Opinions Thu, 26 Apr 2018

More with less

It is entirely plausible to argue that when within 15 months in office, you have settled GH¢1 billion of legacy debt owed to the critical National Health Insurance Scheme, stabilised the currency and power supply (tariffs further reduced), initiated free senior high school education and are firing up what will be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, against all odds, then employing 998 jobsworths, with 706 civil servants and 292 others at the Office of the President, is money well spent.

Perhaps, except I am not quite there. On matters of the size of government, I am firmly with the school of do much much more than your predecessor did, at much much less cost to the public purse. More with less.

Love letters

Technically, Ghana is a secular country, except at press conferences and publicly funded events.

They start late, almost always, and with a prayer (Christian and/or Muslim), almost always.

So diligently do we seek the face of God and the truth that it has taken two decades for the Right to Information (RTI) Bill to get to Parliament.

Indeed, we may be required to take a collective knee and participate in a vigil peppered by strong offensive prayers, all in a bid to encourage the Select Committee to share the details of this most closely guarded bill that should technically give the public the right to information, such as the details of this bill.

Given our shady proclivities, we must assume that if a politician of any stripe volunteers any type of information, it is usually to their advantage.

Politicians do not confess unless they are compelled to share. To their credit though, some do cough up before demand.

Which is why pursuant to Section 11 of the Presidential Office Act, 1993 (Act 463) on March 18, 2005, former President John Agyekum Kufuor wrote a love letter to The Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes, detailing the designation and grade of 692 persons on his staff. It makes for interesting reading.

Seamstresses are trending

Civil servants seconded on administrative, secretarial, accounting and supply duties together with Household, Audit Service and Ghana Health Service personnel.

I note that we paid the salaries of 48 stewards, three swimming-pool attendants and five seamstresses based variously at the Castle, State House, State Guest Houses and at the Peduase Lodge.

On July 30, 2010, Ghana was re-categorised as a lower middle-income country.

Even the Office of the ailing former President John Evans Atta Mills rallied enough for him to fulfil his constitutional mandate. He provided to Justice Joyce Bamford Addo, the first female Speaker of the House, a list of 639 various categories of staff.

I note that the number of stewards had dropped, modestly to 42, the number of seamstresses remained steady, no mention of the pool attendants.

Closer inspection also provides that lurking amongst the staff was Cadman Dufu Atta Mills (his brother), Martin Amidu (now Special Prosecutor), Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, Mahama Ayariga (both are now MPs) and a certain Samuel K. Anyidoho, currently on bail.

They too were employed, without known Performance Indicators or measurable targets, at the pleasure of His Excellency, at a cost to the public purse.

Diminishing returns with more

Come March 23, 2015, even as gross domestic product (GDP) growth had slowed to 3.488 percent, according to Economy Watch, former President John Dramani Mahama appended his signature to a report of 867 staff, comprising five Ministers of State, including Elvis Afriyie-Ankrah, fresh from the infamous World Cup saga, 24 presidential staffers, 128 people designated as 'other political appointees' and 710 civil servants.

I note that the number of stewards had declined further to 36 (more buffet-style dining?) and seamstresses had been rationalised to four. No sign of the pool attendants, although they may have been reclassified as presidential advisors. Same difference.

In 2016, former President Mahama got the jitters or came over all shy.

He could not, would not and in fact did not submit his list of staffers to the House.

No reason to assume that in an election year, there would have been fewer hangers on loitering and lurking with intent in the dark corridors of power.

It is also perfectly reasonable to point out to this President that there are several reasons why his predecessor is currently firmly unemployed.

Even his little-coordinated side jumps to monitor elections in Kenya, and recently Sierra Leone, hasn't gone down well.

Essentially at home and now abroad, our former President is doing more of less.

No reason at all for President Akufo-Addo to follow that disastrous suit.

We would like to see a smaller government working more effectively.

I have a few ideas of where the slice and dice could begin.

Active citizens

Ten thousand staff of the Ghana Education Service (GES) have been asked to provide documentary evidence of their dates of birth by the end of the month or be forcibly retired.

The GES concedes that there may be some clerical errors and they know too that some active citizens have every intention of literally resisting the oppressor’s rule and staying put.

According to the GES, another 50,000 of its staff, ranging from directors, accountants (who knew?) and teachers will likely be impacted by the new sanitising of birth date rules.

Without compromising quality, standing in the way of young graduates who seek employment that the oldies are hogging even as they impact the public purse, is it time, more or less, that we had a conversation about the mandatory age of retirement in Ghana?

Columnist: Nana Yaa Ofori-Atta
Related Articles: