General News of 2014-02-15

Baako chides politicians over uninformed debates

Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide newspaper, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako, has condemned the country's politicians in the raging debate over the number of persons engaged as presidential staffers.

He said moves by members of the governing National Democratic Congress as well as the opposition New Patriotic Party to politicise the debate, amounts to dishonesty and double standards.

Speaking Saturday on weekly news analysis programme, Newsfile, on the Joy News Channel which was also live on Joy FM, Mr. Baako described the controversy as "needless" and "uninformed".

"I think the controversy out there is needless and uninformed, and there is an element of dishonesty and hypocrisy driving the debate across the political divide".

The Office of the President last week submitted to Parliament a list 678 employees, including Ministers of State, washermen and sanitary labourers, in 2013. The list also included five Ministers of State, 24 presidential staffers and aides, 418 public and civil servants and 260 “other staff [members] on attachment”.

Critics say the number is unnecessarily high and constitutes a drain on the public purse particularly at a time when the nation's economy is in the doldrums.

The NPP Memmer of Parliament for Mpraeso constituency, Seth Kwame Acheampong, had earlier on the programme, called for the need to streamline the numbers in order to align with the size of the economy.

"...if we could put up an ideal organisational chart then we can restrict ourselves to the size of the people and at the same time, save the people [who are bashing us] some money in their purse," the MP suggested.

Government in the wake of the controversy also released a copy of the 2005 list presented to Parliament by President John Agyekum Kufuor. The Presidency under John Kufuor in 2005 had 692 staffers compared to 678 staffers under President John Mahama.

But Kweku Baako explained that persons working in the public service but have been assigned to the presidency cannot be equated to political appointees engaged by the president in his office.

"The number of presidential staff employed [by the president] at the office is distinct from the employees in the public service assigned or attached to the president's office," he clarified further.

A breakdown of the numbers he stated, supports his argument since staff on assignment from the public service draw their salaries from their respective agencies and from the presidency.

"So then, you begin to ask yourself "If we did the argument on this informed factual basis, a lot of the emotions would come down," he stated.