Adwoa Safo takes sabbatical to settle health jitters

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection will be taking statutory medical leave to deal with personal business

The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Sarah Adwoa Safo, is to take a voluntary leave of absence to deal with health problems relating to a condition that has left her unable to work.

A statement issued today (Wednesday 6 October) and signed by the communications director in the Office of the President, Eugene Arhin, said that Ms Safo will be extending a leave of absence that was supposed to end in August. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, the Minister of Sanitation and Water Resources, is to act in her stead.

Press release on Adwoa Safo extended leave

Sources close to the minister told Asaase News that her initial leave of absence, scheduled to conclude at the end of August, was intended to be brief. Ms Safo however requested an extension, which has been granted today.

Cool under fire

Ms Safo was promoted to her current, cabinet-level position in President Akufo-Addo’s second-term government in January this year.

She was in the first group of ministers named after the New Patriotic Party won power again in the December 2020 election. She previously served in the Office of the President as the minister of state with responsibility for overseeing public procurement.

Reports suggest that Ms Safo has been largely absent from her post since her appointment as Gender Minister and has not been attending cabinet meetings. It was feared she would not be able to attend her ministerial confirmation hearings in Parliament in February, because it was believed she was heavily pregnant.

Opposition figures such as Nana Oye Lithur had signalled their intention to haul Ms Safo over the coals during her vetting, arguing that she was unqualified to fill the post.

She appeared before Parliament, however, where it was announced that she had recently given birth to her youngest child and was still nursing the baby. Though the nomination hearing was shortened for reasons of her having the child to attend to, she acquitted herself well, declaring her intention to present the repeatedly deferred Affirmative Action Bill to the House again in the eighth parliament.

The Chinese whispers around Ministries now suggest that Ms Safo lost her baby and has been very low since. Insiders say she is receiving medical attention for the problem.

Mixed success

Ms Safo became the first legal officer with the then new Public Procurement Authority (PPA) after the Public Procurement Board acquired increased responsibility and went through a process of reform that turned it into the present-day PPA.

She is the youngest lawyer ever to join the Bar in Ghana, receiving her call in 2004 at the age of 22. She pursued further legal studies in the United States, acquiring a Master’s degree in procurement law from George Washington University in 2005.

She married Hanny Mouhtiseb in a much-publicised society wedding in 2019 and is the mother of two children by a previous relationship. She has commented publicly on social media about how happy she is in her new marriage.

Clips of the minister singing gospel tunes and praising God have been circulating recently online; these are old footage, a source close to the minister told Asaase News.

Adwoa Safo and her husband, Hanny Mouhtiseb
Adwoa Safo and Hanny Mouhtiseb


Her selection for the job of Gender Minister dislodged another prominent woman in NPP ranks, Cynthia Mamle Morrison, the MP for Agona West. She had a stop-start moment early in her tenure when she was obliged to reverse a decision to end the appointment of the co-ordinator of the School Feeding Programme.

Ms Safo’s period of service as procurement minister brought mixed success and one very high-profile scandal. The chief executive officer of the Public Procurement Authority Agyenim Boateng Adjei was initially suspended by the president in August 2019 after an exposé in a TV documentary about contracts by the investigative journalist Manasseh Azure Awuni.

After investigations by the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Office of the Special Prosecutor, Adjei was dismissed. The documentary suggested that he had sold on to a third party – represented by the undercover journalist – contracts awarded by the PPA to a company in which Adjei was a significant shareholder. He was filmed apparently accepting payment from the journalist.

Adjei denied the accusations of corruption and conflict of interest and is appealing findings of wrongdoing.

It came as little surprise when, during ministerial rearrangements early this year to reduce the size of the government, a decision was made to dismantle the office of the procurement minister.

Stiff challenge

Adwoa Safo was first elected the MP for Dome-Kwabenya in the Greater Accra Region in the December 2012 general election.

She won a commanding 64% of the vote as she succeeded Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye in the seat and defeated Sophia Ackuaku of the then ruling National Democratic Congress. However, she had to stand her ground on election day when she discovered that local returning officers were undercounting votes for the NPP’s presidential candidate.

She won the seat again in the 2016 and 2020 elections but only after facing stiff challenges in the primaries on both occasions from Mike Oquaye, son of the professor. The campaign for the NPP nomination reached a low point in 2020 as scuffles broke out in public between the two rival groups of supporters, in what is the single most populous constituency by number of voters: over 172,000 people in Dome are registered to vote.

Ms Safo accused members of the Oquaye campaign team of threatening to kill her. She won the nomination to run again on the NPP ticket by just eight votes. Her NPP opponent joined forces with her in the campaign after the primaries, and she retained the Dome seat by a majority of nearly 23,000 votes in the actual election.

She also served as deputy Majority leader in the seventh parliament (2017-2021), the only woman in Ghana’s history to do so.

A source close to the Chief of Staff said Ms Safo is expected to take an extended leave of absence to recuperate and will be receiving the best care available.

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