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Opinions of Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Columnist: Punpuni, Kofi

Is the Executive Secretary also the Protocol Officer to be following the President?

President Nana Akufo-Addo

By Kofi Punpuni

As a retired Ghanaian Civil Servant/Foreign Service official, I have found something unusual and improper about the present arrangement at the Office of The President. I have observed to my surprise that in all official photos at the Presidency, one common face that appears is the Executive Secretary to the President, Nana Asante Bediatuo, a lawyer and an actor.

The function of the Executive Secretary to the President has by convention been performed by experienced civil servants. There are perhaps sound reasons for that tradition as it has been adopted by all the past presidents of the 4th Republic. The demands of that job requires one to be conversant with a number of things, not least, institutional arrangements at the Presidency and the whole government machinery, need for discretion, appreciation of protocol and etiquette, familiarity with secretarial functions (preparing of memorandum, report writing, etc.)

The Executive Secretary is most useful to the President when he understands his/her role as a facilitator of official meetings of the President and ensuring that outcomes of deliberations including policy decisions are disseminated to the intended recipients timeously.

While he must endeavour to be readily accessible to the President, he need not be so visible and intrusive that neither the Chief of Staff or Director of State Protocol finds a place to sit, especially when foreign dignitaries call on the President.

The Secretary must also be able to insulate himself from the daily hustling and bustling that permeates the corridor of power which remains the purview of the Chief of Staff to manage. I contend that the Executive Secretary's job is purely civil service and administrative, and not protocol nor political.

It appears, without doubt, that the current Executive Secretary to the President has yet to fully appreciate his role, and that is why he always find time to follow the President to even ceremonial functions and taking part in official photographs at the Flagstaff House, something that is unprecedented, not only in Ghana but also in the advanced democracies, where we take inspiration from.

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