Choose your job or political office - Public servants cautioned
The Public Services Commission has sent a stern warning to governing boards and councils of public agencies/organisations to caution their members who wish to engage in active party politics to adhere to the Constitutional Provisions regarding their decisions.
In a statement signed by Janet Ampadu Fofie, Chairman of the Commission, she directed that public officers, who intend to take part in active political activities, whether directly or indirectly, should first resign from the Public Service before taking the proximate step towards the realisation of their ambitions to be a Member of Parliament or engage in open party politics.
The statement furthermore indicated that a public officer shall not, in the performance of his/her official functions, act as an agent for or further the interest of a political party, or openly support a political party or candidate in deed or action.
The Commission further directed that governing boards and councils must take all the necessary steps to ensure adherence and compliance with this directive.
The Chairman stated that the directive was issued because the attention of the Public Services Commission had been drawn to a number of public servants who have declared their intentions to contest in political party primaries for members of parliament (MPs) during the 2020 General Elections.
“It has come to the attention of the Public Services Commission that a number of public servants have declared their intentions to contest in political party primaries as members of parliament during the December 2020 General Elections. Following numerous consultation and opinions by the Attorney General in 2008, 2012 and 2015, the Commission reiterates that participation of public officers in party politics is governed by constitutional provisions.”
An attention has also been drawn to a Wednesday July 15, 2008 ruling made by the Supreme Court on similar issues as the basis for which some public servants want to engage in party politics.
The ruling, which was pronounced by a seven-member panel, directed that public servants at the Ghana Education Service and the Ghana Highways Authority could run for any political office.
The ruling indicated that staff of the aforementioned institutions, and others who were not civil servants, were not barred from holding political positions. The two main defendants in the case were the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) Chairman for Efutu in the Central Region, Lawrence Lamptey, and the Chief Technical Officer at the Ghana Highways Authority, Ernestina Yawson.
The plaintiff, Kwadjoga Adra, led by his lawyer, Alexander Afenyo-Markin, New Patriotic Party (NPP) MP for Effutu, filed a motion at the Supreme Court to stop the two staff from holding positions in the National Democratic Congress in the Efutu Constituency, while serving in their respective public offices. The plaintiff said this constituted a violation of the Civil Service Act, which forbids civil servants from holding political office, but the highest court ruled against it, saying the two defendants were not civil servants and could go ahead to contest for any position in any political party in the country.
But Madam Janet said that people who are seeking to hold political offices should be guided by the provisions of the Constitution.
She said Clause (2) Article 55 of 1992 Constitution provides that “Every citizen in Ghana of voting age has the right to join a political party,” while Paragraph (e) Clause (1) of Article 21 of the Constitution provides for “Freedom of association, which shall include freedom of form or join trade unions or other association, national and international, for the protection of their interests!”
She also cited Clause (3) of the Article 21 of the Constitution, which states that “all citizens shall have the right and freedom to form or join political parties, and to participate in political activities, subject to such qualifications and laws as are necessary in a free and democratic society, and are consistent with this Constitution.”
The Constitution notes, however, in Article 284 that: “A public officer shall not put himself/herself in a position where his personal interest conflicts, or is likely to conflict, with the performance of the functions of his office,” she said.
Therefore, “a public officer, who intends to take part in active political activities, whether directly or indirectly, should first resign from the Public Service before taking the proximate steps towards the realisation of the ambition to be a member of parliament, or engage in open party politics.