When President Nana Akufo-Addo formed the largest-ever government in the Fourth Republic in 2017, there was a barrage of criticism from the opposition and civil society groups in Ghana. He had appointed 110 ministers by March 2017. And by the end of the first term, the number swelled to 127.
The then Minority Leader in Parliament, Haruna Iddrisu, described the government’s size as too large.
“We’re confronted with an elephant size of government and Akufo-Addo has proven that he’s a politician rather than a president,” Haruna Iddrisu told Reuters in March 2017.
In defence of the government, a New Patriotic Party (NPP) stalwart, Nana Akomea said the backlash would cease if the government delivered its ambitious targets.
“For ministerial numbers to cross beyond the nineties into the hundreds will surely alarm and disappoint Ghanaians… but Akufo-Addo believes he needs these numbers of appointees to deliver,” he wrote on Facebook.
The President who promised to cut down superfluous expenditure while campaigning also justified the size of government some political commentators have described as outrageous.
“It is a necessary investment to make for the rapid transformation of this country,” he said and added that ministers “are coming to work, it is not going to be a holiday”. Having been needled for his huge size of government, the President trimmed the number to 87 at the beginning of his second term.
However, after six years of President Akufo-Addo’s tenure, the socio-economic conditions in the country heightened calls on him to reconsider the size of his government again. Critics say this will help create fiscal space for Ghana’s tight economic situation.
On this backdrop, the minister of state-designate for finance, Dr Mohammed Amin Adams, was asked during his vetting on Tuesday, February 20th, 2023, if it was prudent for the government to add his portfolio to the existing ministers when there was already a substantive minister for finance.
He responded that although there had been numerous complaints about the size of governments, he had not heard critics proffer a suitable number of ministers.
Claim: “Mr Chairman, I have heard over the last 20 years, people complain about the size of government and therefore, under every party in government, people have complained about the numbers.
“They complained about this under President Kufour, under President Mills, under President Mahama and today. What I haven’t heard is what the appropriate size of government should be. And so that is a subject we can debate.”
Fact-check Ghana has verified the claim by Mr Adams and presented the explainer below.
Fact-check Ghana checks revealed that at least one civil society organisation and three prominent public figures have not just called for the government to reduce its size, but they have also proffered a specific number of ministers that will be “appropriate” For the governance of the country.
At a press conference to give its views on the 2023 budget, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), urged the President to “reduce the number of sector ministers to 16 and deputy ministers to 16, abolish regional ministers [position],” and make chief directors of the of Regional Coordinating Councils administrative heads of the regions.
The institute suggested the following list of ministries:
1) Finance—to be responsible for the budget
2) Economy—to be responsible for economic policy and planning
3) Foreign Affairs
4) Justice & Attorney General
5) Trade & Industry
6) Food & Agriculture
8) Interior (Includes National Security)
9) Education, Youth & Sports
10) Local Government & Rural Development
11) Lands & Natural Resources (Includes Water Resources)
12) Energy & Petroleum
13) Tourism, Chieftaincy & Culture
14) Roads & Highways
15) Transport & Communications (Includes Railway Development)
16) Works, Housing & Employment
Even within the government, there is dissent on the number of ministers. The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, has also advocated for the number of ministers to be reduced to 19.
Additionally, Professor Gofred Bokpin, an Economist at the University of Ghana also urged the President to downsize his ministers to 40.
In March 2021, another Ghanaian social commentator and legal practitioner, based in the United States, Prof Kwaku Asare, while commending the president for reducing the number of ministers from 127 to 85 in his second term entreated the President to cut the numbers further to 60.
“…there is room for further reduction. We, therefore, appeal to the President to look hard and cut another 25 to bring the number down to 60.”
He went ahead to suggest some ministries that needed to be scrapped.
“Obvious targets include Information, Parliamentary Affairs, Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs (get government out of Stool and Church affairs), Fisheries (put under Agriculture), Railways (put under Transportation), Public Enterprises (duplicates role of DG of SIGA).
“The National Security Ministry should be scrapped, and the minister assigned to the Presidency as the National Security Advisor. Similarly, the Information Ministry should be scrapped and the minister assigned to the Presidency as a Spokesperson,” he wrote on Facebook.
Per the evidence above, it is clear that many Ghanaians, including some in government, wanted the President to reduce the size of the government and also suggested the ideal number of ministers needed to steer the affairs of the country.
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