Council of State must work in the open - Rawlings, Kufuor argue

| Updated Aug 21, 2017 at 7:44am


Ghana’s Former Presidents’ Jerry John Rawlings and J.A. Kufuor.


Two former Presidents of Ghana have unanimously called for the deliberations of the Council of State to be made public as part of efforts to demystify the contributions of the institution to good governance.

They said as an important constitutional body that grew out of African traditional governance, the deliberations of the council openly would also help Ghanaians appreciate and understand the roles of its members.

According to former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John A. Kufuor, the deliberations of the council openly, would also allow the public to see the body not as an exclusive advisory body for only the President.

They, however, suggested that the council should be more resourced to make them more effective and efficient in the performance of their functions.

They made the call when they delivered their presentations at the Accra Dialogue organised by the Institute of Law and Public Affairs of the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) in Accra yesterday.

The event, the second in a series to be held, was on the theme, “The role of the Council of State: A Critical Assay” and it was sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

Making his presentation, Mr. Kufuor said for a Council of State to make critical contributions to good governance in Ghana, it must be properly composed of members chosen on principles of experience, proven wisdom and objectivity and people who the public know through their public service and not on party principles.

He stated that he was on record to have stated categorically during his tenure as President that the council should be turned into a second House that operated openly in order to be perceived as not being an exclusive advisory body for the President.

“I said this because in my first term as a President, the Council of State was generally made up of proven public-spirited individuals with great achievement and experience and who were critical and fearless in expressing their views on policies of government and required me to explain policies that were not transparent.

“This is something a young democracy like ours needs as the council made suggestions that enriched policies, laws and general governance,” he stated.

He, however, said because the council had meetings with the President exclusively in camera, he wondered on many occasions whether the collective wisdom they offered helped in taking quality decisions.

“It was left to me as a President to use the advice or not; so I advised that the advice of the council should be taken public so that the profit would be there not for the President alone but also Parliament and the general public.”

“This is because we are in a stage of development where we really do not use some mature advice offered and if the council would be empowered to delay some of the bills that polarise Parliament, the public would know whether the Legislative is serving it with the necessary deliberation or is being overtaken by a dominant majority side that rushes the House with bills that sooner than later would cost the nation,” he said.

Mr. Kufuor said he is optimistic that the amendment of the Constitution to fashion the selection of the membership of the Council of State would introduce balance, saying: “We are a nation of regions, tribes and religions but we want inclusiveness in governance.”

Acknowledging the roles being played by the current Council of State, Mr. Kufuor said he hoped that the council will use its tenure and experiences to shape favourably the policies of the government.

“I still stand by my opinion when I was a President that the Council of State is critical for developing country to temper the evolution of democracy as we mature as a democratic nation and that the council can infuse some restraint through our development of democratic governance,” he added.

Addressing the concern of whether retaining the Council of State was expensive, the former President said: “What will be the cost of ensuring a council of not more than 15 people to ensure cohesiveness of our state? If we want value for money, then we must have institutions made up of relevant people who offer critical thinking needed for our transformation.”

For his part, Mr Rawlings said during his tenure as President, he requested that the deliberations of the council be made public since that would help demystify the institution and allow the people to understand and appreciate its functions in good governance.

In his view, a well-chosen Council of State was an asset to be adopted but its members must show deep nationalism, initiative and boldness in the discharge of their functions.

He added that the council, as an institution that grew out of African traditional governance, should be formed with distinguished persons with proven spirituality, experience, knowledge, wisdom, integrity and patriotism to offer advice to the President.

Mr. Rawlings, however, expressed reservation about the current crop of some members of the Council of State who he said did not possess the desired.

SOURCE: Daily Graphic