General News of Friday, 20 January 2017
Mr Yaw Osafo Marfo has said President Nana Akufo-Addo has mandated him, as Senior Minister – once his nomination is approved by parliament – to “coordinate” the roles of the various economic ministries in the new government.
Explaining his mandate to parliament’s Appointments Committee on Friday, 20 January, during his vetting, the former Finance Minister said: “The president told me specifically that we (NPP) have had a senior minister before in the person of J.H. Mensah, whom I worked with because at the time I was the minister of finance and he coordinated the economic sector ministries.”
“… All the productive sectors are referred to as economic sector and they will be a major bloc as a subcommittee of parliament and they coordinate the activities of the economic sectors of his cabinet, as it may be, and he wanted me to bring my experience as a [former] minister of finance, as somebody who has done a similar job in Uganda, as somebody who has done a similar job in Liberia, to bear [on his government] … so, I’m playing a coordinated role for the economic sector as it were.
“The economic sector relates to the other ministries, so, naturally my experience will be brought to bear on my colleagues to make sure that we resuscitate the economy in a very homogenised manner so that there will be harmony,” Mr Osafo Marfo said, added: “From our manifesto, one of the major priorities of the president is to transform the economy because as you are aware, the economy is in some difficulty, we are in an IMF programme and we hope to come out with flying colours.”
The president’s nomination of Mr Marfo as Senior Minister drew some criticism from opposition MP Mahama Ayariga who questioned the constitutionality of the portfolio.
In an open letter to the president, Mr Ayariga said: “The Senior Minister post which you have created is demonstrably analogous to the office of Prime Minister. I will show, from a review of the history of the enactment of the 1992 Constitution, that there was a very conscious decision to avoid creating any office similar to that of a Prime Minister. The idea of having a Prime Minister was explicitly turned down.”
“Chapter 8 of the Constitution of Ghana 1992 establishes the Executive branch of government and spells out the offices, which shall constitute that branch. Articles 76, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 88, and 256 of the constitution deal with matters relating to the posts of a ‘Minister of State’ and a ‘Deputy Minister of State’. Some of those provisions often refer to the term ‘Minister’ or ‘Deputy Minister’ when making references to the post of a ‘Minister of State’ or a ‘Deputy Minister of State’ respectively and omitting the expression: ‘of State’”.
“A ‘Minister of State’ is not the same creature as a ‘Senior Minister’. A ‘Senior Minister’ suggests the existence of a hierarchy among Ministers of State. There is no hierarchy among ‘Ministers of State’ appointed under articles 58 and 256. At best, there could be informal seniority protocols within government once approval as Ministers of State is given by parliament. I am not operating in the realm of protocols now. I am asking that we pay attention to the dictates of the language of our constitution when communicating to other constitutional bodies and arms of government.
Co-equal arms of government are guided in the exercise of their own functions by the dictates of the same constitution. Remember that in the case of the requirement of ‘prior approval’ by Parliament, the Supreme Court said in Mensah versus Attorney-General that parliament had to respect the language and act accordingly and not just retain Ministers of the previous government because that was not what ‘prior approval’ meant.”