The Constitution Review Commission, a Presidential Commission of Enquiry, was set up in January 2010, to consult with the people of Ghana on the operation of the 1992 Constitution and on any changes that need to be made to the constitution.
The Commission was tasked to look at the Constitution from the viewpoint of a political document to a developmental document and to present a draft bill for the amendment of the Constitution in the event that any changes are warranted.
Yesterday, former President John Mahama paid tribute to the late Akenten Appiah Menka and said among others: “the death of Akenten Appiah Menka should charge Ghanaians with the responsibility to continue the pursuit of constitutionalism. Eulogising the fallen legend, the former President described the late Menka as selfless; remembering him for his work on the constitution review committee as commendable”. We are all grateful to President Mahama. He was then the Vice President of Ghana. I hope he will permit me to give a few examples of some of the good work that Akenten set for himself.
Readers may be interested to know that Appiah Menka took the job seriously and spent hours detailing the areas that he as a Commissioner wanted his views heard. He asked me for my views on five issues. I gave these in 2010 and readers need to bear in mind when they read what follows.
There is no doubt that corruption is ingrained firmly in our society. Our aim should not be to focus on eliminating it but rather to minimise the incidence of corruption. To do this we must give full support to institutions such as the Economic Organised Crime Unit (EOCO), and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) that have been set up to handle matters of corruption. These institutions are quasi Grand Juries with powers only to investigate. They cannot prosecute or adjudicate on matters they investigate. Our Presidents should be committed to the suppression of corruption and should take steps to allow these institutions to investigate allegations of corruption. Our Presidents should not make it a condition that the persons making the allegations must substantiate their claims. To do so will make the passage of the bills on whistle blowing and freedom of information nonsensical. Most of the work of substantiating allegations should be left to institutions which have been established to do such work. Adverse findings on corruption or indignity in public life from institutions such as CHRAJ should be passed on to the AGs office for immediate action. The whole country should help to put teeth into assets declaration of public officers and their immediate family members. These officers should be made to go through audits five years after leaving office to substantiate the assets that they have. We should ban discussion of personal matters at places of work. They can encourage corruption. Also the government should see to it that reports from the Auditor General on all issues of misfeasance are acted upon with the speed that they deserve.
There is need first to define what we mean by a balanced budget. An excess of expenditures over tax receipts in a given period is termed a budget “deficit”, an excess of tax receipts over expenditures, again in a given period is termed a “surplus”, and equality between the two streams a “balanced budget”. A balanced budget will cause Net Domestic Income to increase by an amount equal to the government spending! This will be the result regardless of the amount of the budget, or the value of the marginal propensity to consume. It is my hope that your friend who raised this issue is asking for the budget to be balanced over a reasonable period and not over year to year. If the budget were to be balanced on a year to year basis, it would not have anything to do with the business cycle and that would not make sense.
The budget should be balanced over a period. The minimum time should be three years so as to take account of the business cycle as well as the tenure of office of the President of the Republic. While I agree with the notion of a balanced budget, I am more concerned with the components of the budget. If the deficit came about because the money was spent on viable infrastructural items, then there would be hope that in time the deficit would be reversed. Ghana spent a lot of money in the early 1960s on supplier’s credits which were used to finance non-viable manufacturing projects. In the event it became necessary to look for money to finance the operations of these projects and that in turn increased the deficits of the nation.
For me therefore, the balanced budget idea should be insisted upon alongside with ensuring that the recurrent expenditure of the government is kept at a minimum, while the capital expenditures are increased to the maximum. Presently our budgets concentrate on 75-80 per cent recurrent expenditures and 25-20 per cent on capital expenditures. We should do well to reduce the recurrent expenditures to no more than 60 per cent.
I do not have much to say about chieftancy. The chiefs should have taken the opportunity to educate Ghanaians who feel that chieftaincy as an institution is incompatible with our current democratic dispensation. These people are inclined to say that “The ranting of these so-called loyalists is a mark of a fascist and imperialist agenda. It is obvious that these people are oblivious to the fact that chieftaincy institution is gradually becoming incongruous to our democratic dispensation”. How can such statements be true when the institution has always been given a place in our successive constitutions? Democracy as seen by Rattary was even better practised by our ancestors long before the Western type was imposed on us through colonialism.
And it is also the reason why I would have wished that the chiefs spoke about a Second Chamber of Chiefs to replace the Council of State. A Second Chamber would consider issues devoid of partisan consideration and by extension its decisions would be in the interest of the State at large. A Second Chamber would enable the chiefs to contribute and play a full and coherent role in the governance system. Chiefs in a Second Chamber would serve as a check on hasty legislation and would enable otherwise politically highly controversial and tension-filled issues to be considered in a calmer atmosphere.
I am in agreement with your friend on the suggestions that he has made in his concluding note to reduce ethnicity. I feel however that he has left out one important area. This has to do with the media i.e. newspapers, radio and television. An article published in a newspaper or on the radio or television should be meant to help the nation in its efforts at unity, peace, prosperity and so on. But all too often one would come across a passage on ethnicity whose sole purpose is meant to sow seeds of discord between two or three groups of our people. Sometimes, one can see that the objective of the article or passage is to provoke one group into the kind of intemperate response that would in the end justify baseless accusations that the writers have levelled against the other group. But whatever their real intentions may be, it is fortunate to know that their efforts are doomed to fail. Most of these tribes in general will not sink to the level of the writers and react in kind to the crude and false accusations, because they know that the views and prejudices of the writers are not shared by the majority of right thinking Ghanaians, regardless of their ethnic origins. The National Media Commission should be strengthened to go after these people who are determined to fan ethnicity matters to ensure that the problem is contained.
National Development Planning Commission
The 1992 Constitution dealt with the National Development Planning Commission. The current paper is designed to put teeth into what was suggested then.
I do not agree with packing the Commission with regional members. They may not have the requisite expertise and experience to discharge their duties.
I do not have much to say about this Commission. However, I believe it will not be out of place to say something about the way we in Ghana pursue implementation of our projects. Over the past 17 years, we have had 14 Ministers of Health. The turnover has been unduly high and as a consequence we have not been able to achieve desired targets. There is need to stop this. The same is true with Boards. The practice of dismissing all board members of state corporations when a new government is sworn-in must also be stopped. A way out is to stagger the appointments. One way to do this is to divide the board into three groups; the first with one year tenure, the second with two years and the third with three years. On the assumption of office of the new Government, one of the groups will be due for retirement or rehiring. It is this group that the President should focus on for retirement or rehiring. That way there will be continuity in the management of our state owned enterprises. The Chief Executives will not be able to throw dust into the eyes of all the Board Members.
Akenten, please let me know what you think of the above. Kantinka