Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Restructuring Of State Institutions
The Civil Service At Cross-Roads

The revolution in Ghana aims at restructuring the established state institutions which, many people agree, have contributed to the hopeless state of affairs in the country. The Civil Service, Judicial Service, State Corporations etc are currently under serious fire. In this first article in the series, a Correspondent examines the attempts being made to shake up the Civil Service.

It is a well known fact that the Civil Service and the Judicial Service are two of the permanent colonial legacies that have survived all the coups and counter-coups that have shaken Ghana since the time of Independence.

One can say that the survival ability of the Ghana Civil Service after all the battering that the country has experienced is due mostly to the solid rules and regulations that have been protecting both the service and its operators civil servants and would not be far from right.

The Civil Service operates with precisely laid-down rules and orders that were drawn up by the British Colonial masters during its inception.

The most memorable of them all is the General Orders, (G.O.) which has, over the years, become the bible of the Civil Service. Even though the G.O is such an important document of the Service, most Civil Servants have never set eyes on it. In 1960 during the First Republic the Interim Rules and Regulations (1960) was published to guide the operations of the service. This small booklet contains the Acts that set up the Service. But most of the regulations are still based on the G.O. which have rules on almost everything - from correct attire and conduct of the Civil Servant to his routine performance in the office.

A careful study of the Orders and regulations indicates that the the Civil Servant enjoys security of employment - protection from being arbitrarily dismissed by the politicians in power. However, there is also a carefully laid-down procedure by which offending Servants can be punished when their guilt has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.

The Ghana Civil Service used to be very renowned in West Africa for its efficiency. However, over the years, it has become quite obvious that there is an urgent need to shake up the regulations and the service in general. The most frequently cited complaint against the service is the unnecessary officialdom and waste of public funds. Many committees and commissions have been set up to update the Civil Service but invariably the reports did not bring about any major changes in real terms.

This may be due to the fact that almost all these committees were invariably convinced beyond doubt why certain actions are taken in the service. and why they should not be changed radically.

Meanwhile these committee members would have been treated to some of the perks enjoyed by members serving on such committees, (as firmly laid down in other similarly out-moded regulations) For instance, the financial orders would have clearly indicated that allowances should be given to the members - (they should have tea breaks or lunches. at the state hotels). It is considered a privilege to serve on some of these high-powered committees because it may constitute a much-needed subsidy to the family income.

The direct consequences of this is that these committees plod on for years. before belated reports are released which may change very little in the rules guiding the Civil Service. Indeed the original rules are so firmly embedded in the administrative service that they have affected most of the regulations in the Public Corporations that were established to be independent of the Civil Service and perform better.

The critics of the Service almost always pick on the Principal Secretaries as the cause of all the troubles in the service vis-a-vis the politicians. However, there is a rule that forbids the Civil Servant to publish any article without first clearing it with higher authorities. While the oath of secrecy rule has successfully prevented leaks and exposures, the adverse effects are obvious.

The critics also accused Senior Principal Secretaries (now abolished) and administrators of riding in expensive cars and, generally, maintaining standard of living which is incompatible with their known salaries. The paradox in the situation was that there are perfectly legitimate ways of supplementing incomes of the top executives' allowances from serving on Boards, domestic subsidies etc.

The fact is that basically the rules were made to suit the Colonial administrators. The rules ensured that they would be housed, be provided with decent means of transport and generally, not do anything that would "bring the name of the Service into disrepute" quarrelling in public, drinking in the local public houses with the natives etc. Exquisite club houses and therefore built for their exclusive use.

During the post-independence period, the Ghanaian Civil Servants in the colonial administration were rapidly promoted to take over from the whites through the Africanisation policy and they naturally took up the privileges that went with the posts.

The initial mistake in the service is the belief of many, started from this period when garden boy, steward boy, day and night watchman, maid servants all paid by the government became permanent service conditions of the top administrators. Even now in the offices of the Principal Secretaries, Heads of Departments, the District Chief Executives, there are still allowances for providing entertainment. The Principal Secretaries and Heads of Departments are still issued with appointment letters giving them all the amenities which were enjoyed by the colonial administrators. Unfortunately because politicians of past regimes also enjoyed these expensive colonial legacies they therefore dared not change the system. The critics claim, and rightly so, that all these would not have mattered much if the country's economy had not been in such a terrible state.

During the second republic an attempt was made by the Busia administration to strip off some of these colonial legacies.

This involved the cutting off of servants car maintenance allowances and other fringe benefits. The move, naturally did not endear the regime to the civil administration at all. Acheampong re- stored all the allowances after the February 24th coup in 1972.

It is an incontrovertible fact that any government which cannot keep the civil service in tight rein runs a risk of collapse. In the light of the above deficiencies, the Provisional National Defence Council's (PNDC) effort to reorganise the entire Civil Service and decentralise the country's administrative set-up is certainly commendable.

However, one needs to ask if the present restructuring and re-organ- isation exercise particularly the Co- ordinating Central Workers Defence Committee which recently issued a statement abolishing the General Orders and the Interim Rules and Regulations - is the right way to introduce lasting changes into the moribund Ghana Civil Service.

Next in Part 2

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