General News of Wednesday, 11 June 2014
A former Minister, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, has hacked a proposal to allow the president to choose all his ministers outside parliament, branding it as "academic, utopian and unworkable".
In a spirited defense of the current practice of appointing 50% of ministers from parliament, Mr. Owusu Agyemang said MPs in the ruling government are the best people to implement their party's manifesto because, they are the ones who sell the party's ideas during elections.
The view of the former MP for New Juabeng North follows recommendations by a nine-member Constitutional Review Commission to amend Article 78 (I) of the 1992 constitution.
The article states, "Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament."
Explaining the recommendation, a Research Fellow with Institute of Economic Affairs (lEA), Dr. Ransford Gyampoh argued the current practice is making MPs powerless in checking the executive.
"How will you be able to scrutinize and critique the executive when you are always wanting to catch the eye of the executive", he questioned.
With examples to back his claim, he pointed out how the late President John Atta Mills silenced critical MP like Alban Bagbin with ministerial appointments.
The Nadowli-Kaleo MP from the Upper West Region was appointed Minister for Works and Housing after criticizing the late President for surrounding himself with "sycophants, bootlickers and fair-weather friends" who were prepared to clean his shoes.
"What happened the moment they were given appointment? They kept quiet", Gyampoh noted.
On the other hand, a former New Patriotic Party MP, P.C Appiah Ofori took on his own government during his days in Parliament and got no appointment after his crusade against corruption.
These are evidences that Ghana needs an independent legislature to hold the executive to account and this, he said, will uphold the principle of checks and balances embedded in the 1992 constitution, Gyampoh stressed.
He concluded, the president is restrained in his appointments and is forced to abandon meritocracy in his considerations.
But Hackman Owusu-Agyemang who juggled Ministerial appointments with his role as MP for New Juabeng North, is gutting this idea as an "absolute illusion" Hackman was appointed the Foreign Minister from January 2001 to April 2003. He then became the Minister for Interior for two years. From 2005 until 2007, he was the Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing in the John Kufuor government.
He discounted claims that the proposal will make parliament stronger saying, as long as a government has majority of MPs coming from the ruling party, the executive will always have its way.
"Who is going to put President Jerry Rawlings or John Mahama in check?" he challenged.
Recounting a political reality, he said no MP can make a law because "the constitution bars parliament from making a bill".
In Parliament, the "emphasis is not on law-making...have you heard of any private members bill before". He said he tried three times to get a law to regulate financial services but although there was bi-partisan support for the proposal, it never saw the light of day.
According to the former MP with 12 years legislative experience, the reality in African parliaments is that people elect MPs not on the law he proposes to make but on his party's manifesto promises which are mainly infrastructural.
In an analogy, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang said going for so-called "geniuses” who are non-partisan is like going in for "foster-parents" to manage a family while the real parents are alive.
Parliament can never check the executive because all over the world, the executives very often have their way, he argued.
"This so-called checks and balances is illusionary. It will never happen. Hardly do you get any NDC MP kicking against president".
He recalled how parliament was postponed three times because the executive couldn't provide funds.
According to the ex-MP, parties can recruit so-called geniuses to stand for elections so they can be appointed ministers.
"If somebody is brilliant the party should go and get him to stand", otherwise, he wants Ghana to stick to the British "ideal" of appointing all ministers from parliament.