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Opinion | Jan 21, 2019

Time To Revamp Ghana’s Constitution

By Amandla
Time To Revamp Ghana’s Constitution

On January 7, 2019, Prof. Philip Ebow Bondzi-Simpson, Rector of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), delivered the maiden lecture of the newly instituted Constitution Day in Accra and called for the abrogation of appointment of Parliamentarians as government ministers. He argued that the dual responsibility of representing a constituency in Parliament while also serving as a government minister does not portend well for efficient governance. Amandla agrees with the esteemed professor and disagrees with the Majority Leader, Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, also a minister of state, who supports the status quo.

In the Westminster Parliamentary system such as practiced in the U.K., the Prime Minister is also a Member of Parliament (MP) and leader of the party that won majority seats in a general election. The Prime Minister must have been elected from a constituency. He/she is not elected by the general electorate. The cabinet is appointed by the Prime Minister. Typically, all cabinet ministers also serve as MPs. A vote of no confidence to remove a prime minister is possible in this system.

In a presidential system such as in the U.S. or Nigeria, the President has no core constituency, is elected by the electorate, and selects his cabinet either from within or outside Congress/National Assembly. Any sitting legislator must resign his or her seat before assuming a ministerial portfolio.

Article 78 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution requires a President to appoint the majority of government ministers from Parliament. This poses a problem and compromises an independent-minded MP in a ruling government with an ambition to become a government minister. Such a minister is placed between a rock and a hard place: stand up to the President and forget ever becoming a minister of state, or find favor in the eyes of the President.

In the case of Britain, bills can emanate from both the executive and the legislature. It is called a “private member’s motion” if it comes from a Parliamentarian. In Ghana, all bills with fiscal implications (and what bill would not require a budget?) must come from the Executive. The independence of the Legislature is compromised in this situation because cabinet members who are also Parliamentarians will be predisposed to vote the bill into law.

The case of dual citizenship in Ghana’s Constitution is another area that needs review. Not only is a dual-citizenship holder unable to become an MP, but he/she cannot hold some positions in government. On this score, Nigeria is again ahead of the game. Unlike Ghana, its dual-citizenship holders can hold top government positions. The premise of Nigeria’s Constitution is, once (born) a Nigerian, always a Nigerian! Paradoxically, Ghanaian athletes and other professionals with dual citizenships, such as Kevin-Prince Boateng, can be invited to serve Ghana as and when needed. Alas, they cannot run for Parliament if they want.

In both systems of government, cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister or President and can be dismissed at any time.

Amandla thinks legislators are elected to legislate laws, and the executive to execute laws enacted by legislation. The two arms of government must be independent of one another. For 27 years, the marriage between the two arms of government has been virtually one-sided, and it’s about time for a divorce. We believe the current government has the wherewithal and the courage to do so. After all, it has been bold in assertions and initiatives that it believes in without apologies. The free Senior High School (SHS) program and its Double-Track System are practical examples of courage to implement, by the Akufo-Addo government.

All nascent democracies such as Ghana evolve in order to strengthen their institutions. Given the power vested in the President per the Constitution and a virtually rubber-stamp Parliament, it would take not only a courageous President to set the ball rolling on correcting flaws and stymie shortcoming clauses in the Constitution, but a selfless, fearless, and visionary leader who understands the environment that prevailed in 1992 when the Constitution was crafted under a former military dictator turned civilian leader! We see those virtues in current President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

For now, the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana is a mishmash of a typical U.K. and U.S. system of government that is not very effective. The professor is spot on!

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