Virtual Kollage: The functions, powers and limitations of the Prime Minister under the 1957 independent constitution of Ghana

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The functions, powers and limitations of the Prime Minister under the 1957 independent constitution of Ghana

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THE FUNCTIONS, POWERS AND LIMITATIONS OF THE PRIME MINISTER UNDER THE 1957 INDEPENDENT CONSTITUTION OF GHANA
Introduction
When Ghana became the first country south of the Sahara to attain political independence from her colonial master, the British, on 6th March, 1957, it also marked the introduction of a new constitution. The constitution was intended to guide the conduct of the affairs of the new nation. The constitution made provisions for the position of a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister, who was leader of the dominant party in the parliament, called the National Assembly, was appointed by the Governor-General.

FUNCTIONS AND POWERS
Implementation of laws
One of the functions of the Prime Minister was to ensure that the laws of the land were implemented throughout the country in order to maintain law and order. This was so because the Prime Minister was part of the double-executive created by the new constitution and it was fashioned on that of the colonial master.

Implementation of policies
Another function of the Prime Minister under the constitution was to see to the implementation of the policies of the government. Policies emanated from the cabinet after careful deliberations but until they were carried out, they remained on the drawing board. It was the duty of the Prime Minister to ensure that such policies moved from the drawing board to see the light of day. He achieved this through the various ministries under him working through the Civil and the Public Service.

Supervision and coordination
Another major function of the Prime Minister was to supervise and coordinate the work of the ministries and agencies that operated under his watch. Policies that were fashioned out at the level of the Cabinet were implemented by these ministries and agencies but someone must supervise them and that duty fell on the Prime Minister, according to the constitution. Where a policy was failing, he was expected to give a new direction or to decide to withdraw the particular policy altogether. 

Parliamentary debates
It was also the function of the Prime Minister to engage in deliberations in parliament. He was expected to do this in his capacity as a representative of the constituency from which he was elected at the general elections. Under the Parliamentary system of government, adopted by Ghana at independence, a Prime Minister must himself have been elected as a member of parliament before he could be appointed as the Prime Minister. His appointment does not mean he should shirk his responsibility as a parliamentarian, representing his constituency.

Preparation of sessional address
It was the duty of the Prime Minister under the independence constitution to help his cabinet to prepare the Sessional Address that would be read by the Governor-General to the National Assembly. This duty was very crucial since any mistakes could embarrass the Governor-General.

Appointment of Ministers
The Prime Minister took part in the appointment of Ministers of State under the constitution. He was the one who recommended qualified people to the Governor-General before they could be appointed. In the absence of this recommendations, the hands of the Governor-General were tied and he could do nothing.

Chaired Cabinet meetings
The Prime Minister was the head of government and as such the active Head of State. The constitution made provisions for him to preside over Cabinet meetings. It was at these meetings that matters of importance to the administration of the state were discussed and decisions arrived at.

Re-shuffle Cabinet
The 1957 independence constitution empowered the Prime Minister to re-shuffle his cabinet if he thought it was in the interest of the nation or help improve upon the output of the members. He could move one minister from one portfolio to another one.

Dismissal of members of the National Assembly
The Prime Minister was emboldened by the constitution to recommend for removal of members from the National assembly if he thought it was in the interest of the nation.

LIMITATIONS
Control by the Constitution
There were constitutional provisions that served as limitations to the powers of the Prime Minister. His functions were specified in the constitution and therefore he could not step beyond the powers granted to him under the constitution. In other words, he could not take any action that was in violation of the constitution. The constitution was therefore a major limitation to the powers and functions of the Prime Minister.

Executive Limitations
Another limitation on the powers of the Prime Minister was that he could not take certain actions without the approval of the Governor-General. For example, he could not appoint Ministers of State on his own accord. He had to seek the approval of the Governor-General before the appointment of Ministers of State and Justices of the Appeal Court.

The Local Press
The Local press was also a limiting factor for the Prime Minister. There emerged a vibrant Press by the time of independence in Ghana, and this kept the Prime Minster on his toes. The Press did what the constitution mandated them to do and that was to give constructive criticism on the conduct of national affairs.

Public Opinion
The Prime Minister was also limited by Public Opinion as formed in the Local Press and through other mediums. In other words, the opinions that were shaped, in the Ghanaian Press could influence the Prime Minister as to which actions to take or not to take.

SAMPLE QUESTIONS
1. Highlight six functions and powers of the Prime Minster under the independent constitution of Ghana.


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