After winding, tortuous parliamentary voting: 6 Ministerial nominees approved
Parliament yesterday approved six ministerial nominees submitted to the House by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on February 9, 2023, for approval.
The Majority caucus battled through a secret vote in almost split decisions after chaotic moments started last Thursday which lasted into the night.
The nominees are K. T. Hammond, the Minister designate for Trade and Industry; Dr Bryan Acheampong, Minister designate for Food and Agriculture, and Stephen Asamoah Boateng, Minister designate for Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs.
The rest are Dr Mohammed Amin Adam, the Minister of State designate for the Ministry of Finance; Osei Bonsu Amoah, the Minister of State designate for the Ministry of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, and Dr Stephen Amoah, the Deputy Minister designate for Trade and Industry.
Announcing the outcome of the secret balloting, the Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, said there were 275 eligible voters, with three absentees, so in all 272 MP cast their ballot.
O.B. Amoah — Minister of State, Local Government Ministry and Stephen Amoah — Deputy Minister for Trade and Industry
Mr Hammond went through with 154 votes in his favour, with 116 voting against his nomination for appointment, and one each rejected ballot and an absentee.
Mr Amoah polled 149 ‘Yes’ votes, 120 ‘No’ votes and three absentees, while Dr Amoah secured 146 votes in his favour, 123 ‘No’ votes and three abstentions.
The rest are Dr Amin Adam, who secured 152 approval votes, 117 ‘No’ votes, one rejected ballot and two abstentions, Mr Asamoah Boateng secured 147 votes in his favour, 122 against his appointment, leaving three abstentions, while Dr Acheampong went through with 167 votes in his favour, 98 against, four rejected ballots and three abstentions.
Prior to the voting process, the Majority's 137 membership was reduced by two, with MP for Dome Kwabenya, Sarah Adwoa Safo, and the MP for Kumawu, Philip Barsoa, being absent.
Ms Safo has been a longtime absentee for unexplained reasons, while Barsoa was suddenly taken ill.
One other person from the Majority side, Ebenezer Kojo Kum, who is the MP for Ahanta West, in spite of being under the weather, was forced to come to the House to make up the numbers for the battle to see the President’s nominations through.
He was served his ballot paper per the directive of the Speaker to enable him to vote.
Even before voting could start, there were a number of banter and interventions on the floor of the House from both sides.
The Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo Markin, suggested to the House that since the Minority was 136 and the Majority, 137, there was no need to cast the ballot because if each side was to vote en bloc, the figures would still stand in the respective caucuses.
But that application was shot down by the Minority side with the whip, Kwame Governs Agbodza, insisting they went through the polls.
The ensuing confusion forced the Speaker to suspend sitting to allow for a conclave meeting with leadership of both sides.
Minutes before the Speaker could reconvene the House, there was another commotion between the two sides disagreeing on the use of two ballot boxes because it could defeat the purpose of a secret voting.
When the dust settled on the return of the Speaker, polling agents were introduced for both sides and the voting kicked off after the processes had been inspected by the Speaker.
There was tension between the voting and the declaration of results periods as each could hardly determine its fate.
While waiting for the Speaker to reconvene the House, the Minority Leader, Dr Cassiel Ato Forson, held a press conference where he insisted his side was ready to have the votes "now and today."
Last Thursday, the House stopped short of deciding the fate of the President’s ministers and deputy minister designates after the proceedings on the floor leading to the approval ended abruptly.
The suspension of sitting came after the Chairman of the Appointments Committee, Mr Osei-Owusu, had presented the committee’s report and moved a motion for the House to approve the six nominees.
The motion was seconded by the Deputy Majority Leader, Alexander Afenyo-Markin.
Earlier before proceedings started around 1p.m., the Minority Caucus put in an application to the Speaker to step down the motion on the approval process since copies of the Appointments Committee’s report had not been made available to its members.
However, the Speaker disagreed on grounds that the committee’s report had been laid in the House since March 3, this year, and directed that the report be made available to all members.
However, even before the Minority Chief Whip, Mr Agbodza, could contribute to the motion, the Majority Chief Whip, Mr Frank Annoh-Dompreh, made an application to the Speaker to suspend the House for an hour.
He said the suspension would allow for “a very important engagement between the Majority and the Minority caucuses”.
His Minority counterpart, Mr Agbodza, backed the application and the Speaker subsequently suspended the House for an hour until 3.35 p.m.
But as of the time of filing this report at 7.21 p.m., sitting had not resumed.
That was in spite of the ringing of the bell for members of the House to return to the Chamber for proceedings to continue.
Moving the motion for the House to approve the nominees, Mr Osei-Owusu, who is also the First Deputy Speaker, said all the nominees appeared before the committee to answer questions relating to their eligibility and qualifications, what they had done in the past and what they considered they ought to do in the future.
He said during the two-day vetting process, the nominees demonstrated knowledge in the areas of finance, agriculture, chieftaincy, culture, trade and industry.
"The committee, therefore, recommends to the House, by a majority decision, for the adoption of its report and the approval of the nominees,” he said.
Call for consensus
Seconding the motion, the Deputy Majority Leader said all the nominees, except Mr Asamoah Boateng, were sitting Members of Parliament.
“They are our colleagues and we know their potential and capacity; we know what they have done for this country,” he said.
Sharing insights into the experiences, qualities and previous positions each nominee had occupied in the past, Mr Afenyo-Markin said he believed the nominees had what it took to make “in roads” in their respective sectors.
“Although we came to a decision by majority, I know that here at the plenary, this House can by consensus proceed to use the voice vote to approve of all these nominees,” he said.
In his view, the six nominees had earned their new appointments by merit and “we should not be seen to be taking a decision of political convenience against them”.
It was when it was the turn of Mr Agbodza to contribute to the motion that Mr Annoh-Dompreh prayed the Speaker to suspend sitting for an hour for “a very important engagement between the two caucuses”.
Reduce bloated size
Contributing to the debate, the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanuel Kofi Armah-Buah, said currently Ghana had moved from GH₵120 billion debt to almost GH₵600 billion, with the government now going through a debt exchange programme.
“What everybody has called on this government to do is to take steps to reduce its bloated size of government and take responsibility for this crisis we find ourselves,” he said.
He averred that the appointments of the nominees amounted to clear duplication of sector ministers and urged the government to realign some of the ministries and cut back on its bloated appointments.
“We love these our friends who have worked in Parliament but in a principled stand, Mr Speaker, they have been appointed at the wrong time in a bloated government and we cannot support that,” the MP for Ellembele said.
The NPP MP for Okaikwei Central, Patrick Yaw Boamah, said given the competence of the nominees, he believed they were in the position to serve the country.
“I ask the House to approve of them to serve this country of ours,” he said.
The MP for North Tongu , Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said Ghana was at a crossroads as Ghanaians were faced with the worst economic crisis in living memory.
He argued that Article 76 of the Constitution stipulated that there shall be a Cabinet that shall consist of the President, the Vice-President and not less than 10 and not more than 19 ministers of state.
Mr Okudzeto Ablakwa, therefore, expressed concern over how Ghana was currently grappling with “scandalous portfolios” at the Presidency, where per the 2021 presidential staffers report presented to the House, there were 337 political appointees at the Presidency.
He named some of the portfolios as the Overseer of the National Cathedral, Church Relations Manager, Diasporan Church Relations Officer, Focal Personal La Francophone Technical Director, Coordinators of Monitoring and Evaluation and Special Development Initiatives, Youth Ambassador for Diasporan Affairs, among others.
“Mr Speaker, already between last year and this year, a whopping GH¢82 million has been added to government expenditure and we cannot continue this way,” he said.
In his view, there were a number of ministries that could be merged, naming them to include the Food and Agriculture, and Fisheries and Aquaculture; Information and Communications, Sanitation and Local Government, Railway Development and Transport, as well as Chieftaincy and Tourism.
President must act differently
Contributing, the Minority Leader, Dr Forson, said given the massive economic difficulty facing Ghana, the President must act to save the Ghanaian economy from collapse.
That, he said, could be done if Ghana sent the right signal that “we are reducing the size of government and to make the Ghanaian taxpayer aware that the government is ready to do the very little.”
“Mr Speaker, all we are doing now is transferring the burden of economic difficulty from us to the ordinary Ghanaian and the people who have invested in our economy,’’ he said.