Feature Article of Monday, 20 March 2017

Columnist: Atta-Boakye, Ken

110 Ministerial Positions

By: Atta-Boakye, Ken

The new NPP government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has turned up the heat on Ghana’s already frenzied public political discourse with its announcement of an unprecedented number of political appointees. The creation of 110 Ministerial Positions (and their deputies) is indeed a new phenomenon in Ghana’s political history. It beats the imagination of a lot of Ghanaians who might feel the NPP is no different from previous governments – indeed worse – and that the promise of change is beginning to look a lot like another sad tale of African political patronage which will ultimately lead to more corruption and pilferage of State resources. It connotes the view that all political parties seek their partisan interests – jobs for the boys!!

I had the occasion to raise the subject with a senior economic analyst working within the US Government’s Federal Executive branch for his opinion (full disclosure: he’s my son), and his perspective on the situation prompted a more nuanced – and perhaps hopeful – view of what might well be in play in Ghana with the NPP government’s apparent new approach to governance.

According to him, two issues are at stake – the political side and the already existing lazy civil service. The civil service is an institution that has nothing to do with the out-going and the in-coming governments. These are two different entities. The civil service technocrats happen to be the foundation and the pillars of that particular institution. They work hand in hand with the political ministers to push the goals and the policies of the government in power. Such alliance could be dicey given the fact that individuals have their political biases. That is why new governments would want to replace those in sensitive positions with their loyalists who would push their political agenda. It is so in even other advanced nations including the US. As it stands now, Nana Addo wants to replicate the US model and plant his loyalists to ensure that his policies sail through.

The new NPP government, he said, appears ready to bet the entire future of the NPP party and its political prospects on the proposition that Ghana has the competence and the capacity to turn the tide of mediocrity and corruption that has bedeviled our remarkable history. That fundamental proposition appears to be the driving force of the Nana Addo government – as evidenced in the budget pronouncements, as well as in the other massive initiatives – from infrastructure (railways, power, science & tech innovation ministries, etc) to social (zongo/inner-city minister, tertiary institutions minister, religious affairs, etc) and on to the cultural institutions of the country (Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs, Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, etc.). The number of appointments and the shape of the new administrative structure could either be seen as dizzyingly tone-deaf, or breathtakingly bold when taken in concert with the President’s insistence that Ghanaians should judge him and his administration by the quality of their delivery.

The NDC previous budget allocation of GHc 16.5m with 82 ministries compared with NPP budget allocation of GHc16.0m with 110 ministries gives the impression of efficiency and prudent spending. They have also included some positive initiatives which the NDC has blasted them and concluded that the NPP cannot deliver. The NPP has bet the house – so to speak – on the delivery of competent management. To make good on that bet, the Nana Addo government must change the way government operates from the top-down. The writing was on the wall with the appointment of a “Senior Minister.” The massive expansion of his government’s political oversight in the delivery of government services is either a hopeful sign of the faith that Nana Addo has in his leadership capacity to rebuild government institutions, or a tragic doubling-down and expansion of corrupt and inefficient bureaucratic institutions.

If NPP government believes that they want to specifically entrust their new initiatives and policies to their own chosen officials and make them directly responsible, I guess it is politically expedient once it is done in relation to budget allocation. I want to finally conclude that Ghanaians overwhelmingly and enthusiastically elected Nana Akuffo Addo, they are ready to support him and give him the cooperation to make him succeed in his administration, let us not politically stand in his way. Ghanaians can pitch in and make him more accountable to the people, otherwise the rains of change will come again in four years, and Ghana and future generations would be on the sorry end of yet another tragic political bet that has gone horribly wrong.

Ken Atta-Boakye,
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Email : [email protected]