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Opinions of Friday, 3 December 2010

Columnist: Zakaria, Abdul-Shakuru

Collapsing The National Service Scheme, Who's Fault?

IN recent times, it is not uncommon to hear many of our countrymen and women bemoan the developments in the National Service Sector. What is disheartening is that, these sad developments seem to be gaining momentum as the years go by. Perhaps, our problem- solving approach to the ever increasing problems associated with the scheme may have outlived their usefulness. Whatever, we need to soberly reflect and retrospect if ameliorating the situation is our prime motive. “For the shadow of a tree cannot be straightened if the tree itself is crooked”.our elders say.

It is true to say that the National Service Scheme have faced many a problem from the onset but equally true is it to aver that these problems have reached their crescendo in the wake of the assumption of office of the current Acting Director, Mr. Vincent Senam Kuagbenu.



Not too long ago, the National Service Scheme and its boss were in the news for all the wrong reasons. The first shocker revelation was that the scheme was to venture in to food and animal production. Unfortunately as it was, not even officers at the secretariat got wind of this noble plan until they were directed to move to the various farms, loosen their neck ties, fold up their sleeves and bend down to work.

For the first time in the history of the scheme that the entire workers at the secretariat went on strike in protest of the autocratic leadership of Mr. Vincent at the secretariat as decisions were unilateral taken without any of the staff’s involvement.



Indeed, in an attempt to open its tentacles to cover as many tertiary school leavers as it could, it was heard that graduates from the health sector (doctors, nurses, etc) were also to be engaged as national service personnel. Again, this came as a shock to everyone, not because it was a suggestion coming from Mr. Kuagbenu but because it was a kind of directive from a comparatively lesser source that had failed to do due diligence. Expectedly the secretariat was to hold proper consultations with the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and Ghana Medical Association (GMA) so as to streamline modalities of engaging the services of the health practitioners in to the scheme.



It must be put on record that prior to the posting of service personnel; the secretariat is obliged to issue a circular to all organizations, institutions, agencies and departments stating the requirements and obligations of the agency in question. This year the organizations were given Friday August 20, 2010 as deadline for submission of their request. User Agencies were requested to attach a summary of job description and a separate summary of expected work programme for the required service personnel as follows:

JOB/POSITION TITLE: (i.e. the job or position National Service Personnel will be deployed on)

REPORTING TO: (i.e. the Supervising Officer of the National Service Personnel)

RESPONSIBLE FOR: (i.e. resources National Service Personnel will have responsibilities over)

DUTIES: (the various job tasks to be performed by the national service Personnel, which he/she will be accountable for)







Mr. Kuagbenu has shown substantial disregard for laws of the scheme and time. One time he failed to honor an agreement to meet with a Managing Director(MD) of a bank over a posting debacle. The MD was so embarrassed that he vowed not to ever step foot at the National Service Secretariat nor ever attends to personnel who were to be posted to his outfit. Obviously, these innocent service personnel were to suffer for crimes committed by someone else.

The bank has an international repute, and it has its representation across the country requested for ninety (90) personnel. Of this number, sixty (60) names were specifically sent to the secretariat on their request for those names to be posted to them. The rest of the thirty (30) is the prerogative of the secretariat to post which ever personnel it deems feet. Autocratic as some chose to describe him, not even one name of the 60 has been posted to the bank.



Not to forget about an incident in which some personnel having been posted to the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation ( GBC) in the Upper East Regional Capital of Bolgantanga were rejected due to the failure of the Service secretariat to furnish the broadcasting house with the requisite number it requested, leaving the innocent graduates dejected and frustrated. The state broadcaster however denied having any hand in this faux pas and laid the blame squarely on the door steps of the Director and the secretariat.



Currently, he has caused a serious crisis in the Northern region which I think should be checked before things gets out of hand. Indeed, he unilateral cancelled the Arabic Instructor Scheme under the voluntary service department. The Arabic Instructor scheme was introduced far back in 2007 for teachers in the Arabic unit to benefit from the scheme. It is a known fact that an Arabic instructor properly enrolled in the Ghana Education Service payroll does not go take beyond GH?200.00 a month.

Even the leadership of the Arabic Instructor’s wrote a petition to Mr. Kuagbenu and the secretariat about what that the move and its consequences can caused the family and the socio-economic life of the affected persons’. What he sought to do was to walked down to Mr. Imoro’s office where the leadership were seated, he started ranting and shouting about the content of the petition and finally threw it at them. As an observer I felt if permitted to say more humiliated and embarrassed than the affected individuals. I believed this could have been better handled in a more diplomatic, professional and humane manner.



Much as it should be appreciated that the law is no respecter of either an individual or institution, conventions has gradually formed part of our laws (informally though) so it would be naïve for anyone to ignore this fact. Rumour flying across the country reveals a consistent disregard for convention(s) as institutions, and respected public officers both in government and in opposition are been ignored in the dealings of the scheme.

It would not only be embarrassing but a damming humiliation if what we’re hearing in some cycles that a directive from the castle was even ignored from Mr. Vincent Kuagbenu. A wise council of “Dagombas has it that the fire is mentioned first when hot items are up for discussion” so for Mr. Kuagbenu to have allegedly refused a posting list from the seat of government is indicative of power play behind the Acting Director of the scheme.





Same can be said of a Minister who lobbied for the Directorship post for Mr. Kuagbenu. The cabinet minister of good standing and of an international repute and who many love, admires and respect’s because of his youthful and analytical approaches to issues, submitted a list to Mr. Kuagbenu for reposting. This names were again not attended to.



Recent events at Tertiary Education Institutions Network (TEIN) of NDC at the Winneba conference where Mr Kuagbenu was hooted out of the venue by his own party members probably for being arrogant and incompetent makes the whole issue more germane and without any political machinations than looking at it with a political microscope. Fellow Ghanaians there is a strong case in our hands which we must all deal with dispassionately.



It will not be misplaced if Mr. Vincent’s head was called for, for his actions and inactions is destroying this rather onerous sector.

Perhaps, the prudent demand would be to find out the source of Mr. Kuagbenu’s ever increasing powers. Whatever the source, Ghanaians must be in the known.