A co-founder of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Professor Baffour Agyemang-Duah has called for an immediate reduction in the size of the government as a measure to reduce the strain on the public purse.
Prof Agyemang-Duah believes that this coupled with a cut in certain "frivolous privileges" due public officials such as clothing allowances, use of state vehicles and travel expenses will in the short term save public funds which can be used to help run the country effectively.
He said these prescriptions do not require reviews of any existing laws and could be instituted immediately by the President to save the country more money than the 3.5billion cedis projected to be saved as a result of salary cuts announced last week.
According to him, the decision of Ministers and Heads of State-owned Enterprises )SoEs) to contribute 30 per cent of their salaries over the next nine months to the Consolidated Fund would constitute "a drop in the ocean" because some allowances for government appointees were as much as salaries.
"For me, the reduction of salaries by 30 per cent or 20 per cent for nine months is just a drop in the ocean. It doesn't really mean much if we are serious about reducing public expenditure," Prof. Agyeman-Duah said in a telephone interview with GraphicOnline.
"We are talking about reducing the size of government, cutting out all the needless and frivolous travel that public officials do and then look at the extensive privileges that we give to public officials... I think we got to be serious about how we run the government, I think the government is over-bloated and we need to cut the fat off government".
Sources of strain
Professor Agyemang-Duah said the public purse was also heavily constrained by expenditure to other areas of government such as the Council of State, the creation of state institutions (new Ministries), the creation of new constituencies, many appointments and the creation of six new regions which he said almost doubled the cost of running the regions.
He said it was also worrying that certain Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of SoEs had two or three deputies.
"There have been series of creations and expansions of existing structures all of which eat into the national budget. So, if we talking about cutting down expenditure, we have to be talking about reducing the size of government," Prof. Agyemang-Duah said.
"There are certain CEOs (of SoEs) who are backed by three or four deputies and all these deputies are given vehicles, drivers and what have you. Also, Ghanaian officials attend any meeting or conference anywhere in the world whether they have something to contribute or not and when they come back, nothing comes out of those meetings.
"You don't need to consult Parliament or the constitution to cut down on the use of state or public vehicles. If the President for instance would say that henceforth I don't want my convoys when I'm travelling to be more than 10 vehicles, this would also affect fuel consumption"
He urged the government to adopt the approach of former Tanzanian President John Magafuli who reigned in the travel of public officials as a cost-cutting measure.
Prof. Agyemang-Duah advocated that going forward any new creation of a Ministry of a state agency that had implications on the public purse should be thoroughly scrutinised by Parliament to ensure that they are necessary.
He also stated that he would be very happy with a new law that will state explicitly the number of persons that can be appointed by the President.
Prof. Agyemang-Duah added that it was not sustainable for about a 70percent of state revenue to be used for the servicing of public emoluments.
"Just about 600,000 t0 700,000 people not even 1 million, a minute proportion of our over 30 million population consumes 70 to 75 per cent of revenue. So, if we can't wait for constitutional amendments for Article 71 officeholders, what about those that we ourselves have created," he quizzed.