Council of State must be abolished; drain on resources – Lawyer

With days to the election of the 25-member Council of State, a private legal practitioner has suggested the abolishing of the institution.

Daniel Sagu Osei believes the institution has outlived its relevance because the reason for its existence is missing from Ghana’s governance system.

Speaking at the Joy FM Thought Leadership Debate on the relevance of the institution Monday, he explained the Council was set up to mediate political impasse between the President and Prime Minister.

He quoted the report of the Committee of Experts on proposals of a draft constitution for the country dated July 31, 1991 which proposed the institution to “serve as a buffer institution [sitting] between the Prime Minister and President.”

It was later added to the 1992 Constitution to perform roles that are not binding on the President, he added.

Section of the audience with the two key debaters

But with Ghana practicing the Presidential system of government, the Junior Partner at Kulendi @ Law said the institution has grown needless because its very foundation has been taken away.

“There is no provision for a split executive…We don’t need them [Council of State members] to resolve any dispute,” he said forcefully drawing applause from the audience who had gathered at the Alisa Hotel to partake in deliberations.

Section of the audience

Mr Sagu Osei spoke on the motion that ‘The Council of State should be abolished,’ while a Senior Partner at law firm, Bentsil-Enchill, Letsa and Ankomah, Kojo Bentsil-Enchill took a contrary position.

The existence of the Council of State in the 1992 Constitution has been questioned by sections of Ghanaians who believe it has become moribund. They say the institution has become ineffectual because it is unable to prevail against certain decisions of the President.

Senior Partner at law firm, Bentsil-Enchill, Letsa and Ankomah, Kojo Bentsil-Enchill

Chapter nine, Article 89 of the Constitution creates the Council and in Article 91, it is given the powers to inter alia

(a) Consider and advise the President or any other authority in respect of any appointment which is required by the Constitution or any other law to be made in accordance with the advice of, or in consultation with, the Council of State.

Debate moderator Criminologist Professor Ken Attafuah

The exercise of these powers has been questioned and given its advise is not binding on the President, Mr Sagu Osei said it has to be scrapped from the Constitution.

“It is just a duplication of work,” he said of the Council, arguing it is undertaking functions Cabinet and the Attorney-General are able to do with ease.

He estimated that it costs the Ghanaian taxpayer the sum of GHC320,000 a month to fund the salaries of the 25 members of the Council. This, he said amounts to GHC15.6 million a year which could have been used to construct 80 sets of three-unit classroom block across the country.

But Kojo Bentsil-Enchill with an uncompromising posture said rather than eliminating the Council from the statute, it has to be built with the appropriate functions.

Section of the audience

He registered his misgivings about the destructive tendencies of Ghanaians, arguing institutions that are not functioning as expected need to be propped up.

Mr Bentsil-Enchill listed some things he believes the Council had done in the past that have safeguarded the country.

“The Council has exercised much diplomatic voice, build consensus to dissuade the President on unwise decisions [and] it has hosted fora to build friendliness and willingness to live and let’s live,” he said.

He was emphatic that any “institution that has the potential to question the Executive is useful.”

The debate was moderated by Ghanaian criminologist, Professor Ken Attafuah who has been appointed by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the acting Executive Secretary of the National Indentification Authority (NIA).