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Opinions of Monday, 23 February 2009

Columnist: Dake, Mawuli

Trivia and Cheap Questioning Dominate Zita’s Vetting

By; Mawuli Dake

After reading Ato Kwamena Dadzie’s fallacious article this morning on the performance of the nominee for Minister of Information, Ms. Zita Okaikoi at her hearing earlier, I decided to listen to the full vetting proceedings and was even more appalled at the conduct of the Parliamentary Appointments Committee. It is sad that many of the committee members chose to focus on matters of little importance to the nation or her designated role rather than substantive issues. I found many of the lines of questions to be ill-conceived, irrelevant and at times downright disrespectful to Ms. Okaikoi. Overall, the performance of our “honorable vetters” was deplorable and outside the parameters of the due diligence needed for serious assignments such as this.

One of the few young leaders and perhaps the youngest on the list of Ministers nominated under the new government, Ms. Okaikoi was subjected to what seemed like a cross-examination rather than an interview. Here was a dynamic and promising young leader, before a parliamentary committee, offering herself for public service. And instead of our so-called leaders encouraging and evaluating her in a fair and diligent manner, some chose to minimize her achievements and qualification.

I am not in any way suggesting that Zita should be given a free ride because she is young or a woman. The MPs must be allowed to do their job. And I am the first to agree that the nominee must be critically assessed and must prove her qualification for the office. But the tone and line of questioning directed at her was simply unacceptable.

Perhaps the most irrelevant line of questioning started with the MP for Lower West Akyem, Ms. Gifty Klenam with insignificant questions such as “What subjects did you read at the Law School” and unwarrantedly insinuating arrogance on Rita’s part without citing any sources for such an accusation. This was followed by what I consider one of the worst acts of disrespect throughout the vetting proceedings by Committee Chairman- Doe Adjaho’s command- “Are you arrogant? Answer the question.” I don’t think the Chair would have the guts to address a co-equal from the house that way. It is ridiculous for a committee that approved people like I C Quayes to be Minister for many years will be questioning qualification a young achiever like Ms. Okaikoi. And for Hon. Ameywa Ekumfi information, resumes have changed from what they were in 1960.

Other bizarre questionings included “Have you stopped using a foreign passport?”; “When were you born?” and unsubstantiated assertions that the nominee sometimes uses Sarah, Hilda and a host of other names. If you have no credible evidence that a nominee has a foreign passport or even if you suspect that she does, the responsible thing to do would be to ask appropriately and for her to respond or clarify. You don’t insinuate or make baseless public pronouncements on such matters. I found the persistent questions about if and when she actually went to the Law school rather bizarre, especially as it was clear from the chair’s remarks, that the nominee did furnish the Committee with authentic academic certificates, and

In simple words, our MPs are supposed to interview and hire nominees on our behalf, to critical leadership positions. Failure to conduct proper due diligence could mean disaster for the specific sectors these individuals are going to lead. And that is why it troubles me that some MP’s chose to use the time they have to conduct this due diligence responsibly, to indulge in trivialities and petty politics. Members are provided with relevant documents on nominees far ahead of the vetting, to enable them do necessary background investigation and scrutiny before the actual vetting. It is therefore completely irresponsible for members to come to the vetting table with inaccurate, uninformed and baseless questions or comments.

I hope our honorable representatives would take the responsibilities they perform on our behalf more seriously and behave in ways that merit the office they occupy. And by the way, they have still not apologized to Ghanaians for their recent less than responsible act of approving outrageously excessive benefits for ex-officials.

As a young leader, I found the appointment of Zita as one of the best choices in President Mill’s nominations so far. She should not be treated with any less respect than others because she is a young woman. In addition, I hope, she will not be held to different standards because she is young. She must be vetted and subsequently judged based on the quality of her performance. She may not have thirty years experience like others on the committee, and may not be an insider, but I am confident she will serve our country well when given the chance. I wish her well.

Mawuli Dake Washington DC