The University Teachers Association of Ghana (UTAG) has called for the scrapping of the constitutional provision that mandates the President to appoint 30 per cent of assembly members of metropolitan municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs).
The association also made a strong case for a ceiling on the number of ministers that a president could appoint to prevent ruling parties from taking undue advantage of the current open window that allowed the President to appoint as many ministers as he or she deemed fit.
UTAG expressed these views at a meeting between its executive members and members of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Advisory Committee on the Winner-Takes-All political system in Ghana.
Why the call for the scrapping?
The President of the association, Dr Samuel Ofori Bekoe, observed that the scrapping of the presidential appointment of assembly members had become necessary because the main idea of appointing technical people to complement the work of the assembly members was now blurred and had become more partisan.
Article 242 (4) of the 1992 Constitution defines a district assembly as one that includes members not being more than 30 per cent of all the members of the district assembly appointed by the President in consultation with the traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district.
Winner takes all
The Advisory Committee was set up to re-examine the country’s winner-takes-all system and to supervise the conduct of a nationwide public consultation process.
It has so far visited Tamale, Kumasi and Takoradi, and has also sought audience with groups and individuals, including the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), the People’s National Convention (PNC), Trades Union Congress (TUC) a former Finance Minister, Professor Kwesi Botchwey, and former President J.A. Kufuor.
At the end of the consultations, its report would be submitted to Parliament and the government to influence the ongoing constitutional review process, which is now at the implementation stage.
While many have condemned the winner-takes-all system — which vests all political decision making in the hands of the winner of the presidential election — as being divisive and a threat to Ghana’s democracy, the UTAG President said the problem had more to do with attitudes.
“People enter politics not to contribute their quota to national development but rather to amass wealth,” he said.
During the discussions, which also touched on a number of issues, including the constitutional review process, the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), the need for Members of Parliament (MPs) to initiate bills and the President’s mandate to appoint members of boards, Dr Bekoe said the election of MMDCEs was long overdue.
Although the election of MMDCEs had been a key campaign message of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2000 election and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in the 2008 elections, it had not materialised.
With the civil service in Ghana also perceived as highly polarised, the UTAG President said it was time a policy direction spelt out that a change in government should not affect the position of civil servants.
“When the security of tenure is guaranteed, the civil service becomes more professional,” he added.
On the constitutional review process, he said there was the need for transparency, hence the process should not be left in the hands of a few people.
Contributing to the discussions, an Executive Member of UTAG, Mr Collins Adu Brobbey, called for the strengthening of the Council of State to serve as an Upper House to scrutinise the activities of Parliament.
IEA committee members
A member of the Advisory Committee, Mr Justice Emile Short, observed that the winner-takes-all system had over the years brought tension during the electioneering process.
The National Media Commission Chairman and a member of the committee, Mr Kabral Blay-Amihere, observed that the constitutional review process should be driven by the masses and not the elite.