Improving the Policy Process: Ghana Tries to Build Support for Cabinet Decision-Making, 2003-2008

From the 1960s to the early 1990s, Ghana’s Cabinet-level policy management system deteriorated as multiple coups d’état produced abrupt changes in government. Many competent civil servants either left or were pushed out. Ministries submitted policy documents to the Cabinet that lacked essential information ministers required to evaluate the wisdom and feasibility of proposals. Ministries rarely cooperated with each other. But beginning in 2003, a newly formed policy unit in the presidency partnered with the Canadian International Development Agency to strengthen Ghana’s policy management system. The unit helped coordinate policy planning between ministries and reported on implementation to the president. The Cabinet Secretariat introduced standardized formats to guide ministries in policy development and ensure that proposals contained all essential information. The Office of the Head of the Civil Service and the University of Ghana Business School worked together to train hundreds of civil servants in the practical skills of researching, writing, and communicating policies. By 2008, the new system was in place and the policy management process had improved, but sustaining the reforms through the tumultuous government transition that followed the country’s 2008 elections posed additional challenges. Looking back on the effort, Samuel Somuah, who helped lead the Ghana Central Governance Project, underscored the importance of an effective policy management system by saying, “If there’s one project every African country needs, or every developing country needs, it’s this project.”
Jonathan Friedman drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Accra, Ghana, during April 2013. Case published October 2013.
cabinet manual
policy management
Information sharing
bureaucratic structure
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Critical Tasks
Adaptive management
Preparation of policy papers and choices
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Jonathan Friedman