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Opinions of Friday, 1 August 2014

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Is Woyome Ruling a Warning on Proportional Representation?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

Tuesday July 29, 2014 will go down in history as one of the darkest days of the Mahama/NDC administration and an indictment on politicians, senior civil servants and some judges who have been entrusted with the management of resources of the state. I am referring to the Supreme Court ruling ordering Woyome to refund the Ghc 51.2 million he fraudulently received from the state through dubious judgement debt claim. Though on face value, this case may have nothing to do with the ongoing attempts led by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) to institutionalise Proportional Representation” coalition government into Ghana’s Constitution, I want to use it to point out how dangerous this proposal is and how Woyome would have got away with murder if the proposal becomes a reality.

For the easy reference, the IEA with the support very prominent and important personalities in Ghana, including the Catholic Archbishop of Accra, Most Reverend Charles Gabriel Palmer-Buckle, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Right Reverend Professor Emmanuel Martey , the retired Justice Emile Short, former Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice and others are leading a crusade to introduce proportional representation coalition government into the 1992 Constitution under the guise of ‘Winner-Takes-All’ form of governance being the cause of the current economic mess, corruption and mismanagement in Ghana.

Whilst I agree with IEA that the constitutional authority or powers of the president to appoint hundreds, if not thousands of public office holders (from the Chief Justice, Justices of the Supreme Court down to District Chief Executives and a third of Assembly Members), and particularly how most of the appointments are made on party political patronage and not on merit is irrational and should be changed. But that would not require forcing constitutional proportional representation coalition government on Ghana. Such approach is misguided and dangerous. What is required is, instead, a constitutional amendment on the appointing powers of the president to limit them to a few strategic national institutions and giving the recruitment processes to an Independent Public Appointment Commission that would conduct interviews and recommends qualified and suitable candidates (irrespective of their political persuasion or affiliation) to the president or ministers for the final decision and not enshrining unworkable proportional presentation coalition government into the constitution.

The Supreme Court ruling on the Woyome dubious judgement debt payment should serve as a warning to IEA and all supporters of this strange idea to desist from their original plan to put proportional representation coalition government into the constitution. Why do I say so?

The payment of the Ghc 51.2 million to Woyome was done with the knowledge and approval of the government through the then Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu and her lieutenants. Her ministry’s accounts were audited by the Controller and Accountant General’s Department (CAGD) and no red flags were raised by CAGD. Despite the abundance of documentary evidence that Woyome never had a contract with the Government of Ghana and at best, he was a sub-contractor of Waterville, two senior civil servants (for their selfish interests) recommended that the state had no case should therefore pay Woyome’s claim. For both their party political and personal interests, NDC politicians paid the money so that they could either personally or collectively (NDC) benefit from the payment, so they failed or deliberately refused to probe further or question the judgement of two senior civil servants and subsequently paid Woyome Ghc 51.2 million when the state could not make statutory payments and children were attending schools under trees.

Luck eluded the politicians, civil servants and Woyome when the audited report was presented to Parliament by the CAGD. It was a member from the main opposition party (minority in Parliament), Honourable Kennedy Ohene-Agyapong who noticed the huge payments to Woyome and raised alarm, otherwise, Woyome would have defrauded Ghana and go scot free. My question for IEA and all those who are now parading as champions of inclusive democracy and arguing for proportional representation coakition government in Ghana as the antidote to the Winner-Take All” is, would Hon Kennedy Agyapong have raised the alarm had NPP been in a coalition government with NDC and Hon Agyapong was a member of the Executive? The answer is a big No. He would have kept quiet since raising the alarm over the Woyome payment would have lost him his ministerial position. That is the danger I pointed out in my first article on this subject but have been ignored by IEA despite sending a copy to IEA (see “Is IEA Winner-Takes-All Advisory Committee Out of Order?”, Ghanweb July 4, 2014).

The argument for ending the “Winner-Takes All” and replacing it with proportional representation coalition government is self defeatist because, what the proponents are saying is that, under the current system, only members of political party in government are able to steal from the state. It prevents especially, members of opposition parties from partaking in the create, loot and share enterprise, so let’s make it possible for others outside the ruling party to join the looting brigade. That is wrong, immoral and dangerous to Ghana and the fight against corruption. What Ghana needs is not constitutional coalition governments based on proportional representation but a strong and viable opposition that would hold the ruling government/political party accountable, especially, in Ghana where the party holding the Executive also has majority in parliament and the majority is easily controlled by the Executive to rubber stamp its decisions. It’s better for the minority to have its say in parliament and be able to point out corruption by the Executive even if the majority would always have its way, than join the ruling party in government, keep quiet over corruption and incompetence simply because they are in bed together and partners in crime.

Just imagine what would have happened in Ghana if what IEA is proposing (proportional representation coalition government) was in existence at the time of 2012 elections. Nana Akufo-Addo obtained 47.7% and President Mahama had 50.7% of the total valid votes. Based on the IEA proposal, Nana Akufo-Addo/NPP would have nominated or appointed 47.7% of all public appointments made by President Mahama including cabinet ministers. How on earth would Ghanaians have expected NPP to have exposed all the corruption and incompetence in government?

Some are of the view that, had NPP been in coalition government with NDC, the current incompetence and corruption would have reduced. I totally reject such unreliable, baseless and unscientific position because NPP members are Ghanaians and not from planet Mars. Moreover, Nana Akufo-Addo also would have nominated or made appointments on party political patronage and not on merit. In fact, such a coalition would have worsened the level of economic mess, corruption and incompetence within government because there would have been no viable opposition to speak for the voiceless majority and the corruption and incompetence would have been widespread. This is because the two main political parties would have spent more time arguing and fighting amongst themselves over policy direction and who should take the lion share of the loot in the interests of their respective political parties rather than work together in the best interest of Ghana, (chop let me chop alliance).

Moreover, the IEA proposal will not end the “Winner-Takes All” syndrome as is being practised in Ghana because the winners would be the two main political parties (NDC and NPP). The smaller political parties and Ghanaians who do not belong to any political party would feel left out. Therefore, the proposed proportional representation coalition government would not end the “Winner Takes All” exclusive governance but rather create another group of excluded members of the society.

The Woyome ruling should serve as a clear warning and the dangers in IEA’s proportional representation coalition government because that would not have exposed the huge judgement dubious payment to Woyome or exposed the numerous shortfalls of the NDC government. I also do not see how Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP forming a future coalition government of proportional representation with NDC should NDC lose the 2016 presidential elections, if IEA’s proposal is approved and enshrined in the constitution.

I strongly urge the IEA to abandon this dangerous idea and instead fight for the appointment powers of the president to be reduced through a constitutional amendment and the appointment of majority of public office holders transferred to an Independent Public Appointment Commission of experts who will undertake the recruitment processes and ensure that appointments are made on merit and not on only party political patronage as in the UK and in other developed democracies.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK