Ministers, MPs, others must not be on boards

Pro Thomas AkabzaaProfessor Thomas Mba Akabzaa, Chief Director of the Ministry of Petroleum, has advocated that Ministers, Members of Parliament and members of the Council of State must not serve on boards of public institutions.

“I make this proposal guided by the simple philosophy that in a football game where the referee and linesmen and women are players, then such a game requires another name other than football,” Prof Akabzaa said at the maiden University of Ghana (U-G) College of Basic and Applied Sciences, public lecture series on Thursday.

“As an academic taking lessons from my services in the civil service, I would recommend that good governance in the management of public institutions can be guaranteed if there is legislative guidance on who should and should not qualify for specific boards,” he said.

Prof. Akabzaa, who is on leave of absence from the UG, was sharing his thoughts and perspectives as an academic with a stint in the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum (now Ministry of Petroleum), on the topic, “Ghana’s economic development challenges: The energy factor”.

He stated: “We have failed to address some institutional challenges, particularly poor management, not for lack of knowledge, but our addiction to political expediency”.

The former Head of the Geology Department of UG observed that there were instances where board chairpersons of some of the public sector institutions had far more clout than the personality of the minister responsible for their work.

“Oversight and transparency also need to be enhanced by better corporate governance, for example, by reforming how senior managers are appointed, insisting on conflict of interest disclosure, and making staffing practices more transparent and effective,” he said, and added that identifying challenges and prescribing solutions in the power sector would require bold non-partisan efforts, some requiring significant, “if not total buy-in of the citizenry”.

Prof. Akabzaa said challenges in the energy sector are not insurmountable, but it requires competence and bravery to make the right policy choices, the political will and boldness to implement them.

He stressed that there were certain hard choices to be made, especially with respect to improving transparency and good governance in the management of power utilities and wondered how the nation could guarantee the appointment of members of governing boards, premised on professional competence relevant to the sector devoid of political patronage.

Prof. Akabzaa advocated the need to allow the Public Service Commission, the Human Resource Manager of the public sector, to recruit quality management, including chief executive officers, for public institutions.

Touching on the Volta River Authority, he said the country’s power producer could not totally be blamed for the breakdown of its machinery, because of lack of spinning reserves that allow adequate generation to meet demand when plants are due for scheduled maintenance.

“VRA’s requests for load shedding to enable them to shut down some plants for maintenance have often been resisted by the ministry for political expedience, thus delaying such maintenance schedules and, thereby, affecting the tolerance level of the equipment,” he said.

He noted that in 2003, Cabinet approved a decision to separate the management of VRA’s hydro and thermal plants, but it was not implemented, adding that it is time to implement this separation to make the best use of the available gas supplies.”

Prof Akabzaa expressed the hope that the new entity would partner actors in new projects to build the core competences of the indigenous technical staff and also have access to efficient and modern technology.

By Salifu Abdul-Rahaman   

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