The Director of Legal Policy and Governance of CDD-Ghana, Kwesi Prempeh, has questioned the relevance of the Council of State to Ghana’s constitutional system and suggested that it be done away with. Professor Prempeh was optimistic that the country’s constitutional system would NOT suffer any governance or democratic loss, if we were to do away with the presidential advisory body.
According to him, the cost savings from the decision to do away with the Council of State could then be channeled for instance, into shoring up the capacity and effectiveness of the country’s unicameral Parliament and its committees or of an important yet grossly under-resourced institution like the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ).
Mr. Prempeh was delivering a paper at a roundtable discussion organized by the Center for Democratic Development, CDD-Ghana, on the topic; “The Constitution and Economic Governance in Ghana.” He submitted that even though the idea of the Council of State is noble in its intentions and has sometimes been presented as the functional analogue of the council of elders in the country’s traditional or customary governance, an examination of the activities of the Council should not be whether it becomes a second chamber, but “whether we need it at all”.
He was certain that despite the eminence of the persons who must, by constitutional requirement, constitute the Council of State, the fact remains that a president will keep his own counsel whenever it is within his power to decide whether or not to heed a certain advice, as is the case with the advice the Council of State is constitutionally required to give him”.
Mr. Prempeh who is also a Professor of Law at the Seton Hall University School of Law in the United States further suggested that, having regard to Ghana’s economic circumstances, constitutional choices must be driven less by sentimentality and more by considerations of utility.
On the ineffectiveness of CHRAJ, Mr. Prempeh said a wide gap remains between constitutional intentions and the ability of the Commission to effectively play the roles of ombudsman, human rights commission and anti-corruption agency, all in one. CHRAJ is charged with among other things, investigating and resolving complaints of corruption, abuse of power and unfair treatment of any person by a public officer in the exercise of his official duties.
According to Mr. Prempeh, CHRAJ’s effectiveness is hampered by inadequate budgetary support from government and by a constitutional provision granting the Attorney General exclusive power to initiate and conduct criminal prosecutions and a total absence of any written standards or guidelines as to how such prosecutorial discretion shall be exercised.
He was of the view that the perennial under-resourcing of CHRAJ, and for that matter of Parliament and the judiciary, confirms the ease with which good and noble ideas and designs embedded in the Constitution can easily be undone by the fact or excuse of sovereign poverty.
It also highlights the need to establish by appropriate legislation or some commonly agreed understanding among government, Parliament and the various independent constitutional governance institutions, some meaningful mechanism or formula for determining the levels of funding appropriate to the constitutional functions of these institutions.
Source: Network Herald