by Ernest Armah Posted on at
Odekro is surprised and dismayed by the recent nomination of 54 additional Ministers by President Akufo-Addo. The newest list brings the total of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Ministers of State to 110. The high number of Ministers is of great concern since 61% (67) of the Ministers and Ministers-Designate are sitting Parliamentarians.
The authority of Ghana’s Parliament has been consistently affected by Presidential appointments of the majority of Ministers from Parliament. Successive Presidents have exercised this constitutional mandate to their advantage, a trend which reaffirms the widely held view that the Ghanaian Parliament is largely a rubber stamp, “blindly defending” and approving decisions by the Executive.
A member of Parliament needs to be regularly present in Parliament for effective representation of the interests of their constituents and to participate in Parliamentary business. In our 2015 Report on Parliamentary Absenteeism , we also found that the absenteeism rates of MP-Ministers (41%) were significantly higher than the absenteeism rates of MPs without Ministerial portfolios (20%).
Weakening of Parliament’s Leadership
We are also concerned by the large number of Ministers and Ministers-designate who are Parliamentary leaders. Thirty Eight (38) of the Ministers, representing 57% of MP-Ministers are MPs with considerable years of experience in Parliament.
Furthermore, with the recent nomination of the current Deputy Majority Leader, Ms. Sara Adwoa Safo (NPP-Dome-Kwabenya) as Minister of State for Procurement, both the Majority and Deputy Majority Leaders will also double as Ministers. This cooptation of the NPPs Parliamentary leadership into the executive, runs contrary to the President’s own statement that ‘Our Parliament, the legislative arm of government, must grow into its proper role as an effective machinery for accountability and oversight of the Executive, and not be its junior partner ’ How can the NPPs MPs be expected to hold the Executive accountable when their two most senior leaders are members of the Executive?
The President may have shot himself in the foot.
The possibility of high absenteeism by MP-Ministers can effectively threaten the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) standing majority and allow MPs in the minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) to occasionally delay votes on some important bills.
Should all 67 MP-Ministers absent themselves from Parliament and all 106 NDC MPs be present, the NDC will have more MPs in Parliament at that particular time than the NPP. ( The NPP will have 102 MPs to the NDC 106). The NDC will therefore be able to block the passage of bills if the NPP is unable to whip its MPs to attend Parliament sittings due to the absenteeism of the MP-Ministers, as the NPP did when the NDC was unable to whip its MPs to pass the RTI Bill.
The NDC could also use the quorom rule to delay Parliamentary business. The quorom rule requires one third of MPs (92 of the 275) to be present for Parliament business to commence. In previous Parliaments, the NPP (then with minority seats) used the quorum rule to delay Parliamentary business on several occasions. By appointing so many MPs as Ministers, President Akufo-Addo has therefore increased the likelihood that government business in Parliament will be delayed, conducted more inefficiently and at greater cost to the public.
Finally, the President’s appointment of so many Ministers from Parliament puts his Parliamentarians at risk of losing their seats.
During the tenure of the Sixth Parliament, 45 MP-Ministers absented themselves from over 15 Parliamentary sittings at least once. Their absenteeism put them in potential breach of article 97 (1) (c) of the 1992 Constitution which states that, “A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he (she) is absent without the permission in writing of the speaker and he is unable to offer reasonable explanation to the Parliamentary Committee on Privileges from 15 sittings of a meeting of Parliament during any period that Parliament has been summoned to meet and continues to meet.”
Should the NDC or a Civil Society Organisation decide to seek enforcement of this constitutional provision in the future, it is likely they will find many NPP MPs who are Ministers in breach, given the increased likelihood of their absenteeism. Even if these MPs are not forced to defend their seats through bye-elections, their reduced efficacy in Parliament may cause them to lose their seats in the 2020 elections.
In the short term, President Akufo-Addo’s unprecedented decision may satisfy political interests but present negative ramifications for his party’s legislative agenda in the long-term. On the basis of these political appointments, the oversight responsibility of the Executive by MP-Ministers may be compromised by the Executive (Presidency) and personal business interests.
The President has acted within the remit of the 1992 constitution. But he has also acted against the sensibility of many Ghanaians. The only way to effectively resolve this political expediency is to seriously and unwaveringly push for a strict separation of the Executive and Legislative arms of government, including a reexamination of Article 78, the constitutional provision, which compels the President to appoint the majority of Ministers from Parliament.
Odekro will be keenly monitoring activities in Parliament to assess and measure MPs attendance and their effectiveness in the performance of their representative and legislative functions. The results will be publicized in the coming months.