By Dennis Adjei-Brenyah Esq
I have just read something on line and it is giving me headache. It is this: The leadership of the most pre-eminent Financial Institution in Ghana, the Bank of Ghana, has authorized the expenditure of $504.000 to purchase Gold Watches – 18 Karat Gold Watches — for certain of their employee retiring after several years of employment: 30 years more or less.
Must interestingly, the trajectory of the story is not the merit or justification for such a wanton dissipation of public funds, but apparently, the methodology of payment for this scandalous nonsense. The BoG’s concern is not whether or not spending such a huge sum of our money, our very limited resources, as a giveaway to retiring employees, is the proper and fair thing to do; No, not that — that is a “fait accompli” in their minds, it is absolutely justified.
The Bank’s concern in explaining this affair is something more bothersome for its leadership. They call it “sole sourcing” mechanism to fund the purchase for the workers. The payment mechanism that did not offer choices of payment in terms of any competitive contractual inhibitions. $504.000 for Gold Watches for retiring workers! You cannot make this up!
This giveaway of Gold Watches by the pre-eminent Public Financial Institution in our Country underscores the wholly cruel and hugely distorted concept of Public Service crafted for the benefits of the employees with little regard and protection for the Employer: A major distortion of the defining features of employment relations. And they thrive on this agonizing distortion.
Take a look at their hiring instruments. Was there a provision for solid 18-Karat Gold Watches to be doled out by the People of Ghana at the end of their service period? How did all the ancillary benefits and these expensive throw-ins get into the mix of “rewards” and gratuities for their “service” at the Bank of Ghana.
Do we have any provision in their employment contracts that upon serving for a period of certain years, for example, 30 years, such employees shall “be sent off into the sunset” with expensive Gold Watches? If not, who created and nourished this patent nonsense?
For the beneficiaries of this extra gracious gratuities, a couple of needed questions: For all those years that they were receiving their normal pay and all other ancillary benefits, why didn’t they save money to purchase Gold Watches on their own account. They were all reasonably well paid? Right? So, why in the name of subversion of reason and fairness and accountability do we have to carry the burden of Gold Watches for them?
We know for certain that in all those years, these “workers:”
1- Always received their full salaries and other ancillary benefits.
2- They received all their “training” allowances.
3- They received all their paid vacation.
4- They received all their travel and incidental allowances
5- More specifically, they were paid all their “claims” attributed to travel outside Ghana, including expensive hotel bills.
6- Most, if not all, probably received their promotion and choice assignments.
7- Most if not all, were provided with houses/apartments at the expense of the Public and with little input in the payment (Bungalows/Government Housing — practically for free.)
8- they received motor vehicles of the choicest brands — and in most cases supplied with gas (petroleum) to freely operate those Public-issued vehicles.
I am not making any reference to the hydra-headed monster we all know as Bribery and Corruption on top of all the specific benefits I have recounted. I am also not referencing special allowances that come in regularly from whatever source or sources they themselves are able to conjure up in the scheme of our financial networks. These people have been sitting at the head of the table for a long while.
These inevitable facts drive the enriching environment our Public Servants’ work, and in particular, at the Bank of Ghana. So, where in the universe of their obligations, do they have the authority and the sense to define themselves as Public Masters and Overlords, at our expense.
Where does this arrogant distortion of the fields of play in public service become operative, such that the public servants become Masters — controlling the public needs for their benefits and Gold Watches? Where, in the universe of an impoverished nation, do we permit such open arrogance of public servant telling us what they can take for themselves at our expense. And the money comes from there! The Bank of Ghana!
BoG and most of the Civil Service, especially in the higher echelons, have actually taken us for granted. We answer to them. Shocking! We bribe them routinely otherwise they do not do what they were hired to do. This is the dance of the insane.
Everywhere one looks, one finds very dire needs. School feeding in shambles all over. Large segments of our children cannot afford shoes and “small fees” to pay for something in school. School houses across the country are simply shocking. Some actually operate under trees. Poverty and its attendant effects are glaring for all to see.
Then comes this spectacularly idiotic phenomenon of leaders of a major public institution spending our money to buy Gold Watches for themselves; because they worked as public “servants” and got richly paid; provided with “free” housing; free cars to use — with free petrol, and they believed — all along — that they must be Public Masters and Overlords not servants.
We call them “Massa” when we need them to do what they are obligated to do for us. Why won’t they believe that they are, in fact, “Public Masters.”
The BoG and all public Institutions and their leadership- must recognize the fundamental difference between public service and private entrepreneurship. Even private institutions may not engage in self-serving, self-dealing, self-endowing — in the management of their finances. The rules of the legal playing field will operate. Private enterprises may justifiable make awards, if it is within the rules and by laws.
A different standard applies with Public Institutions. Numerous examples of abuse and dissipation of public funds exist. For example, the other day, we learned that the Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission, somehow managed to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for her convenient hotel stay, while hundreds of thousands of dollars of hard earned cash was being expended to renovate her government/public issued bungalow. She never ever paid a cedi back to the public.
Really, nothing happened to her in terms of this wanton egregious and cruel dissipation of public funds. Why is this horrible and nonchalant abuse so rampant? Why do presumably well-educated people put into positions to help develop our country and its institutions do us so much harm with their arrogant — and sometimes plainly stupid dissipation of public funds? They get away with it so they do it. Why do we tolerate this abuse? The answer is blowing in the wind!
All decisions, in public service must have value added to public interest and benefit. This principle applies to all in leadership, who control public funds. This goes for all civil “servants” and their coopted Politicians, feeding like hugs on the putrid carcasses of national corruption.
As presently defined, public servants have effectively changed the dynamics of public service to self-servicing, help dealing, self-benefitting Masters. A crazy and illegal system of entitlement direct the operations of our Civil/Public service. The Gold Watch giveaway syndrome is only a manifestation of the sad and saddening reality that Ghanaians face every day in government offices across the nation.
The model we seek in public service is a new dynamic Gold Standard. One that always fundamentally recognizes the essential attributes of public service. One that seeks excellence on behalf of the community of peoples. A fuller and fundamental recognition that in this arena, the People are sovereign and you are accountable to them. Not the other way around. Distortions and images of entrenched entitlement must be purged out of public service.
The absurd ingrained sense of entitlement by our civil servants, especially those in the higher echelons, over-rides all common sense and loyalty to the People. This unchallenged nonsense, has destroyed the principles that sustain Public Service. This entitlement syndrome drives and sustains all decisions in public service, mostly, directed to the sinister enlargements of their pockets. What a shame.
We seek a dynamic reform in the Public Service, otherwise all our ideas for development will come to nothing. We demand nothing more than a Gold Standard of Public Service; with an eye towards preventing this kind of wanton and deliberate dissipation of public funds. Return the Gold Watches as a measure of public accounting to the public you were supposed to serve. You must always remember, even if you believe yourselves to be Masters. You are Public Servants: That is what you are!
Dennis Adjei-Brenyah is an attorney based in New York.