University of Ghana, noted that the realignment of the ministries was unnecessary and costly. Dr Bossman Asare, a lecturer at the Department of Political Science, University of Ghana, also told MetroTV that the realignment was an unnecessary duplication which could lead to institutional ambiguity. "This is clearly a duplication of what the ministries are there for, and a waste of very scant resources?" contends Derek P.K. Nkansah in an article on myjoyonline.
The cost implications of the alignment and realignment of the ministries are enormous. The change in names means that the new ministries have to design new letterheads, print new signboards and redesign their websites. The change also involves human resource recruitment, training and retraining. The cost of the realignment of the ministries is even more burdensome when it necessitates the movement of logistics such as office accommodation, furniture, computers and their accessories and other ancillary equipment.
Some lawyers, politicians and observers have called for the decoupling of the Attorney-General's (A-G) Department from the Ministry of Justice to stand as an independent prosecutorial body devoid of governmental control .
Questions have been asked as to the necessity for President Mahama to have a separate Ministry of Roads and Highways while the Ministry of Transport could perform the functions of that Ministry. In the case of President Kufuor, jettisoning commonsensical reality, he created the Ministries of Harbours and Railways, and Aviation in addition to the Ministry of Transport. It could have sufficed in purpose to have the former two lumped under the latter Ministry. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration had renamed Ministries such as Information and National Orientation, Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City (which was later reverted to Tourism), Trade, Industry, Private Sector Development and President's Special Initiatives. Later, the Ministry of Private Sector Development was materialised. The Office of the Senior Minister was also set up, among others. The positive impact these variegated ministries and offices made had not been known or felt before President Kufuor vacated the Osu Castle, the seat of government.
Sake of Emphasis
Is it for the sake of emphasis, highlighted visibility or purposes of special treatment that Ministries like Agriculture and Transport have their sub-sectors such as Fisheries and Aquaculture, Roads and Highways, and Harbours and Railways given full ministerial status? Or is it a matter of sheer lack of careful thoughtfulness? May be, say some governance watchers, these needless ministries are created to serve as 'jobs for the boys and girls' in order to satisfy influential party power brokers.
Meanwhile, the Government has explained its decision to realign some Ministries. Senior Policy Advisor to the President, Dr Sulley Gariba, in an interview with Joy FM, defended the factors the Government had considered before making the realignments.
But Dr Gariba's explanatory defence has not stopped some analysts from raising concerns about the desirability of some ministries. The award-winning policy think tank, IMANI Ghana, reiterated its call for the abolition of ministries it considers "useless" to government business. The Executive Director of IMANI, Franklin Cudjoe, told TV Africa last week that the Ministry of Employment and Social Welfare should be scrapped. Cudjoe, however, last Tuesday conceded in an interview with Viasat 1 that the realigned Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations could be useful in liaising between the government and Organised Labour. Commenting last year on Asempa FM, Cudjoe called for the elimination of the Information Ministry too, and could not fathom why the government should pay the Minister for Employment and Social Welfare when the Ministry did not have any unemployment statistics as admitted by the sector Minister, E.T. Mensah, in Parliament. He suggested that the 'non-performing' Ministries like those for Information and Employment should be merged with other Ministries to cut cost.
Another contention is that since Social Protection has replaced Social Welfare and has been placed under the Ministry of Women and Children, the Employment Ministry should be substituted with a new body composed of an amalgamation of the Labour Department and the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission. This arrangement leaves the National Labour Commission to act as an arbitrator of industrial disputes among the Government, the Ghana Employers' Association and Organised Labour. The function of conducting labour surveys and generating labour-related statistics should be the lot of the Ghana Statistical Service. The Government should chew over this cost-cutting measure and assess its feasibility for implementation.
Culture or Creative Arts?
There appears to be confusion with the transmogrification of the Ministries of Chieftaincy and Culture and Tourism into Ministries of Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs and Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts. This writer had earlier critiqued the labelling of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture in a past edition of Public Agenda, arguing that the name has extra baggage, or was a tautologous overload, since chieftaincy is Ghana's customary political system predating colonialism which is part and parcel of our culture.
Nanabanyin Dadson, editor of Graphic Showbiz, further underlines the confusion in the naming: "the creative arts (using those two words together is even a tautology. Creative and arts is saying the same thing twice over in different words, as all arts are supposed to be creative activity) is one of the ways by which culture is expressed" (Daily Graphic, January 23, 2013). Dadson suggests: "I may even go as far as to say that without the arts, culture cannot stand. That is why I strongly recommend that Ministry of Tourism and Culture will be enough a name " I would put culture first and call it Ministry of Culture and Tourism because afterall doesn't tourism feed on culture? Take a close look and you may realise that in Ghana, the three components that feed tourism are our culture, our heritage and our ecosystem."
It is superfluous to create disparate Ministries for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs, and Culture and Creative Arts when these can be brought under a Ministry of Culture which can effectively perform the functions of these two Ministries and achieve the same intended results. Mere names do not necessarily yield targeted outcomes.
President Kufuor, in his wisdom, established the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs but it was scrapped due to a recommendation by the report of the NEPAD-inspired African Peer Review which viewed it as an intrusion of the Legislature by the Executive. Shortly after Minority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu MPs mooted ministerial powers for the Majority Leader to enable him to lay papers before the House when Ministers are not readily available. In the case of President Mahama, he has named the Majority Leader, Dr Benjamin Kunbuor, as Minister responsible for Government Business. Obviously, there will not be a substantive Ministry for Dr Kunbuor.
Interestingly, the immediate former Majority Leaders, Abraham Osei-Aiddo (former NPP MP for Tema West), and Hon. Cletus Avoka (NDC MP for Zebilla), have endorsed Dr Kunbuor's new portfolio in separate interviews with Adom FM and Joy FM last week. But reacting to their endorsements, Dr Ransford Gyampo, a Political Science lecturer at University of Ghana, argued that the position of the Leader of Government Business could be used as a tool by the Government to control or influence Parliament. Dr Gyampo described the post as unnecessary, stating that Majority Leaders have always championed the cause of the governments in power.
The carte blanche the Constitution gives to the President to appoint Ministers without a cap has been abused by the past and present Governments (see the banner of the Friday Edition, January 25, 2013 of Public Agenda). So some well-meaning Ghanaians are calling for the Constitution to be amended to put a ceiling on the number of Ministers appointed by the President.
With the current global financial crunch buffeting developed countries like the United States, United Kingdom and European Union member-states like a hurricane, Presidents and Premiers are under pressure from the opposition and informed citizenry to run small governmental bureaucracies. When these economically advanced countries, which support Ghana's budgetary deficit with funds, are trimming their bureaucracies, it does make sense for the President to pick a leaf from them and reduce the number of Ministries.
For President Mahama, paradoxically, reconfiguring ministries with confusing nomenclature is good for the local economy. Thus, he prefers big bureaucracy to big business. But for a prudent President in a developing country whose watchword must be frugality and austerity, the opposite is more apposite.