Ghana’s Presidential Transition Act, hallmark of cross-party efforts – IEA

The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) on Tuesday described the Presidential Transition Act as a hallmark of cross-party effort, which establishes strong evidence of political leadership’s capability to rise above partisanship to deepen democratic governance.

The IEA therefore commended Parliament for the non-partisan approach in passing the bill, and said “The President and his Cabinet also deserve credit for fulfilling a promise made in 2009 to introduce a Transition Bill”.

In a statement to the Ghana News Agency signed by Dr Micheal Ofori-Mensah, IEA Policy Analyst appealed to President John Evans Atta Mills to act swiftly by giving assent to the Bill, appointing an Administrator-General and ensuring that the Presidential Estates Unit (PEU) established and given the resources to make it effective.

Dr Ofori-Mensah noted that the PTB required urgent Presidential assent due to the short time frame between now and the next elections. “… It is important, however, to emphasise that the pressing need for action is not based on whether a change in government will occur or not”.

He explained that the requirement for handing-over notes to be submitted to the Administrator-General prior to elections indicates ample time will be required for the office to define a comprehensive template to be used by the President and his team in a range of public offices.

Dr Ofori-Mensah admitted that tough work lay ahead after the appointment of the Administrator-General, as the time required to set-up key institutions, including the PEU was essential.

He noted that the Administrator-General would have to recruit staff, prepare an initial budget and study best practices, whilst the broad mandate of the PEU required, at the outset, an administrative manifesto which would spell out detailed procedures to cover the transitional duties conferred on the office.

He said some procedures may call for subsidiary legislation, adding there was also the matter of conducting the initial executive assets inventory, which could be a complex task.

He said a transition law will by no means remove all the difficulties relating to the democratic transfer of power. “Nonetheless, I am cautiously optimistic that effective implementation and strict enforcement of the provisions will bring about a departure from the ad hoc transition process we have witnessed in Ghana’s Fourth Republic.

“Putting in place the requisite legal and institutional framework before the end of this year will be tricky given the limited time frame. All the same, it will be useful to set this process in motion”.

He said the Presidential (Transition) legislation had strong potential to defuse the political fallout, accusations and counter-accusations which had ensued in Ghana’s previous transitions and, arguably, will be in everyone’s interest.

“For a party in government, the legislation provides clarity on an exit strategy should it be voted out of office. For an opposition party, the legislation outlines what should be expected if it is voted into office.

“For taxpayers, it would deliver value for money. This view is grounded in the fact that – if effectively implemented – one could expect a more prudent use of executive assets, an area where enormous scope for efficiency savings exists,” Dr Ofori-Mensah stated.

The acrimony and administrative lapses which characterised the transitions in 2001 and 2009 led to the drafting of the Transitional Bill by the IEA, in collaboration with the GPPP.

It seeks to prepare a multi-partisan framework of ground rules and regulations to govern future transitions.

Essentially, the Presidential (Transition) legislation provides a framework for the political transfer of power from one democratically elected President to another.

The benefits transcend regime change, the cornerstone of the legislation is accountability and when implemented will also herald a new era of institutional clarity in many aspect of public administration.

The PEU which is charged with maintaining and keeping an inventory of executive assets will be headed by an independent Administrator-General, who will be appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State.

The Administrator-General, who also has the responsibility as facilitator of the transition process, fills a long-standing vacuum.

It also spells out clear time-lines set for Ministers of State to vacate their official accommodation a provision considered to help limit accusations of political witch-hunts when a change in government occurs.

On 16 March 2012 Parliament unanimously approved the Presidential (Transition) Bill and, in doing so, demonstrated its commitment to institutional reform.

Work on the Presidential (Transition) Bill began in 2007 as an initiative of the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP), an inter-party group comprising representatives of the four political parties in Parliament.

Source: GNA

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