General News of 2014-06-20

Gov’t workers must justify pay — CHRAJ dep. boss

Public servants must work to justify the current improved compensation they earn under the Single Spine Salary Structure (SSSS), Deputy Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Joseph Whittal, has said.

Expressing a sentiment that is shared widely by Ghanaians, he said state workers must enhance productivity and improve the quality of services rendered to the public.

"The improvement in compensation for public officials must be reciprocated by enhanced productivity and improvement in the quality and standards of services that public officials render to Ghanaians. After all, it is their taxes that go to pay these enhanced compensation benefits,” he said at the opening of a two-day review and validation workshop in Accra to promote the use of service charters by Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs).

"That a whopping 70 percent of revenue accrued to the state annually is used to pay public officials is sobering, and should more than justify the need to reconsider the standard and quality of service rendered by public servants," he added.

He said Ghanaians must not continue to put up with mediocre service delivery from the public services, and that one best-tool to make public services more accountable to the citizenry is to introduce a service charter. A service charter is a public document that sets out the basic information on the services provided, the standards of service that a customer can expect from an institution, and how clients can make complaints and suggestions for improved service delivery.

"It is when the public know what services to expect, and the stipulated time-frame that those services must be rendered, that they can push for accountability -- which will invariably drive customer-focused orientation in the public sector.

"Service charters encourage public agencies to measure and assess performance, increases public sector productivity, and makes public officials more accountable to service consumers," he said.

Mr. Whittal added that CHRAJ, as a constitutional public administration watchdog, strongly supports the use of service charters in the public service to promote transparency and accountability.

"The public service is the implementing organ of government's policies and programmes, and therefore guarding their operations by a service charter would be fulfilling a key government commitment of allowing transparency and participation in decisions that affect [citizens].

"The commission intends to give maximum publicity to the service charters when they are reviewed and adopted in our quest to ensure that service-users demand better standards from duty bearers," he told workshop participants who included representatives ofMDAs, the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), the Organisation for Customer Service Excellence Ghana (OCSEG) and the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA).

The SSSS has cost taxpayers an extra GH¢8billion in government compensation expenditure since its implementation from 2010, according to Minister of Finance Seth Terkper. It has also helped to lift the average pay in the public sector above the level in the private sector, he said.

The Minister also said in his 2014 budget statement that the Public Services Commission is implementing a Human Resource Management Programme and a Human Resource Management Information System to boost public sector effectiveness and accountability while improving management of the wage bill.

Nevertheless, public sentiment on state sector productivity and efficiency remains largely negative. Speaking at the workshop, which was organised by CHRAJ and the Public Sector Reform Secretariat (PSRS), Alhassan Azong, Minister of State at the Presidency in charge of Public Sector Reforms, said the workshop comes on the back of a recommendation in the Senchi consensus that called for collaboration between the public and private sectors to institute a management and productivity crusade -- including the introduction of service charters -- that will ensure productivity is matched with remuneration.

He said the public sector continues to provide key services to the private sector but the challenge is limited customer care and orientation of service providers, and this has fuelled bureaucracy, bribery and corruption as well as a lack of commitment by the public service to deliver quality service.

Mr. Azong backed the introduction of service charters in the public sector, saying the sector’s image will improve if the public can expect their requests and queries to be dealt with in a professional and timely manner.

Ghana's public service, like that of most African countries, is characterised by weak institutions, administrative limitations, bureaucratic corruption and below-par professionalism.

The African Public Service Day celebration that was held last year concluded with the Accra Declaration recommending African governments to initiate, develop and put in place robust mechanisms to improve service delivery, transparency, accountability and integrity in the public services.