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Opinions of Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Columnist: Rockson Adofo

Ghana abounds in unemployed graduates yet criminals continue to keep their jobs

Ghana as we speak, is teeming with unemployed University and Senior High School graduates. The unemployed far exceeds any persistent efforts being made by both the public and private sectors to create jobs to absorb them. This situation has become a headache for any serious government as well as any concerned and discerning Ghanaian.

However, as said by a former and late famous and popular British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”, we should as a nation see an opportunity in the alarming number of the unemployed to help solve the major problem of corruption that is militating against the development of Ghana.

Some people may hasten to condemn me to the gallows just at reading my suggestion of seeing opportunity in the unemployed without waiting for further explanation from me as to why. My reason for the suggestion will be seen in a moment.

I am writing this article purposely to address the persistent contemptible attitude by the nation’s court registrars, clerks etc., and by extension, all those engaged in criminal or corrupt activities or practices at workplaces. It is a well known fact that the court registrars especially, do take bribes from some litigants or their agents and assigns to remove or let disappear some documents from some court files relating to their case.

This practice has in many occasions resulted in unnecessary deferments of court hearings with a ripple effect of delaying court rulings. Because of this despicable criminal attitudes by the registrars conniving with the guilty parties to delay court cases, most would-be innocent parties in litigations end up becoming the guilty party as well as being impoverished by the needless transportation costs and extra legal/lawyer fees they are compelled to incur.

The Chief Justices continue to bemoan this criminal practice by the court registrars without taking any decisive action to deal with them to stop their misconduct. My suggestion as found below is not only meant for dealing with the court registrars but also, in all employments both public and private where illegal practices are in perpetration and perpetuation by the employees.

When you are holding a stick or a piece of wood and you encounter a situation where a mad dog is barking and rushing towards you, what will you do? Will you use the stick or wood to fend it off by whacking it with it or you will do nothing for it to pounce on you? Any intelligent person will do something to defend him or herself against the dog attacking him or her. Won’t they? In much the same way, we have to use the unemployed who are desperately looking for job to replace the corrupt court registrars and clerks and in any other employment where the employees are involved in nefarious activities.

Should we fail to replace the corrupt employees when we have many people desperately looking for jobs, then we are comparable to the person about to be attacked by a mad dog but fails to use the stick or wood in his/her hand to defend themselves.

Yes, becoming a court registrar or clerk demands a specialised training if I should put it that way. Why could we not send our graduates to the courts and other jobs to do their national service or pursue job experience for months? Should we send the graduates to various employments to do their national service, we can readily have people with idea to do certain jobs on standby to replace anyone found to be engaged in corruption.

Yes, some jobs require highly experienced personnel but if people are not given an opportunity to do the job, how can they become experienced? Once employees become aware that they are not indispensable but could easily be replaced, they will comport themselves by acting within the confinements of the workplace regulations.

Do we have Employment Laws which may be called Labour Laws by Ghanaians in Ghana? If we do, do we have written into them or the Company handbooks what is called “Gross Misconduct”? I am going to quote the definition of gross misconduct and how it operates in the advanced world for the betterment of employer/employee relationship as well as the successful operation of the company.

“Gross misconduct is behaviour, on the part of an employee, which is so bad that it destroys the employer/employee relationship, and merits instant dismissal without notice or pay in lieu of notice. (Such dismissal without notice is often called 'summary dismissal')”

What counts as gross misconduct according to Law Donut?

“It is strongly advisable to give employees a clear indication of the type of behaviour you consider to be gross misconduct. You can do so in the contract of employment itself or in a staff handbook. Identifying such behaviour in advance will help to demonstrate later on that you regard it as significant. Most employers would identify intoxication (whether from drink or drugs), fighting or other physical abuse, indecent behaviour, theft, dishonesty, sabotage, serious breaches of health and safety rules, offensive behaviour (such as discrimination, harassment, bullying, abuse and violence) and gross insubordination as examples of gross misconduct.

You might want to specify other offences, depending on the nature of your business: for example, accepting or offering bribes, downloading pornography, downloading software from the internet or using personal software (to protect the business against legal risks, and the risk of importing viruses), misusing confidential information or setting up a competing business. If you have policies covering all or any of these activities, you can specify breaches of all or some of them (or of particular activities specified in them) as gross misconduct”.

With gross misconduct specified in the terms of contract or the Company’s handbook, an employer can sack an offending employee without any difficulty of emerging victorious should the employee take him/her on at the Employment Tribunal for unfair dismissal with intent to secure compensation and award of damages and loss of earnings. In Ghana, the employers seem to be incapable of sacking corrupt employees for the fear of the employees suing them for what they erroneously call judgment debt.

What is a judgment debt by definition? “If you owe money to someone else, then you are a debtor and the other person is a creditor. If you fail to pay a debt, your creditor can go to court to get a judgment that you owe the debt. Getting a judgment means that the creditor is now entitled to use various mechanisms to get the money from you”. Subsequently, when an employer sacks you based on misconduct, you can sue for compensation and loss of earnings but not judgment debt.

If our courts and companies have not written into their terms of contract or company handbooks what constitutes gross misconduct and the associated punishment when an employee commits one, then it is about time they did to bring sanity into our Ghanaian workplaces to stop the open corruption that goes on to demean the country and cost us its development.

Have we now seen how the numerous unemployed graduates can be effective weapons to fighting corruption in all areas of workplaces in Ghana? From today forward, I do not want to hear our Chief Justices complaining bitterly about the corrupt behaviours of our court registrars without taking steps to sack them. Send the unemployed graduates to do their national service in all the public and private sector workplaces so as to be able, and easily find replacement for corrupt officials when they get sacked.

Being optimists, let us see opportunity in the unemployed graduates, going by my suggestion and the view as expressed by Sir Winston Churchill.