Former first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) and Flagbearer aspirant for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Professor Joshua Alabi has said that Regional Ministers need to be empowered and adequately resourced to carry out their mandate effectively.
Speaking on Eyewitness News on Friday, Pro. Alabi believes that the selection of Regional Ministers is often an afterthought, with party footsoldiers put in such positions, thereby limiting their effectiveness in the post.
According to him, the Regional Minister can be very influential in the development agenda of the country given access to the requisite resources and power to operate.
One way he believes this can be done is if they are made Cabinet Ministers, which are usually reserved for heads of the Ministries which considered the most crucial in the country.
“The way we handle Regional Ministers in this country is not the best. The Regional Ministers don’t have any power; they don’t even have resources, so they only coordinate activities. So even the assemblies can rule, and the Regional Minister’s position can just be thrown overboard. Is it possible for us to make Regional Ministers responsible for every aspect of the economy in the region and resource them?” he said.
He explained that “we can also make regional ministers members of the cabinet. Sometimes when we want to give jobs to the boys, then we think of the Regional Minister. Let them work and perform and hold them responsible for what they do. If I became President, I would make them cabinet ministers.”
With only 19 Ministers allowed to be in Cabinet, Prof Alabi stated that key Ministries like the Finance, Justice and Interior Ministries could be retained to work with the Regional Ministers.
“The Foreign Minister, AG/Justice Minister, Finance Minister, Defence Minister and Interior Minister can be Cabinet Ministers along with the ten Regional Ministers. The rest can be Ministers who come out with policies and coordinate the activities of the various sectors in the region with the Regional Ministers,” he said.
‘I could have done better.’
The former Greater Accra Regional Minister admitted that his tenure in charge of the region was not as productive as he would have wanted because of a large number of sector ministers already operating in the capital.
He said this significantly limited his ability to carry out programmes which could have pushed development in the region.
“When I was made Minister for Greater Accra, we had all the sector Ministers in Accra, so it was tough to perform. In fact, I enjoyed my job as the regional minister when I was transferred to the North. I was in charge, I was in control and could talk to the assemblies, and for that matter, if you go to the north, they’ll tell you the legacy I left. I was coordinating the activities of the Assemblies [as Greater Accra Minister], but I could have done better. Let’s move the regional minister’s job a little above what they are doing now,” he added.
“As a Regional Minister, I was almost everywhere in Accra inspecting drains and letting the sector Minister know that we have a problem. It’s quite different from me having the resources.
Anytime we would go to Parliament for the sector Ministers to present their budgets; they always say their budgets aren’t enough so the Regional Minister can’t even push for some of these problems to be resolved.”
“As President, you fire when the person is not performing, the Regional Minister cannot fire when the people are not performing. And the other Ministers are [accountable] to the President, not the Regional Minister. So there’s a big difference there.”