Opinions Sun, 22 Apr 2018

The “998 Jubilee House Workers”: Let’s be honest!

When you hear that 998 people wake up every morning and head to the Jubilee House to work, the next question that comes to mind is whether a large parcel of land has been acquired there to implement government’s Planting for Food Programme. If the place is not a cassava plantation, then no explanation is likely to make sense as to why so many people will be crammed into that small space and to suck the already anaemic public purse.

However, if you are able to read and you have sighted the cover letter and lists presented to Parliament by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, you will be compelled by your conscience to critically interrogate the list instead of joining the comedy or propaganda of the 998 Jubilee House workers. When I scanned through Facebook and saw the number of “enlightened” people who say 998 people work in the Jubilee House, I am compelled to point at what appears to be a deliberate misinformation of facts, an act that is bound to attract attacks and tagging.

Can we be critical and still be a bit honest? Do we have 998 workers at the Jubilee House? That’s what the media reports say. But is that the fact? Do we have 998 workers who go to work in the Jubilee House each day? Has President Akufo-Addo and his team appointed 998 people to work in the Jubilee House as the media reports suggest?

Beyond the media report, the Office of the President has presented lists and details of the number of people UNDER THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT. Fortunately, all those documents are public. The lists provide the following breakdown:

Nine (9) ministers of state,

27 presidential staffers,

256 other/junior appointees. This list includes people who work at the offices of the Vice-President, the first and second ladies’ offices as well as some of the ministries and departments under the Office of the President.

In all 292 workers were employed by the government.

The rest (706) are employees of public/civil service staff. Their engagement predates the current government. This makes the number 998.

Do they all work in the Jubilee House?

There are 16 ministries and departments under the Office of the President. These include secretariats for the government’s flagship programmes, the Free SHS and the One District, One Factory as well as the ECOWAS Secretariat. Are all these 16 ministries and Departments housed at the Jubilee House?

The answer is no. They are scattered across the national capital and their staff work in all parts of the country. For instance, I know the Business Development Minister has his office near the GFA Head Office, where his predecessor, Rashid Pelpuo, operated from. So not all the people in the list work in the Jubilee House. In the previous government, at least two people who headed the Youth Employment Agency (YEA), were captured under the Office of the President.

So the 998 are people who work in the Jubilee House as well as those who work in the 16 ministries and departments under the Office of the President. When we put this in its proper perspective, we can now interrogate the real issues.

Could this number have been cut down? Yes. We could have had a fewer number of people if the government had cut down the number of ministries and departments that were added to the office of government machinery. This is a legitimate debate to have. It is a legitimate concern and people are free and right to criticise the government. In a previous article, I said some of the ministries were unnecessary.

We can be critical and point out specific portfolios we think are unnecessary. We can also ask why a secretariat each has been created for the Free SHS and One District, One Factory programmes, when those programmes come under the Education and Trades and Industry ministries. The government has explained why these are necessary, but not all of us as are fully convinced with these explanations. These are issues we can raise with the list.

But to create the impression that 998 people work in the Jubilee House, which is the information being fed to the ordinary Ghanaian, is false and unfortunate.

The NPP, while in opposition, made a lot of noise about President Mahama’s list, which was less than this current list. The NDC are doing same. But those of us who know better should not deliberately feed into this. When we do that we lose the real issues we need to interrogate. We will dance in the music of sensationalism and forget the core issues.

African countries often outpace advanced democracies and bigger nations when it comes to the bloating of lists. So when I saw the 292 core staff of the Office of the President, I tried to compare with the US. In my search, I found an article written by Gregory Korte, the USA Today newspaper’s White House Correspondent in 2016. He said:

“The Executive Office of the President currently has about 1,869 full-time equivalent employees. That includes everyone who works for the president who doesn’t report to another executive department or agency. Secret Service agents, for example, work at the White House, but are employed by the Department of Homeland Security.”

“The EOP [Office of the President] also includes a lot of people who work for the White House, but not at The White House. In fact, most of them work in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door, or the New Executive Office Building, or one of the converted townhomes on Jackson Place across Pennsylvania Avenue.

“The White House Office includes the people who directly advise and assist the president in his official duties. Think “The West Wing.” There are about 450 of those.”

Gregory Korte gave further further break down as follows:

The Executive Residence is where the president lives. He needs a staff to maintain the residence and entertain guests — ushers, tour guides, chefs, florists and even electricians. There are 96 of those.

The biggest component is the Office of Management and Budget. These are the people who actually run the government. There are 490 of them.

The Office of Administration is basically the “back office” of the White House: 234.

National Security Council: 76. (But there’s a lot more who are detailed from other agencies.)

Office of the Vice President: 25.

Council of Economic Advisers: 27.

Office of National Drug Control Policy: 84.

Office of Science and Technology Policy: 33.

Office of the U.S. Trade Representative: 240.

Council on Environmental Quality: 24.

Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer: 90.

As someone who is distant from how the Office of the President in the United States functions, some of these numbers do not make sense. America’s government is far bigger than ours and this list appears justifiable but I am sure there some Americans who will question the numbers. So there is nothing wrong with Ghanaians saying we can have a fewer people than the 998 to run the Office of the President, which includes 16 ministries and departments.

But the best ways to do this is to subject the specific portfolios, ministries and departments to critical scrutiny. If we go to town with the falsehood that 998 people work in the Jubilee House, we will lose the real issues. And the government will be free after the sensationalism subsides.

We can be critical and, at the same time, honest.

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. He is the author of two books, “Voice of Conscience” and “Letters to My Future Wife”. His email address is azureachebe2@yahoo.com. The views expressed in this article are his personal opinions and do not reflect, in any form or shape, those of The Multimedia Group, where he works.
Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni
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