Appraisal of Ministers of State: Matters Arising

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My good friends, we are monitoring how the appraisal of Ministers of State is being done. We have already agreed that the exercise is a novelty in Ghanaian politics and welcomed it for all that it seeks to do: to confirm to the appointees that they are in office because they are trusted to help improve governance and that they are not tin-gods that will not account for their stewardship.

They were told at the time they were being inducted into office that such a review exercise would be done for them to prove their mettle and for the appointing authority to determine (based on the outcome of the review process) whether they are fit to remain in office as Ministers or be shown the exit. The appointees themselves knew about it and are ready to be put on the spot. Fair enough.

Now, here is the catch: The President’s Office says that it will release for public consumption the outcome of the exercise. Simply put, the government wants the exercise to be as transparent as possible to prove that it has nothing to hide as far as its administration of the affairs of state is concerned.

In yesterday’s post, I said the decision to disclose the review findings was a step in the right direction, at least, inasmuch as it will confirm that the government doesn’t fear “transparency” or that disclosing the outcome will prove to Ghanaians that the exercise is not a smokescreen or a diversionary measure to deflect public interest in current goings-on regarding the controversy surrounding the sale of the Merchant Bank or any other issue that has pushed the government to the wall.

Now, we have delved more deeply into the matter and have a few issues to raise: Is it really necessary to disclose the outcome of the appraisal exercise to give political opponents the ammunition with which to shoot the government down, especially in case some Ministers (who are at the same time MPs) fail the test?

The rub is that anything adverse against such appointees will reflect on their political standing in their constituencies. Can any such person stand tall in his/her constituency for re-election at Election 2016, having been exposed as incompetent (through the appraisal exercise)?

How can such a person ever win the support of voters in his/her constituency to boost the NDC’s chances of retaining the seat in that constituency? Of course, the citizens want “performing” representatives in government (Parliament inclusive), not non-performing ones. So, how will the public disclosure of the appraisal report feed into public discourse?

Another issue. At the time that these Ministers were appointed, wasn’t any diligent work done to check their background (vetting) to establish their capabilities? So, what would have changed all too soon for the President to doubt their ability to deliver the goods? Will any adverse findings and consequent removal of any Minister not reflect negatively on the appointing authority too?

Yet, another issue. Knowing very well that the political opponents are set to use anything—just any straw in sight—to intensify their campaign of calumny and image-destruction against President Mahama and his government (not to mention the NDC), is it politically wise to reveal findings about government functionaries the way the President intends to do? Won’t he be playing himself and his government/NDC into the hands of the political opponents, especially the NPP?

The overarching question is: What does the President hope to achieve by opening his own government functionaries up for the kind of public scrutiny that doesn’t promise to add anything new to governance, anyway?

On that score, a school of thought feels that instead of publicly announcing the outcome of the appraisal exercise, the President should treat it as an IN-HO– USE affair and limit it to the four walls of his office. He has the constitutional mandate to appoint and remove from office anybody regarded as fit or unfit for his administration.

And he owes no apology or explanation to anybody. After all, the Constitution doesn’t enjoin him to justify any action of the sort that he takes, which is why it is being suggested that he shouldn’t rush to wash his own government’s dirty linen in public.

The question for him to ponder is: What will any publicizing of the appraisal report fetch for him to improve his government’s performance? If he can find a really compelling answer to justify any public release of the appraisal report, let him go ahead; otherwise, Mr. President, learn to keep your government’s secrets secret and save yourself from the tongue-lashing by your opponents.

However well-intentioned the decision may be, it needs more re-thinking before being implemented. I support the idea of keeping everything IN-HO– USE!!

I shall return…

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