NEWS COMMENTARY ON CALLS TO ABOLISH REGIONAL MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENTS
Ghana, like many other countries, is currently facing a major economic crisis. The country has been struggling to refinance its debt since the start of 2022 and its public debt stood at 467.4 billion Ghana cedis in September, 2022, of which 42 percent was domestic. The country’s inflation rate has also surged to 54.1percent as of December, 2022, driven by steep increases in food, fuel, transport, and housing costs. In addition to these economic challenges, Ghana has been facing a severe budget deficit, with 70 to 100 percent of the government revenue currently going toward servicing debt. In this context, it is crucial that the government takes measures to reduce its expenditure and increase efficiency, in order to mitigate the impact of the crisis on the populace. One such effective and efficient measure that can be taken is the complete removal of the 16 regional ministers.
The role of Regional Ministers, as outlined in Article 256 of the 1992 Constitution, is to act as representatives of the President in the regions and to be responsible for the coordination and direction of government machinery in the regions. However, this function can be performed by the Regional Coordinating Directors (RCDs), who are already in place. These RCDs are the Chief Administrative Officers in the regions and are responsible for the day-to-day management of the region’s affairs. They are also responsible for coordinating the activities of the various government agencies and departments in the region.
The role of Regional Ministers in Ghana, though, is not only limited to coordinating and directing government machinery in the regions, but also playing significant functions in the budget allocation process. The budget estimate for just running the office of the President for the year 2023 is GH¢ 1 ,410, 712,912. This is a significant amount, which can be cut down as cost reduction measures for other essential government services. Moreover, the presence of Regional Ministers in Ghana has not necessarily led to better governance in the regions. The Regional Ministers are often seen as political appointees, rather than individuals who are qualified to hold such positions.
The Regional Ministers are also seen as sources of patronage, with appointments to the position often being based on political considerations rather than merit. The RCDs have the necessary qualifications, experience and skills to perform the functions of the regional ministers. They are also more familiar with the local conditions and issues in their regions, which enables them to make more informed decisions and choices. complete abolition of the position of regional ministers and giving the RCDs more autonomy and authority would not only reduce government’s expenditure, but also increase the efficiency of the regional administration. Furthermore, having 16 regional ministers also leads to duplication of work and inefficiencies.
For some Regional Ministers, they hardly have time for their regions and roles due to the dual role they play as Parliamentarians and Ministers. And that is why most often, some of these regional Ministers leave most of the work on the RCDs. We have not even considered the number of other political appointees who report to the Regional Minister apart from civil servants at the regional levels. These appointees add up to the awkward bureaucracy in the regional administrations. This does not only increase government’s expenditure, but also slow decision-making and policy implementation.
Abolishing this position through constitutional amendments would give autonomy and authority to Coordinating Directors to help streamline regional administration and reduce the bureaucracy for increased efficiency.
A critical analysis of the role of Regional Ministers today, leads to the conclusion that this role in our governance system is redundant, and not needed in these harsh economic conditions. Indeed, the current economic situation in Ghana calls for pragmatic and drastic measures and moves, if the government is to make a headway to overcome the crisis that we find ourselves as a country.
In another vein, the current economic situation should give the government a rare opportunity and advantage to adopt cost cutting measures to reduce expenditure and maximize efficiency. Political positions that are gulping scarce resources must be done away with in order not to only reduce government’s expenditure, but free resources for better growth and development of our suffering nation Ghana.
By: Stephen Mensah, a Journalist.