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07.02.2009 Politics

Ministers In Dock

By Daily Guide
Ministers In Dock

Cletus Avorka and Alex Tettey-Enyo FIVE MINISTERIAL nominees of President John Evans Atta Mills were yesterday grilled by the Appointments Committee of Parliament to see whether they are men and women of integrity capable of performing the functions of Ministers of State.

They were Alexander Narh Tetteh-Enyo, Minister-designate for Education; Cletus Apul Avoka, Interior; Akua Sena Dansua, Women and Children's Affairs; Joseph Yelieh Chireh, Local Government and Rural Development and Mrs. Juliana Jocelyn Azumah-Mensah, Minister Designate for Tourism.

The first nominee to come under intense and critical scrutiny was the 69-year-old Tetteh-Enyo who is also the Member of Parliament for Ada Constituency.

He was grilled for almost two hours, during which he answered questions on the quality of education, the controversy over the duration of the Senior High School and how to improve the standard of education in the country generally.

In answering questions from members of the Appointments Committee, particularly those from the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) on why he believes the policy of the previous administration to extend the duration of the Senior High School (SHS) to four years should be reversed to three, the Education Minister-designate said it was in line with the Manifesto of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

According to him, the Anamoah-Mensah Committee set up by the previous NPP administration to review Ghana's education system actually recommended a three-year duration for the SHS, adding that it was rather the government's White Paper on the Committee's Report that extended the period to four years.

He noted that the solution to poor academic standards at the secondary level is not long duration but improving the education at the Junior High School level by providing the necessary infrastructure with the needed equipment and well motivated teachers.

Hon. Tetteh-Enyo suggested that rather than spending time and money in extending the SHS duration, more resouces should be channeled to the JHS level in order to give the students solid foundation to meet the challenges at higher levels of the educational ladder.

He therefore pledged that when given the nod he would impress upon government to provide the necessary infrastructure not only at the lower levels of education but also at the tertiary institutions using the GETFUND, adding that he would lobby for more budgetary support for education.

 As part of the overhaul of the education system, the Minister-designate promised to take a serious look at teacher training colleges with a view to continuing with the upgrading of the colleges to diploma-awarding institutions to improve the quality of teachers in the country.

Taking his turn, Minister-designate for the Interior, Cletus Avoka asserted that he would work meticulously to ensure lasting peace in Bawku if given the nod.

The neutrality of Hon. Avoka who is also the MP for Zebilla in the Upper East Region had been questioned by some youth groups who claimed the minister-designate had been involved deeply in the protracted conflict between the Mamprusis and Kusasis and that his nomination as Minister for the Interior was a security threat to the Bawku Municipality.

The group sent a petition to the Parliamentary Appointments Committee, requesting for the disqualification of Hon. Avoka since he once served as opinion leader and legal practitioner for the Kusasis.

However, the Minister-designate said during vetting that his disqualification would set a bad precedent for the country, and urged the members to consider the larger interest of the country.

Referring to the petition as unfortunate, Mr. Avoka who spoke with passion, told the Committee that he would build bridges between the two ethnic groups.

Having served as Upper East Regional Minister under the Rawlings-led administration, Mr. Avoka noted that his reign was devoid of conflict, and pledged to replicate similar accomplishments when given the nod.

The Minister-designate for Women and Children's Affairs (MOWAC) and MP for North Dayi, Akua Sena Dansua allayed the fears of the Ghanaian populace with regard to turning the MOWAC into an organ of the 31st December Women's Movement when given the nod.

She maintained that she had no intention of making such a move; rather, the Ministry would deal with the 31st DWM like it would with all other non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The MP was answering a question posed by Gifty Klenam, MP for Lower West Akim on whether the Movement would not take over the Ministry, since it is an integral part of the NDC.

The 31st December Movement was registered as an NGO ostensibly to champion the cause of women.

Former First Lady in the previous National Democratic Congress (NDC) government, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings is the President of the Movement, which has close association with the NDC. The Movement led many to believe it was an appendix of the political grouping.

Explaining, Akua Sena Dansua said the Ministry was a national women's machinery that works with all NGOs and that since the 31st Movement also seeks to empower women, there was no way the latter would take over the Ministry.

She therefore assured all of her readiness to empower the Ministry by way of policies and programmes to enable it discharge its objectives effectively when given the mandate.

The Minister-designate was subjected to a number of questions from members of the Committee, notable among them were the issue of early childhood development, porters popularly called Kayayei, girl-child education, and the President's decision to give 40 percent of his Cabinet appointment to women.

In her response to early childhood development which she described as worrying since most of the district assemblies lacked the needed structures and professional care-givers to take care of the children, she pledged to make it one of her priorities when given the nod.

She elucidated that early childhood development was the bedrock of the country's development; therefore her Ministry would collaborate with donor partners and government to facilitate the training of care-givers as well as put in place the necessary structures and resources to address the concerns of the issue.

On her part, Mrs Juliana Azumah Mensah, Minister-designate for Tourism and MP For Ho East who lasted for just 40 minutes, unlike her colleagues who were grilled for over two hours, bemoaned the way Ghana's doors were open to tourists who come and lure young girls into hotels, give them peanuts and sexually abuse them and in some instances infect them with HIV/AIDS.

She therefore stressed the need to streamline Ghana's borders to help check the free movement of people into the country.

The last to appear was Joseph Yelieh Chireh, Minister-designate for Local Government and Rural Development who promised that if given the nod he would strengthen the District Assemblies to make them more accountable to the people.

By Awudu Mahama & Sheilla Sackey