Feature Article of Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Columnist: Nkansah, Derek

This Government is too “fat”.

It must go on “diet”– Derek PK Nkansah

The era of large, centralised and bloated government expenditures is here. The list of appointments is providing a true litmus test of the preparedness of government to “reduce” the size of government and to make it more effective and efficient, if at all… ( that will be the day ).

"The six Ministers of State at the Presidency who have been nominated by President John Mahama are expected to effectively oversee the nearly 51 institutions under the Presidency."

“There is an onerous responsibility to have effective oversight for these. They are not Ministries as such but they have substance in making impact on Ghanaian citizens,” he said." ( http://elections.peacefmonline.com/politics/201301/154109.php )

The above statements have been attributed to Dr. Sulley Gariba and sometimes, I wonder if people think through what they want to say before they say it? You appoint Ministers to run Ministries and others to run other outfits. When you call them Ministers, they must run Ministries and be subject to ministerial department, code, accountable and responsible to the people. They must also be vetted. They will be vetted, perhaps, but will they be responsible to the people?

If theirs is not a Ministry, please call them by another name. Dr. Sulley Gariba, You are not called a Minister yet you oversee a lot of areas and will surely be coordinating a lot of these 51 departments. So why are they called Ministers of State if they are not running Ministries.

ET Mensah, Cletus Avoka and Alban Bagbin have been appointed to oversee the development of several projects but these aren't Ministers. Another waste. Can’t the Ministries and the 51 departments handle these areas given out these 3? What is so special about these areas that a “51 deparments and Ministries” combined cannot do? Is it not the case that the President is afraid of relieving them of their position for fear of recriminations and finger pointing that he’s decided to create something for them? This will create a lot of conflict areas and the best possible outcome will be zero. Nothing will get done!

There is another peculiar thing here; these departments in the presidency will be staffed with people who will not be necessarily be accountable to the people. Dr Sulley Gariba is one of them! Where is parliamentary oversight when it comes to these departments? One must be in place before all these set-ups and there is every indication that real governmental power will be moved from the Ministries to the Presidency, by vesting these in departments, which defeats the purpose of responsibility and accountability to the people i.e. via Parliament.

"The appointed six according to Dr. Gariba were appointed based on their competence and there will be mandated to “assist him [President Mahama] in keeping effective oversight and in the monitoring and evaluation of these 51 institutions.”"

This is clearly a duplication of what the Ministries are there for, and a waste of very scant resources. If you had ministries doing work, and then create departments to do the same and appoint "Ministers" to overlook these, isn't this a waste of our resources? Will he be appointing Deputy Ministers and what will they be doing? Chewing their thumbs or representing the Minister at every function - funerals, parties etc... ? Will they be doing any work?

Worse, what will the 3 – Alban, ET and Cletus be doing? Zilch!

And before you start comparing us to the White House and other places, theirs is totally different. There is parliamentary/senatorial oversight into Number 10's Policy Unit and into the White House Departments. Besides, they[deparments in either Number 10 or White House] have no oversight capabilities, they just develop indepth policies to help the ministries and the President.

I am sure we will not see the same here in Ghana. In fact, the closest we will get, will be the vetting. There were several in the previous 4 years, what were their achievements? How were they accountable to the people?

We are a democracy that wants accountability and responsibility and if I may ask; How accountable will the following be to the people of Ghana though they will wield almost 70% of governmental power;

- Dr Raymond Atuguba - Prosper Kweku Bani - Dr Sulley Gariba

Perhaps the government has an answer and we'd like to read/hear it! I am not sure where the Vice President or Minister of Sports (Caretaker or substantive) was when the Chief of Staff was sent to address Ghana's Black Stars just before their match with DR Congo? Don't the Ministers represent the President anymore? Isn't the job of the Vice President to represent the President?

In any case, on the Ministers of State front, one thing is clear, the 6 ministers will not be able to oversee 51 departments. A Minister has a challenges overseeing one, let alone looking after 8 of these? There could be only one outcome; failure.

In another instance, the unusual concentration of power at the centre makes mockery of our decentralisation process. The MMDCEs are starved of resources while these are concentrated in a presidency. Is this designed to impoverish the rural folk so that they can be bought closer to election time?

This also looks like a ruse to weaken parliamentary control and its assertiveness over government policy. This could be a recipe for disaster as it concentrates too much power in the hands of the presidency and I will strongly advise against this.

Please note, the Presidency isn't the only government institution that matters in Ghana, the rural folk need development and part of that will be to strengthen their institutions and not to weaken them as you appear to be doing. It is tantamount to a great government halt with one department overstepping the other and an atmosphere rife with serious conflict.

In your previous 4 years, development in the hinterlands has been little or none. You have not given them any money, nor have your representatives delivered on very simple promises. I was therefore disappointed when you were voted into power [that is pending the determination of the Supreme Court Case and the assumption that all are innocent until proven guilty before the law].

Decentralisation has been sacrificed on the altar of neo-despotism and it should not be allowed. The NDC is looking to exert unusual control over almost all institutions [without accountability], starting from Parliament where for the first time, a sitting Member of Parliament has been appointed Speaker of Parliament.

So far, he seems to be towing the impartial line but that is because government business may not have started in earnest. The test will come when the vetting committees sit to decide on who becomes a Minister or otherwise.

I am however very concerned with the slow but steady concentration of power going to the centre. It kills decentralisation DEAD! It destroys the fabric of participatory democracy and spits on the idea of localism.

If Ghana is going to develop, she is definitely not going to be under this government, with the way things are going. Things ought to change, duplications and centralisation must disappear now, rather than tomorrow.

I however commend the government for appointing a Disabled person as a Minister. It is a step in the right direction and should come as a boost to our country’s credentials as a country that is beginning to care about our disabled populace.

It may be the only good thing that comes out of this government, however many days/months or years it has left.

Derek PK Nkansah -

P: 0248706143 E: kwakunkansahnpp@yahoo.com