General News of Monday, 12 May 2008
Source: Public Agenda
... in Cabinet Reshuffles
While the debate on frequency of ministerial reshuffles rages on, it has emerged that, the ruling NPP has had more reshuffles, both major and minor than opposition NDC.
In all, from 1994 to 2000, the NDC had a total of 17 minor and major reshuffles while the NPP has had 18 so far from 2004 to 2008.
Of the NDCs 17, thirteen were minor reshuffles, while four were major ones just as 14 of the NPP's were minor while four were major ones.
The four major reshuffles for the NDC spanned 1994, 95, 97 and 99, while that of NPP occurred in August 2004, April 2006, May 2006 and June 2007.
The NPPs total number of 18 reshuffles is only equaled by that of the CPP, which from February 1957 to January 1965 had fifteen minor and three major ones.
The statistics showed that the main casualties in the various reshuffles have been the ministries of Energy, Education, Interior, Information and Local Government.
The ministry of Energy in particular has had six ministers in President Kufour's two-term administration, while the Ministry of Local Government had five reshuffles, with Kwadwo Agyei-Darko appearing twice.
The statistics were contained in a paper delivered in Accra by the Dean of the Faculty of Social Studies, University of Ghana, Prof. Joseph Atsu Ayee.
The occasion was an inaugural lecture of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences and Prof. Ayee spoke on "Some Thoughts on ministerial Reshuffles in Ghana," a topic the Chairman for the occasion Prof. L.A. Boadi agreed was "a much neglected aspect of Ghana's political history."
Prof. Ayee sought to delve into the reasons for which some presidents have been quick in carrying out reshuffles, and although his letters to both former President Rawlings and President Kufuor received "stony silence," the details of his presentation left members of the audience as excited as he was.
At a well-attended lecture, Prof. Ayee argued that too frequent ministerial reshuffles could be counter-productive and could damage, rather than strengthen the power, position and legitimacy of the president. "Frequent reshuffles give one the impression that the government is not serious and stable and therefore incompetent."
This stems from his belief that most ministerial portfolios are demand driven and thus require ample time for the minister in charge to see his or her way clear. "The rapid turnover of ministers has had a disruptive effect on policies and programmes and led to situations in which a high proportion of the ministerial team members were inexperienced in their posts."
Article 78 (1) of the 1992 constitution states, "Ministers of state shall be appointed by the president with the prior approval of parliament " Section two of the same article gives the president the unlimited power to "appoint such number of ministers of state as may be necessary for the efficient running of state."
This constitutional provision and similar ones previously, according to Prof. Ayee, appear to have given presidents the unchecked powers, which most of them have used to show "potential rivals and awkward dissidents where power lies."
In the situation, Parliament, the body that is supposed to scrutinize ministerial nominees, usually became helpless, watching as the president rearranges, the very people they deemed qualified for specific ministerial appointments.
Mr. K.B Asante, the retired Diplomat once commented on the matter saying, "the president selects those he believes can assist him to carry out his policies His selection is endorsed by parliament. Then he comes back half way through his term and says 'I have made a mistake. This man is not good. I will rather have this other man.' Can you then trust his judgment? Worse still, he makes other changes. A pantomime of cabinet musical chairs is a bit too much."
On the other side, Prof Ayee noted, reshuffles have become a way of building patronage for Ghanaian presidents, where they have used it to distribute favours to friends and families in return for support.
Worse still, most ministerial reshuffles since 1957 have been without prior consultations with the persons involved, a situation that has often resulted in psychological and emotional burdens for them, he said. This is more so when no compensation packages have accompanied dismissals.
A popular joke about Nkrumah's regime was that ministers were advised not to take their lunch before the one o'clock news or they risk being choked upon hearing their dismissal.
The Prof. said such instances to create the impression among ministers that once they were in office they must "amass wealth by hook or crook so that if you were no longer in office, you would not feel the loss of the perquisites of office."
He therefore advised that, it has become necessary for Ghana to think about resettlement packages for dismissed ministers.
When asked about what could be done to prevent presidents from being too quick in their reshuffles, Prof. Ayee said while it is constitutionally Ok, "the power and authority must be used judiciously."