What is ideal number of ministers?

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

There is a raging debate about the number of ministers that our President requires to form his team in order to deliver efficiently and effectively.

At the last count, President John Mahama had appointed about 86 ministers of state, but while we are still counting, others put the number at 91.

Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, our presidents have come under a barrage of criticisms for running very big bureaucracies that undermine the efficiency of the government machinery.

The Rawlings administration appointed more than 70 ministers but he was criticised by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), led then by its flag bearer, Mr J.A. Kufuor.

Unfortunately, when Ghanaians gave the mandate to Mr Kufuor in 2001, he appointed more ministers than his predecessor and he had to do the honourable thing by apologising for criticising Flt Lt Rawlings.

President J.E.A. Mills also did not spare former President Kufuor for running a very large bureaucracy, but on his demise he had about 90 functionaries in his team.

If former President Kufuor's argument that the challenges of our times require that every sector must have a minister, provided the resources can afford it, is anything to go by, then there will be no ceilingon the President's appointees.

Indeed, every sector of our economy requires special attention, but we do not have the luxury of appointing ministers to be responsible for every sphere of national endeavour.

It is good to have quite a sizable number of ministers but  such offices come with cost, as the appointees must be paid, as well as provided with fringe benefits and privileges.

The Constitution gives the President the mandate to appoint as many people as are desirable to run an efficient administration, except for the Cabinet on which it  has placed a ceiling.

Article 76 Clause 1 of the Constitution says, "There shall be a Cabinet, which shall consist of the President, the Vice-President and not less than 10 and not more than nineteen Ministers of State."

It also says in Article 78 Clause 2, "The President shall appoint such number of Ministers of State as may be necessary for the efficient running of the State."

Going strictly by the Constitution, the President has not breached any law by appointing about 90 ministers of state.

It may be constitutionally desirable, but is it what our purse can accommodate?

The sages admonish us to "cut our coat according to our cloth" and it is precisely for this reason that we ought to be running a lean administration.

The Daily Graphic thinks that the President should review the number of ministers to reflect the economic reality on the ground.

As a country, we had the glorious opportunity during the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) sitting to put a cap on the number of ministers that our Presidents can appoint.

Unless the White Paper on the CRC recommendations is cast in iron and stone, the Daily Graphic calls on the government to re-look at the number of ministers that we need to run an efficient administration.

We also call on the government to initiate a public debate on the number of ministers that is ideal for effective governance.

This, we hope, will help the government  downsize the bureaucracy and cut down on expenditure on its functionaries.

We think that when people reckon that the government is living the call on the people to sacrifice, the people will accept the austerity measures in good faith.

After all, example, they say, is better than precept.