Appointments Committee Or Assurances Committee?

Parliament's committee which scrutinizes political appointees before they can be sworn into office seems to be losing focus. This committee is tasked to assess nominees for competencies based on the offices they are being designated and to approve or reject same if they do not meet the laid down criteria. But, over the years, it appears the relevance of the committee is waning. This must be a big worry to all concerned Ghanaians.


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I believe some of you will agree with me that this noble committee is turning out to be a platform to embarrass opponents who were once vociferous during the campaign season. I still recall Hon. Fiifi Kwetey's experience in 2009, when he was appointed deputy finance minister and had to face this committee. At the vetting, several questions were asked about certain comments he made in the past which the then majority in parliament deemed inappropriate and false, especially with his "Setting the records straight" press conferences. He tried explaining himself out but the minority wouldn't take any of his explanations. He was made to appear a liar in the eyes of the public.
Image - Parliament House, Ghana
Parliament of Ghana. Image Courtesy: Ghanaweb
In 2013, the minority in parliament abstained from the vetting because they believed the elections were not fairly conducted. They wanted to sue the president and were, therefore, not going to participate in what they believed to be an 'illegality'. The majority then had to vet their own ministers who all sailed through smoothly.


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The 2017 vetting of ministers, with both the minority and majority in full swing, has not been without hiccups. From the Senior Minister, Hon. Osafo-Maafo, to the Gender Minister, Hon. Otiko Djaba, it has not been smooth sailing. At Ms. Djaba's vetting, one could easily recall the 2009 experience of Hon. Fiifi Kwetey. Ms. Otiko Djaba had made some unsavory comments against the then president, H. E. John Mahama, for being "wicked and evil". The minority demanded she apologized to the former president. She refused to do so, explaining that those words were not insults but a description of how the former president handled the SADA 'rot'. This has not gone down well with the minority, with some threatening to sue her in court for not doing the mandatory national service. For your information, some ministers have been approved unanimously, some of whom have also not done their national service.

As if the above are not enough, Parliament's Appointments Committee seems to be turning itself into an 'assurances committee' than a vetting committee. Many appointees who appeared before the committee are often asked questions like, "The ministry is blah blah blah. Can you assure this committee that when you are made the minister of blah blah blah, so-so and so will be done?" This appears to be one of the most used lines of questioning at the committee when it becomes clear they have nothing relevant to ask the nominees. What does the committee need those assurances for? What if the assurances are given and later the minister decides to do something different, would the appointment be revoked?

People are bound to change their minds when they get more and better information. So, a ministerial nominee with limited information about the ministry may decide to chart a new course after he or she gets more information. Hence, why ask nominees for assurances when you should be scrutinizing their academic and professional backgrounds, social backgrounds, misconduct, and so on?

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