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The law of ‘double honourable mention’: Becoming a Minister of State in Ghana

Photo source: KasapaFmonline 6 mins read

Certainly, any one inclined to follow the Ghanaian political climate knows that shortly after the swearing in of the President comes his ministerial appointments to assist him with the executive/sector and regional governance. To this end, the media is currently saturated with the coverage of and reports on the ministerial vetting which started on February 10, 2021 and is expected to end on March 9, 2021. 

Unlike the President and Members of Parliament who are elected directly by citizens of Ghana, the Minister of State is not. The Minister’s appointment into office is principally facilitated by these very two arms of government – the President and Members of Parliament.  On the basis of the provisions in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, a simple summary for the appointment of Ministers of State is this; nominated by the President, approved by Parliament.

Appointment of a Minister of State  (Executive/Sector Minister)

According to Article 78, Chapter 8 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, anyone holding such an office is appointed by the President with prior approval of parliament from among Members of the Parliament.  

Also, if anyone has ever wondered why most Members of Parliament in the legislative wing of government function simultaneously in the executive wing as Executive or Sector Ministers of States, it is because the Constitution is the basis for this. Article 78 stipulates that the majority of Ministers of State must be appointed from among the Parliament. 

It states;

(1) 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.

(2) The President shall appoint such a number of Ministers of State as may be necessary for the efficient running of the State.

(3) A Minister of State shall not hold any other office of profit or emolument whether private or public and whether directly or indirectly unless otherwise permitted by the Speaker acting on the recommendations of a committee of Parliament on the ground—

(a) that holding that office will not prejudice the work of a Minister; and

(b) that no conflict of interest arises or would arise as a result of the Minister holding that office.

By the same token, Article 79 of the 1992 Constitution makes provision for the appointment of deputy ministers with a similar procedure and criteria. However in this case, a deputy’s appointment is in consultation with the Minister of State on the subject. 

It states;

(1) The President may, in consultation with a Minister of State, and with the prior approval of Parliament, appoint one or more Deputy Ministers to assist the Minister in the performance of his functions.

(2) A person shall not be appointed a Deputy Minister unless he is a Member of Parliament or is qualified to be elected as a member of Parliament

(3) Clause(3) of article 78 applies to a Deputy Minister as it applies to a Minister of State.

Appointment of a Minister of State (Regional Minister)

Article 256 of Chapter 20 in the 1992 Constitution makes provision for the appointment of a regional minister and the deputy or deputies by a similar process. It however provides no constitutional requirement for the regional minister to be a Member of Parliament.

It states; 

(1) The President shall, with the prior approval of Parliament, appoint for each region, a Minister of State who shall

(a) represent the President in the region; and

(b) be responsible for the co-ordination and direction of the administrative machinery in the region.

(2) The President may, in consultation with the Minister of State for a region and with the prior approval of Parliament, appoint for the region a Deputy Minister or Deputy Ministers to perform such functions as the President may determine.

Approval or rejection of a Minister of State

According to the Constitution, Parliament is mandated to grant ‘prior approval’ to the president’s nominated ministers. 

Order 172 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana makes provision for a committee comprising some Members of Parliament to be responsible for recommending to the parliament the approval or rejection of persons which include the Minister of State and Deputy Ministers, nominated by the President.

Persons who are nominated by the President for ministerial appointments consequently undergo a publicized proceeding (vetting process) by an Appointments Committee of Parliament. Thereafter, the Committee reports to the House three days after all the proceedings have ended, in order for the House to vote. It is noteworthy that the basis for the approval or rejection of nominated ministers is hinged on a 50% determiner voting either through secret ballot or consensus by Members of Parliament.

Order 172 of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana states; 

(1) There shall be a Committee to be known as the Appointments Committee composed of the First Deputy Speaker as Chairman and not more than twenty-five other Members.

(2) It shall be the duty of the Committee to recommend to Parliament for approval or otherwise persons nominated by the President for appointment as Ministers of State, Deputy Ministers, Members of the Council of State, the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court, and such other persons specified under the Constitution or under any other enactment.

(3) The names of persons nominated for appointment in the Committee shall be published, and the proceedings of the Committee shall be held in public.

(4) The Committee shall report to Parliament within three days after it has concluded its proceedings when Parliament is sitting. Parliamentary approval of persons recommended for appointment shall be by secret ballot or by consensus.

(5) Each Member shall be provided with a sheet of paper on which appears the names of all candidates for approval or rejection. Against the name of each candidate shall be two columns, one for AYES indicating approval and the other for NOES indicating rejection.

(6) A cross against one name in the AYES column and another cross against the same name in the NOES column shall render the vote null and void.

(7) Every ballot paper shall bear the stamp and the initial of the Speaker.

(8) A candidate who fails to secure fifty per cent of the votes cast is rejected.

Swearing in of a Minister of State 

Article 80, Chapter 8, of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that upon approval of a minister, an oath shall be taken by all such persons.

It states;

A Minister of State or Deputy Minister shall not enter upon the duties of his office unless he has taken and subscribed to the oath of allegiance, the oath of Minister of State and the Cabinet oath, as the case may be, set out in the Second Schedule to this Constitution.

Tenure of office of ministers

Furthermore Article 81, Chapter 8 of the 1992 Constitution shows the conditions for the vacancy of the minister’s office.

It states;

The office of a Minister of State or a Deputy Minister shall become vacant if

(a) his appointment is revoked by the President; or

(b) he is elected as Speaker or Deputy Speaker, or

(c) he resigns from office; or

(d) he dies.

Vote of Censure 

Additionally clause 5 of Article 82, in Chapter 8 of the 1992 Constitution lists the condition for which a President can revoke a Minister’s appointment as stated in Article 80 clause a. It shows that this can occur when a minister is censured by parliament, which is provided for in this article. 

Article 82 states; 

(1) Parliament may, by a solution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament, pass a vote of censure on a Minister of State.

(2) A motion for the resolution referred to in clause (1) of this article shall not be moved in Parliament unless—

(a) seven days’ notice has been given of the motion; and

(b) the notice for the motion has been signed by not less than one-third of all the members of Parliament;

(3) The motion shall be debated in Parliament within fourteen days after the receipt by the Speaker of the notice for the motion.

(4) A Minister of State in respect of whom a vote of censure is debated under clause (3) of this article is entitled, during the debate, to be heard in his defence.

(5) Where a vote of censure is passed against a Minister under this article the President may, unless the Minister resigns his office, revoke his appointment as a Minister.

(6) For the avoidance of doubt this article applies to a Deputy Minister as it applies to a Minister of State.

Conclusion:

To be appointed as a Minister of State in Ghana, having been nominated by the President as distinguished to serve and be referred to as ‘Honourable’ in the capacity of both the legislative arm and executive arm of government, it is for certain that this minister has been vetted and approved by the Parliament of Ghana. 

Maxine Gloria Danso is a Senior Researcher with Dubawa Ghana. Maxine has previously worked as a Research Assistant engaging in some notable communication research projects in Ghana, having completed a Master of Philosophy programme in Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, with specialisation in journalism, public relations and advertising. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Ghana, with a University Diploma in French Studies from Université Rennes 2 in France. Maxine contributes to the team by drawing from her knowledge and research experience in media studies.

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