News reports about the ongoing negotiations between some minority political parties (the RPD, CPP, PNC, and DPP) and the NDC administration for ministerial appointments give cause for concern. The jockeying for positions does not turn my crank. It doesn’t give me any hope to celebrate President Mills’ intention to run an all-inclusive government unless it will lead to drastic changes in the way government business is done.

One drastic change that I expect concerns the size of government. Just like many Ghanaians who were dissatisfied with the large size of the government under Rawlings and Kufuor, I want to see a change for the better. This change means a reduction in the size of President Mills’ government and a purposeful approach to ensuring consistency in the way the Ministries are dealt with.

By May 13, 2006, the NPP government consisted of 43 substantive Ministers and 39 Deputy Ministers as well as numerous Special Assistants and Spokesmen whose activities were fully funded and supported in any other way by our weak economy!! Current developments and revelations speak volumes.

The question to ask is: Will the Mills NDC government operate with a smaller number of Ministerial portfolios to give Ghanaians the hope that something drastic will be done to reduce government expenditure at that level? The change that the NDC touted on its campaign trails must be all-encompassing to the point that it will be reflected in the way government business is run.

I expect President Mills’ government to give serious attention to how it handles matters concerning the designation of our Ministries so as to end the capricious and whimsical manner in which these institutions are handled. Let’s replace the Ministers but keep the ministries out of those changes. If there is need to rehabilitate the structures, let’s go ahead to do so without tampering with their status. These frequent impulsive re-designations or creations destabilize affairs and create friction. We need consistency.

I invite our MPs to rise to the occasion by initiating measures/bills that will help us streamline matters. For all these years that we have been in existence as a country (Ghana), can we not tell that the various departments of life that the Ministries cater for have not changed nor will they ever change? For example, issues concerning foreign affairs or the interior will not be expected to change so drastically as to overturn the ideas of “foreign affairs” or the “interior” for which a new Ministry must be created.

What will be new phenomena may be the manner and methods by which the forces that determine the drift of life in those areas influence the dynamics of the situation. The environment itself will hardly ever change. For instance, armed robbers may adopt more sophisticated measures to outwit the law enforcement agencies; but the Ministry of the Interior or that of Defence doesn’t necessarily have to change its status or designation to be able to fight those criminals. It is only its modus operandi that must change. So, why should governments rush to re-designate Ministries and create new ones at will, regardless of the pressure on the national economy?

Under previous governments, especially Kufuor’s NPP administration, too much was done to re-designate the Ministries anyhow, which created instability. For instance, Kufuor re-designated in 2003 the Ministry of Transport and Communications to the Ministry of Communications and Technology and later changed it to something else; the Ministry of Roads, Highways later became the Ministry of Roads, Highways and Transport, only to be re-designated into something else later on, which paved the way for three different Ministries (Ports, Harbours, and Railways; Roads and Highways; and Transport)! There was also a Minister of State for primary, secondary and girl-child education. In all these instances, it was just a matter of creating employment opportunities for the “party boys and girls.”

Between 2001 and 2005, Kufuor’s government functioned with 32 Ministries, excluding the 10 Regional Ministers. He arbitrarily re-designated some Ministries. From 2005 to 2009, there were 31 Ministries. Some of the ridiculous Ministries created by Kufuor should be abolished. They included: Ministry of National Security (when there were already the Ministries of the Interior and Defence); Ministry of Fisheries (in spite of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture); Ministry of Private Sector Development, and President’s Special Initiative; Ministry of Information and National Orientation; Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, now called Ministry of Tourism and Diasporean Relations; and the Ministry of Public Sector Reform.

The others were the Ministry of Communication; Ministry of Roads and Highways; Ministry of Ports, Harbours and Railways; Ministry of Aviation; Ministry of Energy; Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Mines; Ministry of Environment and Science; Ministry of State for Culture and Chieftaincy; Ministry of Presidential Affairs; Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs; Senior Minister; and Minister of State at the Office of the President (Private Sector Development).

The NPP government started with the Media Relations Minister even though there was a Minister of Information and Presidential Affairs. The most ridiculous appointment went to J.H. Mensah, Leader of Government Business, as Senior Minister—without any Ministry! Then, there were the Mines Ministry, Energy Ministry, and other people appointed as Ministers at the National Development Planning Commission and several other Ministers at the Presidency without portfolios. From 2003 to 2005, there was a Minister of Mines at the same time that there was a Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Forestry!!

The worst duplication of functions could be found in these three Ministries—Ministry of Defence; Ministry of the Interior; Ministry of National Security. What does one do that the other doesn’t or can’t? Essentially, the Ministry of Defence appears to be focused on the Military while that of the Interior deals with the Police, CEPS, Prison Service, and Immigration Service. Where does the Ministry of National Security fall in-between these two Ministries? Or is it above them? Why?

Under Kufuor, there was a separate Ministry of Regional Integration and NEPAD in addition to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as if the latter couldn’t be strengthened to perform the functions of the former. Then, there was also the Ministry of Communications and the Ministry of Information. Why? What does information do that communication doesn’t or can’t do?

There is so much to worry about the designation and mandate of our Ministries that one doesn’t know where to start from or how to end it. I suggest that serious efforts be made to streamline matters. We must know what the main areas are so that the pertinent responsibilities will be given to the appropriate Ministries (and their Departments and Agencies) and efforts made to support them to function properly. We don’t have to create a Ministry for every department of life and dissipate public funds on it!!

Here is my suggestion to help improve the situation. It may be too late for President Mills to factor into his considerations but not too late for us to begin contemplating if we want to make amends and reduce the size of government for the benefit of the country. I suggest that we maintain the following Ministries as traditionally designated but with a change in their names, some of which are too long:

  1. Ministry of Trade—to be responsible for regulating commerce and industries;
  2. Ministry of Health;
  3. Ministry of Education—to be solely responsible for matters of education and nothing more;
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs—all its foreign engagements. No need to add Regional Integration and NEPAD, etc. to this title to make it too mouthful;
  5. Ministry of the Interior;
    The designation as Ministry of the Interior is enough. Those of Defence and National Security are not necessary and should be collapsed into this Ministry of the Interior. The re-designated Ministry of the Interior should take care of matters of defence, national security, etc. It should be headed by one Minister and supported by Deputy Ministers. In its new form, this Ministry should control the institutions that deal with intelligence and security issues. Desks should be created at this Ministry for the Military, Police, Prisons Service, CEPS, Immigration, National Security Coordinator, BNI. It doesn’t prevent the Heads of these institutions from directly dealing with the powers-that-be. All these Heads are already automatic members of the National Security Council, I suppose. Coordination will be better than previously experienced. Furthermore, government should retool and empower the various institutions (CHRAJ, SFO, etc.) to deal with human rights issues and incorporate them into the Ministry of the Interior.
  1. Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development;
  2. Ministry of Agriculture (deleting the “Food” part);
    To take charge of all issues of food and agriculture—fisheries, farming, training and human development, and the various institutions. The various decentralized departments of this Ministry must be supported to function in the districts. That’s where the major activities should be concentrated to help those who produce the cash crops and food.

  3. Ministry of Transportation and Communications;
    To take charge of all institutions that deal with transport and communications— roads, railways, harbours, and ports, aviation; National Communications Authority; Ghana Postal Service; Ghana Telecommunication Company; Ghana Broadcasting Corporation; Ghana News Agency; Public-owned Media Houses; etc.

  4. Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning;
  5. Ministry of Manpower and Employment—to be re-designated as Ministry of Human Resource Development and Employment (to absorb the Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs, youth and sports, etc.)
  6. Ministry of Works and Housing;
  7. Ministry of the Environment should be carved out of wherever it has been all along and tasked with issues of lands, forestry, and mines, energy, water resources, etc.—The Environmental Protection Agency, etc. should be brought under this Ministry;
  8. Ministry of Science and Technology—to take charge of science and technology matters;
  9. Ministry of Tourism—now that we know how much tourism contributes to our economy; and
  10. Attorney General and Ministry of Justice

Even here, there is need to separate the two so that the Attorney-General can be independent of the government to be able to function more efficiently, especially in the legal dimensions of cases involving government functionaries and their prosecution.

No new Ministries should be created. After all, the various public institutions (as either Departments or Agencies) can be brought under specific Ministries. The Departments and Agencies under the various Ministries should be strengthened and decentralized to function more efficiently. If need be, new Departments or Agencies can be created for such areas as chieftaincy, culture, sanitation, etc. and brought under the auspices of specific Ministries instead of being raised to the status of Ministries themselves.

The Ministry of Information is redundant and should be eliminated. It is just a hot-air-blowing public relations unit for the government of the day and doesn’t serve any practically useful purpose to the country’s development efforts. Its squalid political ploy is a nuisance. The Information Services Department already exists to play such a role if so used by the government. Again the President’s Spokesman or Press Secretary can do what the Ministry of Information does, considering how Frank Agyekum and Oboshie Sai-Coffie functioned at that Ministry only as damage controllers for the Kufuor administration. What is the practical benefit of the Ministry of Information? I don’t see it. Let’s give the Information Services Department and the NCCE the support they need to perform more efficiently in public education and save funds for better purposes.

The consultations going on now for ministerial appointments point to only one thing—that once again, a new government will face major challenges in terms of its size. One challenge is whether to downsize ministerial portfolios. Then, another challenge—which affects Ghanaians generally—is whether moves should be made to entrench in the Constitution the status of the Ministries to prevent the whimsical and capricious changes that governments make in their designation and mandate, much of which is for a mere political expediency. Can’t we have permanent Ministries (to take care of Departments and Agencies) without their either being scrapped or abolished and new ones created according to which political party is in power?

I have in mind the examples of countries that ensure that their Ministries (or Departments) serve the national interest, not the political ambitions of the government in power at one time or the other. In that sense, the shell remains what it is designed to be, the only change being the nature of appointees who enter or leave it. Thus, if Mr. A becomes the Minister today and is dismissed from office tomorrow for Mr. B to take over, the Ministry itself remains what it is without its status being affected by those changes. It should be so whether it is political party QPC that is in power or its rival. We need permanency and consistency in the status of our Ministries.

We know that appointments to Ministries and other levels of the administration are usually indicative of the President’s desire to put capable people in positions of trust to ensure that productivity is maximized to support government’s agenda for national development. Over the years, however, some appointments have been made for mere personal aggrandizement and reflected the tendency of “a–job-for-the-boys.” Of course, every government seeks to satisfy the hardworking party functionaries that put it in power; hence, the willingness to “award” such people with political appointments to the Ministries or Foreign Service.

As we wait for President Mills’ nomination of people to fill the Ministerial portfolios, we must pause to consider a few issues that are too pertinent to be brushed under the rug. The big size of government has been a major concern to Ghanaians over the years. Under Rawlings, people complained about the numerous Ministerial appointments. Kufuor promised to downsize but did worse. Not only did he work with a bloated size but he also introduced nepotism, cronyism, and plain incompetence into the appointment of people to fill up those portfolios. We are all aware of the creation of analogous Ministries that virtually did nothing to merit their existence. For once, there was a Ministry of Transportation, a Ministry of Aviation, and another Ministry of Railway all at the same time. How ridiculous?

Others such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Fisheries made a mockery of Kufuor’s sense of propriety. Then, there was a Ministry of Women and Children’s Affairs; Ministry of Chieftaincy, etc. The Ministry of Tourism later became the Ministry of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City! What a mess?

I recall how the General Secretary of the NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, complained bitterly about this issue, as he told the VOA’s English to Africa reporter, Peter Clottey (May 15, 2006): “For the past six years that President Kufuor has been in office, every single reshuffle of cabinet he has undertaken has come along with realignment of ministries. New ministries are created with every reshuffle and some are abolished. And I consider it to be very unprofessional and amateurish.” He added that President Kufuor cannot take advantage of the nation with his constant reorganization of government matters.

In his reaction to the same issue, the then Minority Leader in Parliament, A.S.K. Bagbin, described Kufuor and his NPP administration as being “comatose.”

I am waiting to hear what they will say when President Mills comes out with his Ministerial appointments. Within the context of what is being said about the sorry state of the country’s economy following the reckless spending of the Kufuor government in 2008 and the atrocious retirement benefits that are to be given Kufuor, I wonder if it will make sense for President Mills to opt for a large government size to impose a heavy burden on the economy. Will President Mills give us any hope?

By Michael J.K. Bokor, Ph.D.