Business News of 2014-03-24

Comment: What happened to the Civil Service?

I find it difficult to understand how ministries, departments and agencies can allow over payments in salaries. The Controller and Accountant General has, according to reports, threatened to sanction those who overpay. What then do the civil servants and state officials do? Do they not ensure that financial, administrative and other rules are kept?

We seem to have destroyed the administrative system and the civil service. We grope every day for new solutions to problems (or challenges) without success everyday.

Sometimes we complain that we do not know; that we have no experience of past practices. But we need not have personal experience of the past. We should read about our own recent past in Ghana.

There is no need to go elsewhere to find solutions to our administrative and governance problems. Past practices should throw light on what we should do. Our archives unfortunately cannot help us much. But surveys of the life and work of our eminent public servants of yesteryear can be of great help.

I was therefore glad when the offspring of the eminent civil servant J. S. Annan celebrated his 100th Birthday Anniversary by researching into his work and achievements and sharing the findings at a public forum.

Nana Dr J. S. Annan was a civil servant in the Gold Coast, in Ghana and at the United Nations. In those days the administrative heads of Ministries were known as Permanent Secretaries. And there were formidable Permanent Secretaries like A. E. Chinbuah, C. O. C. Mate, A. L. Adu and Robert Gardiner in those days.

As the study puts it these high officials has “the experience and qualifications to run the affairs of the state”. How did they use their considerable powers and how and why did their successors lose it?

J. S. Annan is revered as a devoted and competent civil servant who was especially interested in the economic and social progress of the nation. He was at one time while assistant electrical engineer, secretary of the Gold Coast Railway Civil Servants and Technical Workers Union and he espoused the cause of the workers with devotion and courage.

He therefore had “political” views while he performed his official duties with distinction as a serious civil servant in independent Ghana.

Today many believe that civil servants should be neutral or have no political views. This is of course nonsense and it has led to emasculation of the service.

At the expose on the life and thoughts of J. S. Annan it was revealed that, Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah once asked A. L. Adu and J. S. Annan, then Permanent Secretaries, to attend a CPP political rally.

A. L. Adu replied yes he would attend but that he had an urgent national work to do. He would attend when he completed that national duty. J. S. Annan replied that he was a civil servant and could therefore not attend because he was not expected to identify himself with one party. Neither of them attended the rally.

Kwame Nkrumah knew the rules but he wanted learned people to be seen in the CPP. He preferred the answer of A. L. Adu but he appreciated the candour of J. S. Annan.

So far as the J. S. Annans maintained their views but discharged their duties efficiently and effectively they should be allowed to continue to serve.

The public service should have a place for big minds like the J. S. Annans who went beyond their normal duties and assisted the disadvantaged and gave generously to promote the work of the Methodist church.

The civil service is virtually destroyed in spite of great competence of many of its members because of a few small minds in high places. The situation must be changed otherwise neither Parliament nor the President can help with even petty corruption in our financial administration.

By: K. B. Asante