On Thursday, July 19, 2018, in presenting his mandatory mid-year review to Parliament before the House rises - this Friday, July 27, 2018 - for recess, the Minister of Finance (MoF), Ken Ofori-Atta delivered a slow timed curveball. After having themselves recently failed to balance the budget, people who ought to know better should not formulate and froth, prematurely and in public on economic analysis, lubricated by social media. Actually. With that seemingly casual barb, the MoF presented Presbyterian Shade. You messed up and I am sorting out the distasteful remains. By His Grace.
Pulling A Fast One
Pre the mid-year budget review, tempers boiled over. An apparent online 'scoop' held that the 3 percent flat rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) - it was reduced in 2017 from 17.5% after this government came to office - would be increased.
In the end, on matters taxation, in essence, to recoup and secure much-needed revenue, the MnoF took a different tack altogether. Actually. I am still considering whether to take the Ofori-Atta's new measures personally. I am also wondering if a certain Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko, got it totally wrong, misspoke or was misinformed. Or perhaps, he took pleasure, in deliberately winding up the Minority. It worked. After he posted his mid-year budget predictions, a flurry of hastily organised press conferences peppered by wild statements ensued. Then, well dodge.
The Ghana Police Service and Transformation
Gabby was targeted and publicly horsewhipped whilst participating in a demonstration ahead of the 2016 elections. In this Fourth Republic, many other citizens have also been violently assaulted by rogue elements of the GPS. And come out much worse than he did.
In June 2018, the GPS won three awards, - best government website, best use of social media and their Inspector General was honoured for leadership and innovation in the use of ICT. Is it a mark of their transformational progress that in 2018, under a new administration, a horrific recorded video clip of a serving member of the GPS beating a citizen of Ghana, has now actually led to swift official sanctions? An inquiry too has been opened into the sobering case of seven young men, alleged members of a gang, killed in a shootout by members of the GPS in Kumasi after they were suspected of killing a police officer during an earlier reported robbery. All lives matter.
Lessons of History
President Nana Akufo-Addo has nominated Mrs Jean Mensah, Head of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), to chair the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. Like other think tanks in Ghana, the IEA has needled governments when they are in office and simultaneously been seen as flirting with the opposition. It is the IEA that some 20 years ago, was among the first group of Development Partner funded do-gooders to advocate for the enactment of our still pending Right to Information Act.
If she is confirmed, Mrs Mensah will be the second female EC Chairperson in the Fourth Republic. It is no token feat. 1992 - 2018, marks the longest unbroken record of democracy in our 60 plus history of independence. Elections have consequences. The person superintending over them must be seen and felt to be fair as well as thorough. A tough ask in our divided Ghana.
Mrs Mensah, if confirmed, will take on the tattered remains of her predecessor, Charlotte Osei. Our first female Chair of the EC was recently removed from office, with grave prejudice. A tribunal established by the Chief Justice found her and two of her deputies guilty of sordid allegations. Lawsuits challenging this decision have been filed.
Political pundits are already aflame. They should be. Ms Osei when she held office as Chair of the EC, won a meritorious award or two, she achieved even more headlines. Over the next few days, press statements condemning emphatically or praising loudly the nomination of Mrs Mensah will emanate from the usual quarters. They should. This is a hard talking democracy. It is likely also, that new suits will be launched challenging her nomination. Even the colour of Mrs Mensah's nail polish is fair game. No red, blue, white, green, black - these are associated with the only 2 political parties in Ghana - will be tolerated anywhere on or around her person. Even when it rains, she must not be photographed with an umbrella (NDC). If Mrs Mensah ventures up to Mole to stay at the Zaina Safari Lodge, no posing with elephants (NPP). Lest she signals political intent.
How dare this President proceed in nominating this person? Actually. We have set up via the 1992 Constitution, a series of interlocking actions that bar an act of God or a brave Supreme Court, lead us to an inevitable conclusion. Our Constitution was drafted and designed, some would say, to meet the unique requirements of a then military junta that turned overnight into the ruling party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The party has won 4 elections supervised by the EC, then chaired by worthy Ghanaians who they chose, and defended when electoral disputes arose. Now the NDC find themselves, again, in vocal and deeply cynical Minority. It bites. Deep.
The two C's
The nomination of Mrs Mensah and the 3 others may stay in limbo for 30 days until the CcloS has formally received and provided its advice to President Akufo-Addo.
The Constitution requires in Article 70 (2), that acting on the advice of the Council of State (CcloS), the President appoints the Chair of the EC, his/her Deputy and other members of the Commission. And. Per Article 89 (2), there should be 25 members of Cclos: 3 ex officio, 1 officio, 10 elected members and 11 others appointed by the President.
Spare a thought for the NDC. There is precedence here. In 2015 and again in 2016, when this Minority was in office, the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) filed a suit against then-President John Mahama, the Facebook economist in chief. The GBA challenged the appointment of 2 senior lawyers, one to the Supreme Court and another as Sole Commissioner on Judgement Debts. The GBA said the former President had proceeded contrary to the advice of the Judicial Council. They lost the case.
So, is this President anymore bound now than his immediate predecessor was informally requesting, listening to and abiding faithfully by the advice of the Cclos or can he simply politely listen and then sail forth, as his predecessor did? Some groups in the very same civil society from which Mrs Mensah has cut her professional teeth have said previously, that beyond and above the floor set by the letter of our 26-year-old Constitution, matters arising, requires that we advance the spirit of the Constitution and bite, more.
Within 30 days, Mrs Mensah will likely be in. It would help the cause and course greatly if she doesn't redecorate or rebrand. Her predecessor did that already. To biting consequences. At her personal, the EC's institutional credibility and our taxpayer expense. Even without a VAT increase. Mrs Mensah will have her work cut out for her. Actually.
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