Appointing Legislators As Ministers Weakens Parliament

Article 78 (1) of the 1992 Constitution requires the president to appoint majority of his ministers from Parliament but President of the Ghana Bar Association, Benson Nutsukpui said that law weakens the House.

Benson Nutukpui is therefore calling for an amendment of that article to allow Parliament to be free of ministerial appointments and enable it play its oversight role more effectively.

He was speaking at the Presidential Investiture and fundraising dinner organised by Rotary International, Ghana to raise funds to support the construction of a Children’s and Maternity wards at the Larteh Hospital.

The GBA President in his keynote address said “Parliament is supposed to serve as a check on the powers of the Executive. If members of Parliament serve in the self same government how effective will the oversight responsibility of Parliament be carried out?”

He noted that it seems that Parliament is rather weakened by Article 78 (1) because “in reality, it does appear that one’s chances of becoming a minister of state are brighter by becoming a member of Parliament so individuals strive to go to Parliament not because of the desire to actually carry out functions of a parliamentarian but only to enhance their chances of becoming minsters at the expense of the rather serious business of Parliament.”

The legal luminary argued that if Ghana is serious about strengthening Parliament to carry out its vital oversight functions then Article 78(1) ought to be amended.

Benson Nutsukpui also suggests that literacy in Offiçal languages should be part of the eligibility criteria for running for President, Parliament and for appointment to a ministerial position.

He said the currently constitutional provision of requirement for such high public offices, does nor include literacy and that leaves room for a situation where Ghana could one day have a complete illiterate as president and similar persons as MPs and Ministers.

Partisan Politics at MMDAs

The GBA President also added his voice to earlier calla by several others for the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) elections to be made partisan.

His argument was that the currently regime fuels the “winner takes all” situation, because it vest all top appointment at the local government level in the executive to the total exclusion of other major stakeholders in the political process.

He believes if political parties are allowed to sponsor candidates for positions at the local government level, it will minimize the winner takes all problem and thereby reduce the tension, suspicion and violence the characterize elections in the country, largely because of the fear of exclusion.

“Our local government system needs to be fully democratised by changing the provisions of Chapter 20 of the Constitution to allow political parties to sponsor candidates for election as Assemblymen and as District Chief Executives or Mayors. Thus, where a party loses out on political power at the national level it may still get a piece of the governance action through power at a District Assembly or a number of them instead of total political exclusion as is currently the situation,” Nutsukpui said.

The legal luminary also believes elections should be held 60 days after the expiration of the terms of both the President and Parliament instead of the 30 days provided in Articles 63(2)(a) and 112(4).

“This change will certainly provide a reasonable period within which a transition from one government to the other can be smoothly effected,” he said.

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