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Opinions of Saturday, 3 March 2012

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Are NPP Sympathetic Civil Servants Sabotaging Mills?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

The Woyomegate has thrown up a number of very serious questions for politicians and civil servants that should not be left to die a natural death. These are the incompetency of politicians and what appears to be a sophisticated scheme by some civil servants to derail the elected government of Ghana through deliberate sabotage by knowingly providing bad and wrong advice to ministers. The EOCO Interim report and Mr Martin Amidu’s statement of March 2, 2012 are just two examples of why I question the commitment and honesty of Ghana’s civil service to the government of government. In this article, I intend to provide reasons why I am of the view that civil servants are up to mischief for personal or political reasons.

As far back as 2010, when I posted my first article on Ghanaweb, the elementary mistakes and inefficiencies of the NDC government were such that I began to suspect some form of organised and well orchestrated sabotage by civil servants taking roots under the noses of government ministers and other government appointees. I mentioned my suspicion to a former colleague in the US who did not only agree with me but also mentioned a number decisions made by senior civil servants that were very questionable and detrimental to the government’s “Better Ghana Agenda”.

The first suspicion emanated from the Ghana@50 judgement which was the subject of my first article on Ghanaweb (see “Lessons from a Landmark Judgement”, August 21, 2010). I could not understand why civil servants at the Attorney General’s Department who have a duty to ensure that appropriate legal advice is provided to ministers and government could not warn government about the lapses within the terms of reference of the Commission of Inquiry. Again, the same civil servants failed or intentionally refused to advise politicians that under the terms of reference, those who appeared before the Commission as witnesses could not be prosecuted. In fact, I now suspect that civil servants deliberately framed the terms of reference so as to prevent prosecution of former NPP officials. However, civil servants alone could not be held responsible for that fiasco because politicians failed in their duty to make sure that the terms of reference drafted by civil servants were watertight.

The next shockwave was the elementary and amateurish mistakes made by the Attorney General’s Department in the Ya-Na Murder trial. Again, I posted an article on the judgement (see Ghanweb April 7, 2011, “Corpus delicit” The Ya-Na Murder Trial, Did the Judge Err?). It was incredible how the State lost that case. The prosecution was abysmal, though I must be honest with myself and admit that I was worried about the fact that, only one side of the two warring families were arrested, charged and tried. Notwithstanding that, there were some of those who were found not guilty by the court who could not be totally innocent. One could only blame the civil servants and politicians at the Attorney General’s Department for the poor prosecution. I am afraid to conclude that there was collusion on the part of civil servants to ensure that the accused were never convicted and negligence by politicians, who abrogated their obligations and responsibilities.

The third hurricane was the $3 billion Chinese Loan Agreement (see my article entitled “NPP Abstention of $3 billion Chinese Loan”, Ghanaweb August 29, 2011). In that article, I lamented on the capability and incompetence of those who represented Ghana during the negotiations and concluded that it appeared business was conducted in Chinese language with no interpreters and translation for the Ghanaians. This was because the terms were heavily weighted against Ghana but very favourable to China. I know from experience that civil servants normally lead work on the initial negotiations and the drafting of foreign agreements and contracts before politicians approve it. I am now tempted to believe that, perhaps, those civil servants who represented Ghana for reasons best known to them decided to allow the Chinese to have a field day like free range chickens.

In the article “Is Ghana’s Prosecution Service Fit for Purpose?” (see Ghanaweb December 19, 2011), I enumerated examples of lapses committed by the Attorney General’s Department in a number of courts cases that the state had lost and called for skills training for civil servants. Though I was suspicious of sabotage at the time, I refrained from accusing civil servants of being responsible. In view of unimaginable revelations about huge judgement debt payments by the state as a result of shoddy contracts and wrong advice from civil servants, I posted another article and posed the question, “Are some Ghanaians capable of managing State Affairs?” (see Ghanaweb January 28, 2012). That was followed by the article entitled “EOCO Interim Report, Is Ghana ruled by Illiterates?” (see Ghanaweb February 4 2012 and last but not the least, my article on the Civil Service (see Ghanaweb February 8, 2012, “Woyomegate, “Has Ghana’s Civil Service led Ghana Down?”). In the last article, I alluded to my fears about sabotage within the Civil Service.

The final straw or tsunami were the roles played by Messrs Paul Asimenu, the Director of Legal at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) and Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh, Chief State Attorney at the Attorney General’s Department as contained in the EOCO report and revelations by Mr Matin Amidu about the behaviour of senior civil servants at the department. These prove beyond any reasonable doubt that civil servants have been sabotaging the Mills government for personal gain, to embarrass government and ministers, make the government unpopular or for opposition parties to gain political advantage.

A critical analysis of the aforementioned articles, information and sequence of events on the Woyomegate and how the state responded to claims against her, which led to the payment of hundreds of millions of cedis to individuals and organisations in judgement debts were manifestations of civil servants purposefully misleading politicians by deliberately providing wrong advice and even on some occasions refusing to provide advice or act on the instructions of ministers. For example, Martin Amindu described a situation when the Solicitor-General, Mrs. Amma Gaisie and senior State Attorney appear connive in knowingly advising government to act in a way that was inimical to the interest of the state.

But why do I say that civil servants are sabotaging the Mills government? It is an open secret that the previous NPP government under President Kufuor carried out extensive changes of senior civil servants. Their reason was that the most senior members of public bodies were too close to the Rawlings regime and could not be trusted. The NPP then appointed those they could trust into senior positions across the civil and public bodies. In fact, the extent of changes within the top echelons of the public organisations made by NPP when they came into power in 2000 was such that it almost amounted to lustration, though not on similar scale to what happened in former communist countries of Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.

When the Mills presidency assumed office in January 2009, there was pressure from within the NDC on the President to remove all the Kufuor civil service appointees but the President did not give in to such pressure, which was the right decision, though a few were removed. Another mass removal of civil and public servants would have been disastrous for the country for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, these same civil and public servants have taken the decision of the President to keep them in post as a weakness and are working against his government. Because they were appointed by the NPP, it would not be surprising if some them owe allegiance to the party and are misusing their privilege positions against the very government that they are under obligation to serve in the best interest of Ghana.

The big question is, how many of these Amma Gaisies, Paul Asimenus and Samuel Nerquaye-Tettehs are serving at sensitive positions at district, regional and national levels? Just image if Nana Akufo Addo had not chosen Bawumia as his running mate in 2008 and he continued to be Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana. Could he have been trusted to provide impartial advice to the government of President Mills? Could the then Chief Director of Ministry of Health who was seen in 2008 at NPP campaign rallies be trusted to provide impartial, good and wise counselling to the government if he had not been forced to resign? The fact is that there are many Bawumias still heading departments and teams across the country who are discreetly working against the government and must be exposed for playing politics with their positions through sabotage.

What is unpardonable is how the Mills appointees have and continued to be misled by these anti-NDC civil and public servants but appear to have no antidote for them. It is very disappointing because many of them had been ministers during the PNDC and NDC I era. They should have known that most civil servants detest change and particularly detested the PNDC. I do remember from my experience in the early days of the PNDC when some senior civil servants considered some of us too young to take instructions from us. Others even considered us riffraffs but when they encountered us at meetings, they soon realised that we were very knowledgeable on various socio-economic and political issues. NDC appointees should therefore have been on their guard and not take whatever advice from civil servants on face value as has been happening.

Do civil servants have the right to owe allegiance to political parties and if so, work against a government of the party they do not support? The answer is yes to the first part and absolutely no to the second. Civil servants are human and Ghanaians and therefore they have every right to support any political party but cannot openly and actively engage in party political activities. They cannot and must not act against the government in power that is democratically elected by the people of Ghana just because it is not the party they support. Their duty is to support the government of the day to develop and implement policies and strategies in fulfilment of its political agenda. That is why there is a popular saying that, “governments go, governments come but civil servants stay put. If any civil servant is dialectically and ideologically opposed the party in power and therefore unable to work with the government, the best option is to resign but not undermine it.

Civil servants who are working against the government are in fact, working against the people of Ghana, Just imagine the number of schools, hospitals and other infrastructure development projects that could have been built from the GHc 51 million paid to Woyome, let alone the hundreds of millions of cedis that have been paid to other individuals and organisations on the wrong advice deliberately provided by civil servants. Such diabolical acts are not only sabotage against the Mills government but crimes against the people of Ghana. Civil servants who are perpetrating these wilful acts against the state should not only be dismissed from the service but should be charged and prosecuted for causing financial loss to the state and knowingly misleading ministers. They are enemies of progress.

I support the decision of President Mills not to interfere with civil service by not removing appointees of the previous government. First, the appointees are Ghanaians and have every right to occupy such positions, provided they have the required competencies. Second, politicisation of the civil service would be dangerous and not in the best interest of Ghana because it could lead to instability within the service. Appointments could be done for political expediency and not on merit. Instability could also lead to more experienced and qualified civil servants leaving the service and weakening it. Again, if senior officers knew that every four or eight years, after change of government they would lose their jobs, the propensity to get rich quick would be higher, so would corruption be on the ascendency.

The NPP should be worried if some senior civil servants are working for them by sabotaging the current government because the party should remember that “what goes up must come down. In other words, NPP could face similar challenges if the party regains power in 2013 because there could some anti-NPP senior civil servants who may also take revenge against a future NPP government. It is not in the interest of any political party, the civil service and Ghana as a whole for a clique or cabal of senior civil servants to sabotage the elected government of the day.

In conclusion, I am of the view that some senior civil servants are deliberately working against the Mills administration for either personal or political reasons. This has become possible because of the lapses on the part of ministers and other government appointees who have allowed civil servants to control, misled and wrongly advised them. To arrest the situation, ministers must take control of affairs at their respective ministries and politically motivated civil servants who disagree with the policies of the government must resign rather sabotage the government. Such acts are unpatriotic and crimes against the people of Ghana. Those caught pants down should face the appropriate sanctions, including prosecution.

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK