Who is a minister?

Author:Ahiata, Kodzo
Position:Around Africa - Canada - Brief Article

One year into office, President John Kufuor's government has come unstuck on the size of the very government he heads, and the opposition wants him to come clean on the matter.

Depending on whose definition you accept, the government has either appointed 72 ministers, or more than 86 (the opposition view).

According to the opposition, the president has already broken his election promise not to run a big government, following new designations such as minister of mines, lands and forestry; minister for presidential affairs and information; several "senior ministers" (a position that did not exist in the past); and a good number of presidential staffers.

Kufuor had promised in last year's election campaign not to appoint "86 ministers" as was done by the Rawlings government he was replacing, arguing that too many ministers created a bloated bureaucracy with its attendant financial cost.

But, Alban Bagbin, the minority leader in parliament, says the president has already broken that promise.

"The constitution mandates the president to appoint such number of ministers of state as may be necessary for the efficient running of the country," Bagbin explains. "However, it is clear that the government is now unable to halt the increasing number of ministerial appointments after having accused the previous government of a bloated appointments list."

This, Bagbin contends, led to the recent government's decision not to appoint deputy ministers for five regions -- Ashanti, Upper East, Upper West, Central and Greater Accra -- although the government has already appointed deputy ministers for the Volta, Eastern, Western, Brong Ahafo and Northern regions.

Kwabena Agyapong, the deputy government spokesperson, has confirmed that the government has no intention of appointing any more deputy ministers.

"The reason," Agyapong says, "is the fact that these regions [Ashanti, Upper East, Upper West, Central and Greater Accral are fairly homogeneous and can therefore be easily managed by the regional ministers alone. For the regions where deputies have already been appointed, the decision was informed by the overriding concern to make for geographic and ethnic balance."

Agyapong cited the example of the Volta Region where the regional minister comes from its northern part, and "it was, therefore, found necessary to have a deputy who comes from the southern part".

In the other regions without deputy...

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