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Opinions of Friday, 20 February 2009

Columnist: Annoh-Manso, Jerome

Ministerial Vetting Reveals Indictment on Parliament and Government

As a proud Ghanaian I have followed with keen interest the country’s ministerial vetting over the past decade including the current one. Sometimes I could not help but laugh my head off uncontrollably as other Ghanaians do.

For example, it was fascinating at the time to hear Hon.Sheikh I.C Quaye suggest to the august vetting committee that his certificates had been consumed by Tsunami. As for Dr. Richard Anane, the questions posed to him, the responses and his approval is another matter.

The ongoing (2009) vetting has its own strong and weak points, interesting and appalling characteristics. What has attracted my curiosity this time however, was when the current Minister designate for Employment and Social Welfare was being vetted. He was asked about what he will do to ameliorate the exploitation of casual labourers by some employers (specifically on the Spintex road). I found this question as a rather interesting and thought provoking one.

For me, this question highly indicts the Government, Parliament and other institutions that advocate human rights. I make this assertion because we hear and read very often about Government not paying some category of workers like Nurses, Teachers etc. sometimes for as long as eighteen(18) months to two years. And these are people recruited, trained and employed by and in the Government system. Whether they are new recruits and have no family or children, don’t they eat, cloth, take transport, bath etc? Sometimes you hear officials from Accountant General and other Directorates blaming computer systems as the cause of delay. And I ask myself, computer break down for two, three, five, six, twelve, eighteen months and more?

Paradoxically, the nominee being vetted suggested that implementation of the provisions in the Labour Act of Ghana could be a solution to the problem. Curious as I was for the answer to this question, I aired a sigh of disbelief because when it comes to private employers; the Labour Act can be invoked as a resolution to problems. But for the Government’s own workers, they should drink air, bath air and eat air.

Clearly, the MP who asked this question never realized how the depth of his question indicts him as a Member of Parliament whose constituency Nurses and Teachers for example, have not been paid for several months but pretending to be concerned about labour problems elsewhere. Unless these MPs want to tell Ghanaian teachers and nurses that they are not aware of their plight. Indeed, several other commentators have spoken on this issue.

I would like to remind our MPs and Government that ‘Charity Begins at Home’. When Government obeys and implements the provisions of the Labour Act, by paying all manner of workers monthly and promptly as stipulated in the Act, the private employers will have no excuse for not doing same. Until Government honours its own Laws, the Employment Minister would have no moral justification to probe, let alone scold any private employer when Government herself is operating, governing and administering irresponsibly.

The real question is; how can you employ someone for over a month through to eighteen months or more without salary? Have you, for that matter as Government asked yourself how that person manages to get to work even more regularly than you the bosses? We expect a Nurse for instance, to be able to administer first aid, feed the sick, smile to the sick, reassure the sick etc. on empty stomach after which he or she would have to walk home and back the next day for several months.

Let us also remember that it is this same category of workers (Nurses and Teachers) that we have all chastised for leaving the country after having trained them with scarce state resources.

Jerome Annoh-Manso (annohmanso@yahoo.com)