Time For Govt To Prune Number Of Civil Servants

Sun, 13 Oct 2013 Source: Tweneboah-Koduah, Nana Akua

By Nana Akua Tweneboah-Koduah

October 12, 2013

Transformational leaders who strive to make their mark have never had it easy during their first year in office due to the bold but unpopular decisions they make to transform their countries or areas of scope. Many of these leaders come on board and within the first few months of their administration, put their overall visions in scope which normally leads to biting criticisms, insults, civil strives and many more.

But any transformational leader who knows where he or she is going and has a lot in his or her tank in terms of determination, thick skin, focus, drive and the men and women to help him or her to get there, becomes a hero at the end of his or her tenure. That is the reason why a faint hearted person can never become transformational.

There are lots of pain and heartache during transformational periods, because many of the decisions taken by transformational leaders cut deeper into social programs and other economic subsidies previously enjoyed by the citizenry.

President John Mahama has been in office for barely 10 months, but the going has not been easy for him at all. One of the biggest problems that has confronted Mahama’s presidency to date has got to do with the rising wage bill which eats 74% of the country’s pie.

Ghana currently has a huge number of more 500,000 workers on government payroll. With a population of about 25 million, the country’s civil servants form about 2% of the population, yet this 500,000 people shreds the country’s total income leaving just 26% for other important government undertakings.

But the most painful thing is that more than half of these civil servants draw their salaries and other benefits month after month and year after year for no work done. Most of the civil servants do not reciprocate the huge cost expended on them by becoming productive.

The severe “icing” on the pain that every government since independence had gone through has got to do with the large number of ghost names on payrolls. Every past government has done its little bit to clean the payroll system in the country but they have all yielded nothing or little in terms of having a clean payroll devoid of ghost names. As a result, thieves, I mean blatant economic thieves have been cashing in big time on the government.

The news currently emanating from the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH) in Accra that out of the 690 junior nurses whose names are on the payroll, 440 of them are “ghosts” or non-nursing staff is very disturbing. If this information turns out to be true what it means is that 64% of the names are ghosts who will be paid for no work done.

And the interesting thing is that these junior nurses recently embarked on a strike action to press home their demand for the payment of their salaries which have been in arrears for 21 months.

Imagine if each of the 440 junior nurses on the “ghost name watch list” earns 150 Ghana Cedis every month, how much do you think the government or the country will bleed from such thievery? Assuming each of the 440 junior nurses is paid 150 Ghana Cedis at the end of every month, if you do the math the total monies that the government will cough out comes down to 66,000 Ghana Cedis. The country becomes the biggest loser by a whopping 1,386,000 Ghana Cedis if the 440 ghosts are paid for their 21 salary arrears.

What ticks me off is the comment made by Rev. Albert Botchway, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the KBTH, who does not seem to know why he was appointed as head of the teaching hospital. Instead of him making comments that would make sense to Ghanaians, he initially denied the claim that there were 440 ghosts on the payroll of the junior nurses.

But Rev. Botchway strangely added that there were no mechanisms at the KBTH to ascertain the names of those who have left or did not take up their appointments at the hospital. If the CEO knows that there are no mechanisms to detect ghost names, why did he deny that there were no ghost names on the payroll?

If there is any point in time that President Mahama can do something about this ghost names on government payrolls, the time is now. Thorough investigations which will lead to the deletion of ghost names on the civil servants payroll alone can lead to massive savings to the government at the end of every month. Imagine which areas government can channel these monies that leak uncontrollably to thievery pockets every month.

I remember that the Accountant General’s Department, sometime ago was involved in a biometric registration of all civil servants to help weed out ghosts names from government payrolls. I don’t know where the exercise stands as at now, but I would passionately appeal to President Mahama to ensure that the program continues to the letter. For how long can we stand and stare while these “economic pirates” steal from the government kitty every month?

On the issue with the junior nurses at the KBTH, we were told that the Ministry of Health is going to resort to headcount to determine the truth about the ghost names issue. To me this will not cut it, since the issue will continue to exist if we resort to head counting. What will help is going biometric in order to know the exact number of people who have worked and deserve their salaries. If your name, address, picture and fingerprints are taken it would be extremely difficult to clone that information and alter it to steal from the government.

Now to the main issue: the overall number of civil servants in the country. The government cannot survive if it continues to use 74% of the country’s income to pay civil servants at the end of every month. No government can survive in this current condition.

Therefore, President Mahama must devise some measures to prune down the number of civil servants in the country. Most of these civil servants come to work very late but are the first to leave at 5 pm. There are others who do not even show up for work when there is little drizzle of rain. Some stay at home for days with multiples excuses when they experience slight headaches. We have some who go to work and sign their names but leave their offices in no time to go and perform their personal tasks. Yet, there are others who have turned their offices into mini-markets and move in between offices daily selling their wares and foods.

I urge President Mahama to take the bull by the horn and do something about this large number of civil servants. He will become very unpopular considering the high unemployment rate in the country if he touches the civil servants. But if the President is able to slash the number of civil servants and use the monies to help small and medium scale businesses to expand, they will be able to absorb some of the unemployed in the system.

People will slam President Mahama if he makes the move, but if the overall objective and impact inures to the benefit of the country, he will be hailed and remembered for something no other government had the guts to do.


Columnist: Tweneboah-Koduah, Nana Akua