Sabah Zita Okaikwei President John Evans Atta Mills' nominee for the Ministry of Information, Sabah Zita Okaikwei would have to learn fast on the job to meet the challenges of the Ministry as she was badly exposed by the members of the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Wednesday.
The 34-year-old lawyer might have been charming enough to attract the attention of the President but her understanding of issues of information dissemination and management was said to be below the performance of government's number one Public Relations Officer.
For instance, she appeared to be a neophyte in the slippery terrain of information management when she was asked by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Bekwai, Joseph Osei-Owusu how she would coordinate and handle the issue of multiple methods of information flow from the presidency and her Ministry to the media.
In answering the question, Mrs. Okaikoi said, “I will make sure my ministry markets the government well to the outside world and also collate information and give feedback to my government,” completely deviating from the original question.
The Information Minister-designate did not also seem to be conversant with the operations of the state-owned media although she had been nominated days before her appearance before the Appointments Committee.
Mrs. Okaikoi was however humble enough to acknowledge her shortcomings, saying she would learn through interactions and proper collaboration with her Chief Director and other staff at the Ministry.
Delving into what she would do if given the nod by the Appointments Committee and approved by Parliament, the Information Minister-designate pledged to have an open door policy towards the media for effective collaboration to enhance good governance and accountability in the country.
She said the role of the media must not be underestimated, and pledged to work with the media wholeheartedly to ensure free flow of information.
Mrs. Okaikoi also promised to adequately equip the Information Services Department (ISD) for it to educate the people on the programmes and policies of government.
Furthermore, as in line with the manifesto of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Information Minister-designate stated that the Ministry would set up Community Radio Stations in the districts to disseminate the policies of Government to the grassroots.
Earlier, she dispelled rumours making rounds in some quarters that she was arrogant and unfriendly.
Describing herself as affable and nice person, she said it was unfair for people to make such comments about her.
When he appeared before the Appointment Committee, the Minister-designate for Health, Dr George Sipa-Adjah Yankey promised to continue with the past programmes and projects implemented by the erstwhile New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration and develop on its achievements.
He gave the assurance that more funds would be mobilized to support interventions and increase expenditure for the country's health sector, if given the nod.
He admitted that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) initiated by the past administration was a good programme which would be sustained.
However, he identified portability as the major problem facing the NHIS, giving the assurance that the scheme would be computerized to check malfeasance and facilitate access to the poor with the view to providing adequate and quality healthcare to the people.
According to him, he would encourage inter-sectoral collaboration with the various Ministries to solve the numerous problems facing the health sector so that more funds would be made available to all districts and rural areas to address infrastructural problems in the sector.
On how to address the issue of brain-drain of medical personnel, Dr. Yankah remarked that, “the issue has been with us for a long time,” adding that governments have tried to solve the problem but have not adequately addressed the problem.
Explaining why personnel leave the country, the Health Minister-designate noted that it was as a result of lack of basic medical facilities and better conditions of service, pledging that if given the nod, he would provide “conducive environment, improve on the incentives and other benefits to make it more palatable for them to stay in the country”.
To make Ghana a malarial-free country, he said malaria poses a big drain to the country's economy and that 45 percent of Out Patient Department (OPDs) cases is related to malaria, while one third of children under five years die of the disease with treatment amounting to $760million in 2007.
Consequently, he would develop holistic malaria elimination programme by using biological means to kill the malaria parasites in the human body and work closely with neighbouring countries to achieve this vision.
“If we are able to eradicate malaria, we will be saving huge sums of money to the national budget,” he stressed.
Dr. Yankey pledged his preparedness to make Ghana a medical health hub in West Africa by providing state-of-the-art equipment that would attract doctors from abroad to come and even perform operations for free.
By Awudu Mahama & Sheilla Sackey