Heed Council of State’s Counsel!

At the inception of this democracy, the functions of the Council of State were scantily publicised and not even the members of the council appeared to sufficiently know their roles. Some of you, cherished readers, may remember the Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia Council of State that served the Jerry John Rawlings regimes from 1993 to 2001. The Chairman was often sent by the President to go represent him at functions he, the head of state, had been invited to but was unable to attend. The joke was at times made that the President sent some of the Council members to open public places of convenience for community use. That was then; we have come thus far and appreciate the invaluable roles of the Council of State.

For the avoidance of doubt, take note that Chapter Nine of the 1992 Constitution, which deals exhaustively with the Council of State, states inter-alia that: A bill which has been published in the Gazette or passed by Parliament shall be considered by the Council of State if the President so requests (Article 90 clause 1.)

(2) A request from the President for consideration of a bill may be accompanied by a statement setting forth the amendments or changes, if any, which the President proposes for consideration by the Council of State.

(3) Consideration of a bill under clause (1) of this article shall be completed within thirty days after the third reading in Parliament of that bill except that, where the bill was passed under a certificate of urgency, the Council of State shall consider it and report to the President within seventy-two hours.

(4) Where the Council of State decides not to propose an amendment to a bill the Chairman shall, within seven days after the decision of the Council, transmit the bill with a certificate to that effect addressed to the President.

(5) Where the Council of State decides to propose amendments to a bill, the bill, with a memorandum setting forth the amendments proposed on the bill, shall be transmitted by the chairman to the President within fifteen days after the conclusion of the consideration by the Council of State.

Article 91 makes further provisions: (1) The Council of State shall consider and advise the President or any other authority in respect of any appointment which is required by this Constitution or any other law to be made in accordance with the advice of, or in consultation with, the Council of State.

(2) The advice referred to in clause (1) of this article shall be given not later than thirty days after the receipt of the request from the President or other authority.

(3) The Council of State may, upon request or on its own initiative, consider and make recommendations on any matter being considered or dealt with by the President, a Minister of State, Parliament or any other authority established by this Constitution except that the President, Minister of State, Parliament or other authority shall not be required to act in accordance with any recommendation made by the Council of State under this clause.

(4) The Council of State shall perform such other functions as may be assigned to it by this Constitution or any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution.

Perhaps, it is this final area (the Council of State shall perform such other functions as may be assigned to it by this Constitution or any other law not inconsistent with this Constitution) that may be exploited by a President or Parliament to assign the Council frivolous or undignified responsibilities. Our expectation as a people aspiring for excellence and the benefits thereof is that no President, Minister, Parliament or institution under the Constitution will ever again misuse the Council. Needless to say, the Council itself must recognise its onerous responsibilities and importance and uphold its dignity at all times.

To remain relevant and revered, the Nana Otuo Serebuor team itself should bear in mind that it also has the authority to “initiate, consider and make recommendations on any matter being considered or dealt with by the President, a Minister of State, Parliament or any other authority established by this Constitution.” Even if the President, Minister of State, Parliament or other authority is not enjoined to act in accordance with any recommendation made by the Council of State under this clause, the fact that the counselors have the right to offer suggestions should embolden them to go ahead. In all humility, I urge that you don’t allow yourselves to become docile and domesticated.

A kind of snag is that the Council of State is enjoined to often hold its meetings in camera (Article 92 clause 3.) That makes it difficult for the Council’s work to be known to the general public. Whether they gave the right advice and the President, Parliament or other institution ignored is not immediately known. But, I guess it will not be out of place for retired Council of State members to publish memoirs and books on the functions and challenges of the advisory body. Even retirees of the highly secretive Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation do same.

Ghana Today is a nation in dire need of efficiency and playing by the rules. We have one of the best constitutions on the Planet. We have some of the best policies and programmes in Africa. Our human resource was reputed among the best, especially in the past. Trouble, though, is that when we are implementing our own policies and programmes, we often show crass incompetence. Good ideas, terrible delivery; good strategies terrible performance in front of the goal-line. Ghana Today requires a mental rebirth geared towards tactical discipline and staying the course until the goals are realised to the letter.

The Akufo-Addo Administration read its very first financial estimates yesterday; it is this column’s firm expectation that only expenditures approved by Parliament will be carried out by the Executive. Ghana Today requires the cessation of budget overspending and the repetition of projects and programmes that never get executed. In this area, for instance, our Council of State should – without fear or favour – urge the President and the Cabinet to remain fiscally disciplined.

If you have a retired Chief Justice; an ex-Chief of Military Defence Staff; a former Police Inspector-General; President of the National House of Chiefs; one rep elected from each region of Ghana; and eleven other members appointed by the President to give counsel, you can be confident of the quality of guidance. Thus, this column prays all institutions of Ghana that are constitutionally supposed to benefit from the wise counsels of the Council of State to – indeed – listen and pay heed to the invaluable advice. Let it not be said that our leaders behaved like Absalom, even though they had the benefit of counsel of a team comparable to Ahithophel. 2 Samuel, 15:31 – “When someone told David that his advisor, Ahithophel, was now backing Absalom, David prayed, ‘O Lord, let Ahithophel give Absalom foolish advice!’”

One hugely surprising piece of advice that the otherwise super-wise Ahithophel gave David was: “Go and sleep with your fathers’ concubines….” Death was awaiting David’s son Absalom. May God forbid such a scenario in Ghana!

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