Statement on President Akufo-Addo’s Appointment of 110 Ministers: Commit to Technology and Innovation for Smart Governance
Penplusbytes is deeply excited about the vision of Ghana’s President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to ensure progress and economic and social growth of the country. However, we have significant concerns about the size of this government currently at 110 Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial positions. In our fast growing information society where with the aid of new digital technologies complex tasks can be done more efficiently and effectively without deployment of plenty hands, countries today are leveraging the power of technology to ensure better governance and more importantly, be more responsive to the needs of citizens.
In this direction, it is possible for President Akufo-Addo’s government to still achieve its vision for the country, implementing his barrage of campaign promises with a smaller number of ministers backed by smart bureaucracy which is riding on state-of-the-art e-government and e-governance systems.
With Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) transcending every area of modern life, Penplusbytes is advocating, in line with government’s agenda of improving the lot of Ghanaians, for a renewal of commitment to the adoption of E-governance systems that wield enormous potential in reducing the cost of government operations, improving transparency and accountability and bringing about efficiency in the governance process.
In as much as the President’s number of appointments is in conformity with Ghana’s constitutional provisions granting him discretional powers and authority, Penplusbytes believes that there is a huge potential in the use of ICTs in strengthening bureaucracy, making government more responsive and creating channels for citizens’ voices to be heard.
More importantly governance is challenging, our premise is that with technology citizens can give a helping hand to negate the need for a huge government since there is more participation from active citizens not spectators.
Unique as Ghana’s challenges are, the country need not reinvent the wheels as many democracies have recorded measurable, relative economic successes and prosperity by keeping to a downsized ministerial cabinet and making immense use of e-governance systems. Indeed, the United States, India, China and Brazil are amongst the strongest in economic terms with very high GDPs albeit with some of the lowest number of cabinet ministers as well as robust e-governance systems. The USA for instance has systems within their governance process that eliminates bureaucracy and improves transparency. The E-Government Act of 2002 of the USA, for example, demands state departments to continually enhance their website features to respond to customers’ needs. This move eliminates the need for a human interface for efficient and responsive customer service.
Ghana does not need to have 5 ministers at the Ministry of information when there is a wide usage of technology tools such as SMS, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and offline media like radios just to name a few for government to have a two-way communication with the citizenry. Information from a verified and reliable source on such platforms is an easy and inexpensive means of communicating with citizens and spreading any message in various forms (text, voice or pictures). Towards the recent general elections, various political parties made significant use of these media outlets and the NPP was particularly commended for their presence and use of social media in reaching to the electorate. Why then should the government now resort to the use of ministers with its attendant cost rather than use social media and other digital tools of communication?
Further, the appointment of a Minister of state in charge of public procurement is totally not necessary when citizens can be conscientised to use new digital technologies to provide oversight on public procurement and report any instance of irregularity, shoddy contracts or corruption. With open contracting under E-procurement systems in place, we do not need a minister to keep an eye on procurement processes since all stakeholders with access to the internet can view all public procurement transactions.
Furthermore, Penplusbytes firmly believes that if government’s effectiveness as drummed by the President is truly the goal, then assembling a rather large ministerial cabinet; stacking too many ministers in charge of a sector is a strange method to adopt as this does not guarantee improvement in public administration with the risk of recording higher levels of effort duplication and making worse the already regrettable bureaucratic and red-tapeism mechanisms at play at various MDAs. Technology on the other hand, offers credible, cost effective and efficient options for government in this regard, opening up the governance processes, providing the opportunity for greater participation of citizens in the governance process and minimising the sometimes needless roles of human activities that only encourages abuse of power and corruption.
It is our belief that, the people of Ghana are ready for the right kinds of changes that would propel Ghana forward and only the most viable set of methods should be adopted in this quest, which Penplusbytes believes technology should play a central role and be the game changer.
The President’s choice of a large cabinet maybe well-intended but it is not the most convincing indicator of government’s willingness to ensuring efficiency in the delivery of its mandate.
Though it is the right of the President to appoint any number of ministers as guaranteed by Ghana’s constitution, it is imperative to note that advancement in new digital technologies provides a unique opportunity to achieve same set objectives without having a big size government. This technology approach is not only progressive but also ensure as a country we are not set in Stone Age.
Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.