20.05.2005 Politics

"We've shared responsibility in ensuring fairness in vetting" - CJ

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Accra, May 20, GNA - Mr Justice George Kingsley Acquah, Chief Justice (CJ), on Thursday reminded Ghanaians of their shared responsibility in ensuring that the vetting process of nominees for ministerial and other appointments was fair, efficient and effective. Giving the reminder at the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) Annual Lecture at the British Council in Accra, Mr Justice Acquah noted that the vetting process would only succeed if the President, Parliament, the Public and the Media played their respective roles with due diligence.

Founded about 45 years ago, the 76-Fellow Academy, has instituted annual lectures, during which a platform is created for invited Fellows of the Academy, as well as some other distinguished personalities to present papers on own chosen topics of national interest.

Today's lecture, which had the topic: "Parliamentary Vetting and Our Constitutional Democracy", attracted Fellows of the Academy, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Students, as well as some members of the general public.

Mr Justice Acquah urged the President to conduct an in-house screening of his nominees, in order to forestall the situation of presenting to Parliament incompetent and unsuitable candidates. Furthermore, he added, the President had every earthly power and right to refuse to appoint nominees approved by Parliament, if later they turned out to have skeletons in their cupboards, and for that matter, unsuitable for their various appointments.

"Just as the President cannot compel Parliament to approve a nominee, in the same way, Parliament cannot compel the President to appoint a nominee, who has been approved."

The CJ charged Parliament to put in place comprehensive guidelines on the vetting process, to sufficiently inform both the public and the nominee what would be expected of them.

On the nominees, the Chief Justice suggested that they filled standard forms, with a view to extracting vital information, to determine their suitability or otherwise, pointing out that the provision of nominees' Curriculum Vitae, was not enough.

Touching on the requirements for prior Parliamentary approval of Presidential nominees, Mr Justice Acquah pointed out that they were not a novelty under the country's current system of government. For instance, he said, the 1979 Constitution demanded the prior approval of Parliament during the appointments of ministers, their deputies, judges, as well as some members of the Council of State. He cited examples from countries like the United States of America, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Kenya, and said the Parliaments in those countries, first and foremost, had to approve of Presidential nominees before they could take up their ministerial portfolios.

The CJ quoted from the Report of the 1978 Constitutional Commission, and emphasised that the requirement of prior approval of Parliament "is to ensure that the President is assisted by competent and honest individuals in running the affairs of the State.

Turning to the strengths and weaknesses of the vetting process, Mr Justice Acquah, whose lecture attracted a standing ovation from the audience at the end, expressed grave concern about the situation, where certain nominees sat as members of the Appointments Committee to vet others, and later appeared before the same committee to be vetted. He called for the amendment of the standing orders of Parliament, in order to allow ad hoc members to be appointed onto the Appointments Committee, when such a situation arose in future.

The CJ said the interest shown by the public in the recent vetting of Presidential nominees was highly commendable.

He suggested that, inasmuch as that development was very good for the growth of the nation's young democratic dispensation, the vetting exercise needed to be looked into, to see whether it was fulfilling the aims and objectives for which it was set up.

During an open forum, Mr Freddie Blay, First Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the Appointments Committee, suggested that if the Committee was to do a good job, then certain provisions of the Constitution be amended, so that it had adequate time to carry out the vetting exercise.

Mrs Angelina Baiden-Amissah, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports urged the public to be circumspect when they appeared before the Committee with complaints against nominees, so as not to deliberately dent or tarnish nominees' reputation.

Mr Yaw Baah, Member of the Appointments Committee and Chairman of the Committee on Judicial and Constitutional Matters, advised members of the Committee to avoid the unfortunate situation, where the whole exercise was turned into a court proceeding, whereby the majority posed leading questions, while their minority counterparts cross-examined the nominees.

Mr Kofi Attoh, former Member of Parliament, urged nominees, who were also members of the Appointments Committee to step down from the Committee before the start of the vetting process, to ensure fair play in the conduct of the exercise.

Nana Dr Susubribi Krobea Asante, President of the Academy, and Omanhene of the Asokore Traditional Area, chaired the function.

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