Cdd-Ghana statement on the appointment of Members of Parliament to governing boards of public and quasi public corporations and agencies
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) wishes to express its grave concern regarding the President’s recently announced appointment of several Members of Parliament to chair or serve as members on boards and governing councils of state agencies and corporations. It is the Center’s long-held view that such appointments undermine our current efforts to promote good governance and consolidate democracy in Ghana. In particular, the practice whereby Presidents appoint MPs, including some members of the Parliamentary Leadership, to extra-parliamentary quasi Executive-positions is harmful to the already weak system of checks and balances that underpins Ghana’s constitutional democracy.
This action by the President, which follows precedents established as far back as the early years of our nation’s history and carried on through the Fourth Republic, reinforces the dominance and influence of the Executive arm of government over the Legislature. This is against the backdrop of the constitutional requirement mandating the President to appoint majority of his ministers from within Parliament. Past administrations in the Fourth Republic as well as constitutional experts and peer reviewers that have had occasion to reflect on this aspect of the Constitution, [including the APRM], have noted the deleterious effect that this provision has had on prospects for building a strong and effective Parliament in Ghana.
CDD-Ghana shares the publicly expressed concern of the President and some MPs themselves about the need to strengthen the independence of Parliament and ensure appropriate separation of the functions between the Executive the Legislature. These cross-branch appointments deepen the perception that Parliament and especially ruling-party MPs exist to serve the interest of the Executive, rather than serve as a counter-check on the Executive. The appointment of MPs to state boards and governing councils, with some of them serving as chairs, runs contrary to the prospect of enhancing the autonomy of the Legislative Branch of Government and creates another unnecessary layer of executive –legislature fusion.
Such cross-branch appointments also weaken our already feeble systems of public accountability and integrity and impede the country’s progress towards good governance and democratic consolidation. When MPs become dependent on the patronage of the President for remunerative board appointments they lose the independence and objectivity they are expected to bring to the important duty of exercising appropriate oversight over these same agencies, corporations, and boards within the Executive branch. Instead of drawing sitting allowances as chairpersons or members of public corporate boards and agencies, the proper role of MPs is to make use of parliamentary committees and the powers of Parliament to investigate abuses and failures in these state organizations as well as ensure the appropriate and timely follow-ups on the findings of Auditor-General reports concerning these organizations.
Coupled with the prevailing strong party whip system in our Parliament, the effect of these cross-branch appointments of MPs can only lead to a further weakening of parliamentary oversight and checks on Executive power and behaviour, as well as intensify partisan opportunism in the conduct of parliamentary business. Moreover, such appointments entrench the deeply troubling problem of conflicts of interest in our national political culture. The best way to manage and ameliorate this national crisis of conflict of interest is to avoid the conflict completely.
In the light of these concerns, CDD-Ghana calls on His Excellency the President to reconsider his decision to appoint MPs to serve on public boards. We note that, unlike the appointment of MPs as Ministers, the President is not constitutionally required or authorized to appoint MPs to serve in any other extra-parliamentary capacity. It is one thing for a President to appoint MPs as Ministers out of obedience to the letter of the Constitution; it is, however, another thing altogether for a President, acting without any constitutional command, to co-opt MPs to serve on boards of state corporations and agencies. In the same vein, the Center calls upon our Honourable MPs to pass up this offer.
The fact that such cross-branch appointments follow a long-established tradition does not make them right or appropriate to the needs of our times or the demands of good governance. Indeed a commitment to Change must mean a commitment to undo and abandon those practices and habits from the past that undermine, rather than advance, the cause of good governance and democratic accountability. We believe that the practice of Presidents appointing MPs to Executive-branch positions is one of such practices from our past that must have no place in the system of government we envision for ourselves as our democratic project grows and matures. We therefore ask the President and the Legislature to recommit themselves to the clear principles of separation of powers and checks and balances that represent the spirit of the 1992 Constitution.
CDD-Ghana is confident that the government shares these values espoused by the Center above and believes that appropriate remedial steps would be taken to forestall our the erosion of our democratic gains under the 4th Republic.