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Killing Ghana Softly: Incompetence and a Bloated Bureaucracy!

Thu, 24 Oct 2013 Source: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka

One of the critical issues facing Ghana is the rising and sustained level of incompetence. A good bit of the problems we face now has to do with crass incompetence. If this problem is not addressed urgently, most or all the half baked efforts by government will fail miserably. I reckon that making changes in Ghana has political implications but this must not stop the debate and subsequent bi or multi-partisan action. We must streamline the public service to unearth efficiencies and guarantee effectiveness. In fact, those striking against the current increases in tariffs and taxes should point to how incompetence and over staffing add immeasurably to increased cost in services and goods. Take ECG for example! It is a storehouse of incompetence and consumers are paying for it. In reality, the government should have pursued the path of finding efficiencies and effectiveness, prior to or at the same time as it imposes modest taxes and tariffs. The sad and less stated part of this dilemma is that it has human cost as well.

How did we work ourselves into a situation where the government spends about 70% of its resources on salaries and perks for present and past employees? Of the current workforce at the ministries for example, it is estimated that only 40% of workers produce anything meaningful. Sixty percent of the remaining workers do no meaningful work yet are paid. Of the 40% that work, it is estimated that half are incompetent. Indeed incompetence in government starts from the president's office, our ministers, members of parliament, and various nerve centers (public services) of the government. This problem is a metastasizing cancer that must be arrested now. Until we address the incompetence problem adequately, the mess that we experience at the moment, will be trivial, compared to what awaits in the near future. Pairing incompetence and corruption is a lethal mix that is guaranteed to ground Ghana indefinitely. We can't continue to pay people who don't work.

It is my opinion that a big part of Ghana’s incompetence headache can be tracked to tribalism, political appointments and favoritism. In addition, nepotism and fraudulent academic credentials also contribute to the headache. Furthermore, even those with verifiable academic credentials may not have what it takes because their education or training does or did not cover what they are assigned to do. We are captivated by lofty degrees often not backed by substance and experience. Even in areas where education is adequate, experience lack sorely. Equally, some of these schools and training outfits may be teaching and preparing our potential leaders wrongly. There is obviously a disconnect between what potential employees are being taught and the competencies needed to perform effectively in both the private and public sectors. The long and short of it is that either some Ghanaian employees are unprepared or don’t care. The latter notwithstanding, Ghanaian civil servants expect to be paid at all times. We must get back to getting the right people to do the right job. For sure, we must hold people responsible and accountable.

Solution: 1. Restate publicly, the mission (purpose), vision (future) and strategy goals (current and future goals, objectives, and initiatives) of all public sector organizations. All leaders and employees must be able to understand and articulate the mission, vision and strategic goals of the organization they work for. Employee must understand why they are hired to do and why.

2. The president must ask all state employees in leadership positions to reapply for their current position. This way, a thorough examination of education, experience and potential can be done to make sure that round pegs are in round holes. We must redirect the ship of state by making sure the right people are in charge. We should not be afraid of kicking out those who don't want to do what we pay them to do and continue to thumb their nose at us.

3. Ghana must write new or shore up old job descriptions for all leadership positions. In actuality, all public service positions must be rewritten to support a clearly defined mission, vision and strategic goals.

4. Purge employee rolls to remove ghost workers and the dead. Computerize the system!

5. We must move to a pay for performance merit based system. Provide incentives and bonus for performance. Institute a performance management system that account for both merit increases and developmental opportunities for all employees.

6. Restructure or right-size the public services to support the mission, vision and strategy.

7. Institute viable and sustainable MIS and technology system (backbone) that enable employees to perform the task assigned them. A system that also allows citizens to obtain timely services and promotes accountability and responsibility.

8. Ghana must stop paying numerous allowances and instead adopt one bulk salary. Declare a state of emergency and cut all perks to the bare bones.

9. Put in place a progressive discipline system that allows leaders to get rid of deadwood at the same time as it provides opportunity for growth for those who care to change.

10. Provide relevant and just in time continuous training for all employees. Based on organizational needs, strategic goals and personal development needs but job relevant, employees must get the skills they need to be successful at their jobs.

11. All government leadership positions must be hired in a transparent and competitive way. This means that the president’s ability to appoint all kinds of partisan incompetents must be curtailed. A huge dose of transparency, accountability and responsibility must be injected into the hiring system. We must hire people based on merit. Reposition and reconstitute our Human Resources Departments to help change the culture of our public service orgs.

12. Adult learning and training institutions must be certified as competent before given the license to teach or instruct in the country. In addition, the government must work with learning institutions to teach skills relevant to the work at hand. Training for government employees must be focused on critical subjects such analytical thinking, problem solving, effective communication, conflict resolution, leadership, change management, planning, data analysis, business ethics and workforce management.

All the above will not amount to a hill of beans if those in charge do not adhere to the mission and vision and hold people accountable. The real problem is the lack of courageous leadership! Informed and determined selfless leadership!! Where will our leaders come from?

Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed "the double edge sword" and now tagged Santrofi Anumaa)

I don't give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell --- Harry Truman

Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka