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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Columnist: Mustapha Sanah

Public service or personal service; Ghanaians demand to know

Most often, our politicians bear the brunt of the citizenry’s anger and resentment over the plethora challenges, including low quality of life, underdevelopment and backwardness that plagued us in this country.

However, one critical area of our country’s governance strata that many citizens presently think overtakes politicians but usually over-looked in the strict accountability test is the Public service sector. These days the sector earns a negative accolade as ‘Personal Service’ sector.

In the recent past, the Public Service sector was considered as the pinnacle of excellence, honesty and integrity. There is no high honour than one serving his or her country as a public servant.  Ghanaians used to look with admiration, the high level of patriotism, integrity and selfless services these hardworking men and women delivered to the people of Ghana.

However, this confidence is fast eroding with many Ghanaians getting worried about the standard of services and ethical behavior in the sector. No one will debate the assertion that the public service, primarily, is the face of the nation and their actions and inactions reflects the Ghanaian psyche and values. There is no debate here that the Public Service, just like all other sectors of our governance spectrum, is not confronted with myriads of challenges including low wages, erratic fund release from the treasury and lack of the required tools among others. This indicates that members of the public service are sacrificing enormously under debilitating conditions to deliver government business for the people.  However, aside the general populace’s view that some civil servants had become politicians’ surrogates helping in plundering the state kitty through inflated project cost and other acts of omissions, there are new creeping tendencies which requires to be nip in the bud, sooner than later.

These new creeping whirlwinds are the wanton disregard for the Service’s Charter by some members within the public service. Although the Service has it prescribed structures and systems that government employees should adhere to in discharge of their official duties, unfortunately, pettiness, backbiting, gossip, undermining and trivialization are the order of the day within the public service. This is not to say that all public servants are involved in these deviant practices. The Ghanaian public recognizes the teeming patriots within the service who provides sterling services and exceptional leadership for our country.

Recently, a director in the public service refused to take his annual leave because he was not having a good relation with his deputy and would not like to hand-over or allow him to act in his absence. Instead, he decided to take two days off in every week for the whole duration of his annual leave, after the head office refused to accede to his request for someone else from there acting during his leave. In another case, a director sidelined his two deputies and instead, worked with a subordinate simply because he was not in ‘talking terms’ with his deputies. Again, in many instances, some superior officers select their favorite junior staff within their departments to work with and render their other competent colleagues ‘’redundant’’. Many others run the public service offices arbitrarily with hostile attitude to staff and the general public that he or she is supposed to serve. All these scenarios are real happenings and common traits within the public service nowadays, which is affecting productivity, and fueling the public work space with laxity, backbiting, gossip and mediocrity. I, like many other Ghanaians wonder whether many of these culprits within the public service understand the service principles as enshrined in the public service Charter.

According to the Public Service Charter, 2015, staff of the service are encouraged to adhere to the core service values and principles of ‘’integrity, honesty, equity, respect, humility, competence, good governance, and above all, merit-based human resource management practice’’ as cardinal pillars in rendering government services to the people. Section Three of the Charter emphasis service delivery standards that  ‘’ provide clients with timely, credible and reliable services…..acknowledge our clients rights and show our preparedness to listen to our clients’’. Again, the Civil Service law 327 of 1993 also recognizes leadership, integrity, transparency and accountability, justice, fairness and selflessness as the fundamental pillars of the service. In Part III Section 4 of the Civil Service code of conduct ‘’conduct in this context, is behavior, attitude, and character exhibited, for example by anyone within and outside the working environment. The standards of conduct generally required of any member of the Service would be leadership, selflessness, competence, integrity, impartiality, fairness and honesty in matters affecting work and status of society’’. Splendid values and ethics! However, no one would deny the fact that most of our public servants are found wanting on the prescribed code of conduct and standard of conduct expected of them. This monstrous tumor in our public service sector vitiates public trust in the service, and therefore, the tumor must undergo surgery sooner than later.

Public service is public service and members of all institutions comprising membership of the Public Service Commission under Act 482 of 1994 through article 191 of the 1992 constitution should endeavor to improve the image of the public service and eschew negative tendencies that do not reflect the true values and ethics of the service Charter. Therefore, our public service sector requires urgent re-engineering and attitudinal realigning in other to move our country forward, and also restore the enviable lost image of the service. It’s NOT personal or private interest service, It’s public service – service in the interest of Ghana.