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The 998 controversy

We love controversy, in fact, we cherish it. It makes our blood boil, it gets us talking, and talking is our hobby. And there is nothing unusual except many times, we talk without fidelity to facts and context. From the politician to your average journalist, we relish being heard even if we have done little research to no research or simply based on hearsay information.

It is no surprise that when issues come up, they die with no concrete outcome or solution-it was just a talk. I am afraid; we are doing same with 998.

By the way, type the figure 998 into your browser and it will lead you to links like this; 998 staff work at Jubilee House - Akufo-Addo reveals list...

Is this true, is this factual, is this the reality. In this country, we pride ourselves on the rule of law-it simply means, we govern our lives by laws. One such law is Presidential Office Act, 1993 (ACT 463). It’s a short act; it can be read in like 10 minutes.

Section 11 of this Act provides as follows:

The President shall within 3 months after the end of each financial year submit to Parliament an annual report containing the following information—

(a) the number of presidential staff employed at the Office;

(b) the rank or grade of such staff; and

(c) employees in the other public services assigned to the Office.

From this provision, it is clear that there are two main categories of staff empowered to work in the office of the president: Presidential staffers and public servants assigned to the office of the president.

Presidential staffer’ tenure ends with the tenure of the president. So for instance when president Mahama lost elections, all his staffers automatically lost their jobs that is why Stan Dogbe and Co are no longer in government employ.

See section 4 of the Act;

(1) The President shall, acting in consultation with the Council of State appoint such persons as he considers necessary to hold office as presidential staff in the Office.

(2) The number of persons that may be appointed under subsection (1) of this section and the grade of the officers shall be determined by the President.

Such group of persons do not have the security of tenure like those from the public service transferred, seconded or assigned to the office of the president in the category (c) of section 11 as prescribed in section 5 of the same act.

“A person appointed a presidential staff under section 4 (1) of this Act shall hold office at the pleasure of the President and shall cease to hold office on his removal or resignation from office or on cessation of the tenure of office of the President”.

However, the public or civil servants that were seconded, transferred or assigned to the office of the president do not automatically lose their jobs. The Constitution guarantees such person's security of tenure and irremovability unless based on stated misconduct. However such persons can be seconded to other offices.

It also means the president is not bound to give such persons in the office of the president except that president thinks such persons are still needed in his office.

So for instance, president Akufo-Addo could have reassigned civil servants already at the post in the office of the president under Mahama. The president solely determines how many people he wants to work with based on his vision and what he seeks to achieve with such persons.

It is true that former president Mahama did not leave behind any presidential staffer.

The people who always remain are public/civil servants assigned, transferred or seconded to the office of the president.

Even that category, they can equally be re-assigned or transferred or seconded to another office. This means the number of public service offers can be reduced or increased depending on which government and the numbers it wants to work with.

So for me, the argument and counter-arguments are neither here nor there. It is equally misleading to suggest the president has appointed 998 presidential staffers. It is, however, accurate to state that 706 civil and public servants have been assigned to the office of the president. This number the president can reduce or even increase.

It is also accurate to say 283 presidential staffers have been appointed by president Nana Akufo Addo.

I am sorry to say ministers of state are not presidential staffers. So the 9 ministers cannot be classified as presidential staffers. They are ministers of state and article 71office holders.

My honest view, the government has not communicated well. The opposition, as usual, has capitalized on it-NPP would have done same.

And the masses are left confused. The “neutrals” are being careful.

It is fair to also conclude that this government is an “obese government” and posterity will not forgive the Nana Addo administration if it fails to deliver on its mandate at the end of its tenure with such size.


Sammy Darko is a journalist turned lawyer.

Columnist: Sammy Darko

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