110 Ministers… Why Not 408? (1)

One of the proverbs our Ga Elders have taught us is “Ke ote ni ogbee shi le, kaa kwe heni ogbee; kwemo heni ote ye” – If you trip and fall, do not look where you fell, look where you tripped at.  And it came to mind the day after Wednesday, March 15, 2017 when news media reported that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has put out additional deputy ministers, thus raising the total of his ministers and deputy ministers to a record high of 110.

Considering the fact that the highest number of ministers Ghana has ever had in this Fourth Republic (and, in fact, at any time in her history) is John A. Kufuor’s 88 ministers, 110 is high indeed.  And while it forecasts a higher expenditure in salaries for political appointees, Ti-Kelenkelen thinks we owe it to ourselves, as a state or people, to find out why it is possible for Nana Akufo-Addo to indulge in what some people – let us be frank with ourselves – will characterise as, serbe, this madness of political appointments, and yet break no law.

Thus, far from directing one to take his or her attention away from the circumstances of his or her fall, this proverb is actually telling one what to do when looking for the cause(s) or origin(s) of his or her fall or circumstances.  In other words, this proverb is telling us that the cause of a circumstance is different from the particulars of the circumstance itself; not necessarily that the circumstance is irrelevant.

Why so many?

One of the facts about Ghana that has lasted longer than even the Fourth Republic is the fact that year-to-year there is not enough money to take care of Ghana’s annual budget.  And there is no doubt about the fact that Mahamanomics has done substantial damage to the economy in the last four years.  It was thus not strange when Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, said at Jubilee House just after Nana Akufo-Addo had nominated him that the economy is strong but fragile.

Mahama’s men, (from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that is now in the minority in Parliament), latched onto that statement and tried to use it as a contradiction (from the same camp) of Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia’s earlier (campaign) statement that the economy during the Mahama administration was bad.  However, the truth is that the minority were only on a trip of self-validation simply to free themselves of the truth Bawumia uttered about the state of the economy in Mahama’s era.

In other words, the minority simply failed to or pretended not to understand what the senior minister said.  When Osafo Maafo said the economy is strong but fragile what he was actually saying is “akyea na emu ye” (Twi) – it is bent but not broken.  It is a statement of recognition that the economy is bad, but simultaneously a statement of hope by which one expresses the prospect that no matter how bad a situation is it can be fixed.  But the minority, desperate, decided to indulge in sheer language analysis to score empty partisan-political points.

Here is Ti-Kelenkelen’s point in this specific context: Osafo Maafo’s statement only confirms that Ghana still has difficulty of internally raising cash to support her annual budget.  And so one would have expected Nana Akufo-Addo to keep that in mind while appointing ministers to help him lead the people of Ghana to his, let us admit, the awesome, holistic and well-synergised vision he has outlined for the state.  Instead of appointing less ministers than Kufuor did, Nana Akufo-Addo appoints 22 more than him.

(Ti-Kelenkelen hears the salaries of ministers and their deputies have gone up, since Mahama doubles these in September 2012.)  Using the Mahama figures, however, each minister earns about GHC10,000 and each deputy minister earns about GHC9,000.  And Nana Akufo-Addo has 50 ministers and 60 deputy ministers.   Thus every month the ministers will earn GHC500,000 in salaries alone, and the deputies a total of GHC 540,000.  That makes a grand total of about GHC1.04 million; i.e., excluding the cost in occupying public bungalows, the cost of each having and running about three cars and the fuel they use, the cost of their security, their travel expenses and the per diems that go with each trip, etc.

The minister for Information, Mustapha Hamid, has explained the rationale for such a large number of ministers.  The president has outlined a huge vision and needs this number of men and women, each handling a manageable part of that vision, to help him roll it out.  But that is easily offset by the fact that it is the public workers at the ministry rather than the ministers and deputy ministers who implement state policy.

On the Citi Breakfast Show of Thursday, March 16, 2017, a member of the show team, Nana Ama Agyeman-Asante said a minister is basically a supervisor, but Justice Kwame Afreh (MHSRIP) explained that a minister is more than that.  Afreh explained that a minister apart from his supervisory role makes and modifies policy for the attention of the president.  However, Nana Ama Agyeman-Asante is right that Nana Akufo-Addo could have saved Ghana so much money by giving himself and the people a lean administration.

Hamid explained, rightly, that it is better for Nana Akufo-Addo to have an Attorney-General  (A-G) with two deputy ministers to scrutinise contracts and public documents to save the state millions than to have one Attorney-General (such as Betty Mould-Iddrisu) who will, wrongly, sign away GHC51 million of public funds to one man (Alfred Woyome.)  Come to think of it, going by the grand total generated above, GHC51 million could pay just the salaries of 110 ministers for about two years.

Nevertheless, evidence that emerged during the Economic and Organised-Crime Office (EOCO) hearing of the matter shows that when documents for the payment of the GHC51 million arrived at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, it is civil workers in the legal department who pointed out that there was inadequate information in the documentation to support payment.  The only problem, as Hamid clearly identified, is that Betty Mould-Iddrisu and the then finance minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, did not listen.

Thus in the specific case of illegal payment of the GHC51 million to Woyome, the ministers were the liability.  Yet that does not render Hamid’s argument sound.  For if the A-G’s Department has just one minister (with no deputies) who allows civil workers to do their job and also listens, the state will save a lot of money, which is Nana Akufo-Addo’s goal.

When Kufuor appointed more ministers than his predecessors, the NDC and a section of Ghanaians complained.  And speakers for his administration countered that Kufuor will re-construct the economy to make it relatively stable and more efficient.  He actually succeeded at that in his first term and year after year also succeeded in raising so much more revenue than his predecessors.  In a sense, as our Akan Elders would say: “Ye de sika na eyi sika” – We use money to fish for (or generate) money.  Thus Kufuor asked us to judge his large number of ministers by the outcome of his tenure because the larger number of ministers will (and did) help him do the job.

“…The cause of a circumstance is different from the particulars of the circumstance itself; not necessarily that the circumstance is irrelevant.”

“But that is easily offset by the fact that it is the public workers at the ministry rather than the ministers and deputy ministers who implement state policy.”

“…In the specific case of illegal payment of the GHC51 million to Woyome, the ministers were the liability.  Yet… if the A-G’s Department has just one minister (with no deputies) who allows civil workers to do their job and also listens, the state will save a lot of money…”

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