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MPs must not be appointed ministers of state — Sam Okudzeto

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A member of the Council of State, Sam Okudzeto, has said that members of Parliament (MPs) should not be appointed ministers of state since legislation is a serious full-time job.

He said constitutional principle requires “checks and balances” in the governance structure, for which reason no minister should belong to both the Executive and the Legislature simultaneously.

“How do you check something when you have one foot here and another foot there; which one is checking which? This is the problem that we have as a country,” Mr Okudzeto said.

Per the Hansard of Parliament, out of the 275 MPs, 60 are ministers of state, with 16 of them being Cabinet ministers. The Council of State member, who was speaking at a stakeholders’ consultation meeting on the possible review of the 1992 Constitution in Accra last Thursday, added that being a minister was “a serious full-time job”.

“Being an MP at my time from 1969 was a part-time job but now Parliament is a full-time job and that is the more reason why they even say that if you are a lawyer and an MP and want to go to court, you must seek permission from the Speaker because you are supposed to represent the people and be present in the House.

“You are supposed to make contributions to debates and vote on every issue that comes before the House. So, I think we are getting ourselves a little confused on every issue,” he said.

Article 78(1) of the Constitution states that: “Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as Members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament.”

Getting it right

Buttressing his stance, Mr Okudzeto, a renowned legal practitioner, however, said until Article 78 (1) was “straightened up”, efforts to curb weaknesses in the governance structure would not yield any positive outcome.

“We can talk and talk, and we will not get anywhere. So, let us understand the fundamental principles since we want a constitution to govern the country. We are supposed to have set the standard for the rest of the continent.

“But I am afraid much of the continent are way ahead of us and it is time for us to now sit down and evaluate the situation and do something which is reasonable; otherwise, I am afraid, we will be wasting our time,” he added.

Local authorities  

Sharing further perspective on whether local authorities needed to be elected or appointed, Mr Okudzeto said administration was supposed to be at the local level and not the “power in the centre”.

“This question about appointment is something that some of us do not think is the right approach; people should elect their representatives. “They should be able to tell them that look, there is a pile-up of rubbish at this place and if you do not remove it, we will make sure that next time you are not elected,” he said.

Mr Okudzeto added that mayors everywhere were elected officers and not appointed. “It is only we in Ghana who are doing that. Even in the rest of Africa, mayors are elected officers and so let us try and deal with that,” he said.

Source:Graphic.com.gh

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