Much as it is okay for one to be touted as a listening leader, it is important for handlers of President John Mahama to draw his attention to some of his recently acquired taste for actions likely to portray him, most especially before his opponents as an evolving autocrat who must be obeyed.
Last week, indeed, within a spate of four days, our beloved president was reported in the media to have given more than three different directives to some of his ministers to carry-out one decision or the other, leaving one wondering whether it is the case, these ministers are abdicating their scheduled responsibilities.
Indeed, the president’s latest pronouncement on these three different occasions brings to fore, whether President John Mahama and his government are working as a team as required of them and whether in all the three examples cited, those matters may not have come up for discussions at cabinet meetings?
One may also want to find out if government’s monitoring of the media landscape has not located the issues under discussion on its radar that requires prompt attention from the executive, or is it an issue of political gimmick aimed at winning cheap popularity?
Why political gimmick? Because, the “I have instructed” and the “I have directed” coming from Mr. John Mahama since his ascension to the high office of president on July 24, 2012 are not only becoming one too many but also, are they doable, achievable and/or appropriate?
Whiles we have decided to focus attention on the latest happenings in the current Mahama administration; it is worthwhile to mention that this phenomenon didn’t start now. Many of the laudable ideas, ideals and directives President Mahama proffered in his policy statement for the remainder four months of the Mills’ administration on September 4, 2012 following the death of President Mills remain to be actualized.
In that policy speech for example, President Mahama said “As president, I lead the government and the nation. In the long term, inclusive governance must address the moderation and reform of the winner takes all system of Ghanaian government. The president must also meet the leadership of the opposition at least twice a year to address matters of national concern. I hope to hold one such meeting next month (October 2012)”. This hasn’t happened till date, even though no budget or funding is required.
Another example from the president’s policy statement will suffice: “…Let me turn to some of our most visible challenges so that the next four months can witness decisive delivery on these issues. We want to break the cycle of government overspending, and we have warned agencies against unauthorized expenditure”, president Mahama stated, yet we all know of how the 2012 budget was overrun to a deficit, the tune of about 12% of GDP.
During a surprised visit to Tema Habour late last week, President Mahama was reported to have ‘directed’ the Ministers for Transport, Trade and Industry, after receiving complaints "about too many illegal fees and charges" from importers to review all fees charged at the Tema Harbour.
The President, according to the report said "My expectation is that if they give us a report on it, we will be able to publish a list of fees so that everybody knows that these are the legitimate fees that one is required to pay". The president earlier at a meeting with anti-corruption groups at the Flagstaff House had ‘directed’ the Attorney General and Finance Ministry to “do all in their power” to retrieve all judgment debts paid foreign firms Waterville and Isofoton.
Outlining a series of stringent measures to control corruption in the country, President Mahama also ‘directed’ the “scrapping” of the policy “that allows public officers to purchase state bungalows allocated to them as official residences”.
He told the gathering that he had “asked’ the Ministry of Youth and Sports to suspend with immediate effect all payments under all GYEEDA contracts except payments of arrears to workers and beneficiaries, up to the end of the year”. According to the President: “I’ve ‘instructed’ the Chief of Staff, as from today, not to grant any request by any government official to purchase any state vehicle that was assigned to them for official use. Disposal of state vehicles must be publicly done and as transparently as possible… “I’ve ‘directed’ for the re-registration with GV number plates, of all government vehicles, including project vehicles to proceed in earnest and be completed in first quarter of 2014”.
Then only last Saturday during a working visit to the Volta region, President Mahama, according to news bulletins again ‘directed’ the Finance Ministry to with immediate effect pay government counterpart funding to complete the construction of the University of Health and Allied Sciences in the Volta region.
The President said government is working tirelessly to provide the university with all the resources it needs to allow it operate smoothly. The University of Health and Allied Sciences which is expected to operate within three different campuses in the Volta region was established by late President John Atta Mills. It is true that Ghana is practicing the Executive system of governance as imposed by the constitution and so therefore, as stated in article 58 (1) of the constitution, “the executive authority of Ghana shall vest in the President and shall be exercised in accordance with the provisions of this constitution, meaning, virtually all powers resides in the President on behalf of the people. The same constitution in article 76 (1 & 2) says “There shall be a cabinet which shall consist of the President, the Vice-President and not less than ten and not more than nineteen Ministers of state…, the cabinet shall assist the president in the determination of general policy of the government”.
Because the framers of the constitution reckoned it was just impossible for the president by himself to rule, hence the provision for ministers of state to assist him in governing the country. So therefore, it is increasingly becoming worrisome for a president to be seen virtually ‘running’ ministries with substantive ministers.
It is disturbing; the handlers of the president up to the time of going to press haven’t realized the implications in the president’s penchant for giving such autocratic directives at the least opportunity. Apart from depicting the president as an absolute ruler, the other obvious and glaring effect of the president’s actions is that, it undermines the integrity and competency of his ministers who would be seen shirking their responsibilities, if given the budgetary constraints they are unable to meet his requests.
Indeed, the president at Nkwanta in the Volta region on Saturday again repeated what is almost becoming a cliché, ‘I have directed’ when he told the people "I have been here, I have seen the project and am going to speak to the contractors. I am promising you; soon you will see action on the road…, so by 2016, we would have finished the Eastern corridor road. Work on the Dodi-Pepaso and Asikuma stretch also stalled for some time but I have ‘instructed’ the Finance Minister to release money for the project to continue."
Is it the case that the ministers are deliberately refusing to release monies for these projects? Are provisions for the funds made in the budget? And why should it take a president to prompt ministers to their responsibilities? We hope the president, his cabinet and indeed, the government will take note and avoid this regrettable growing phenomenon which doesn’t do any good to our fledgling democracy.
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