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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Columnist: Doe, James W.

Public Sector Reform a first step

....lessons of social redesigning for Ghana

There are major problems facing the public sector (also made up of the Civil Service) not only in Ghana but the world over. Some studies from the most respected institutions as international as in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), United Nations (UN) and World Bank (WB).

Including others from countries like Australia, France, Canada (Ottawa), Germany, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK (in Manchester & Birmingham) and USA (Washington D.C.) have revealed that bottlenecks in public administration and public management systems needed "new" stream of life.

In Ghana, though we could relate to the findings above, during the period of New Public Management (NPM) reforms in the era of structural adjustment programmes (SAP). The process was driven by a combination of economic, social, political and technological factors of service delivery only to satisfy external players and not from the total will of Ghanaians per se.

There is evidence of one form of crisis (possibly of identity) after the order during the first and second-generation public sector reform. That which could be said to be endemic to Ghana and have riddled our fortunes to good public service delivery, finance, management and high performance.

Ghana has not matured through any recognisable technocratic, systematic, policy making approach in the past decades or even since independence. Except that it had, but just mimicked public service administration and management practices through coercion.

Today, the country will have to live in the era of globalisation (pluralism) against the background of evolving, but weak political undertakings in the new millennium, against and aggressive but welcoming situation with media exploits and a sophistication in the emerging leadership of the nonprofit sector (NPO) or civil society institutions.

The dilemma currently facing any attempt at Public Sector Reform (PSR), you may call it the third-generation of PSR is enormous. The causes of past failures in other jurisdictions alone can not bring the much needed hope for the reform process. Since Ghana in itself as it has been reported "did not keep its promise."

By this Ghana in itself have not sufficiently imbibed the essence of the cause and failure or not satisfactory results of its numerous attempts at past public sector reforms; new public management, public/financial administration in the countries service delivery.

This dire situation could easily befall the recent attempts at PSR as well, if the human person, I mean the Ghanaian does not undergo a social life redesigning. Some learned colleagues tell me in 2005 we need a (to) "change". I am not sure what they meant but we have already changed political parties since 2001.

Time has already been lost in the past three decades, besides it will cost to experiment any further. So a better approach may be from within us (the person) and by little steps, while we conceptualize to catch-up or totally adopt all that is new today.

The reason being that if we look at the way bureaucracy, political parties interest groups and others developed in Ghana. There are no clear signs of technocracy, a consistent development of technocracy or regime of technocracy in Ghana as against the order of antagonism in interaction and power relations.

In the current regime there is need for pluralism and partnerships. Any change will be gradual and sometimes painful, for before the or another uncomprehensible huge superstructure of public sector reform (PSR) is dropped on everyone once again.

I would prefer the foundation (value for the little things) of the nation (nationhood) need to be sought out and built first. How do we give regard to every citizen private, public and others and build the necessary partnership?

Before I finish with my thoughts about how we build reform in the public sector in my subsequent write-ups. I will therefore be looking up to the day, that physical activity will be embraced by our public sector institutions, MDAs not just in schools.

This is one thing that impressed me in Japan when I lived there for five years pursuing an advanced degree half a decade ago. For the Japanese, it all begun in 1928 as an adoption from the USA as I said before.

I am convinced we (or Ghana) can do it. But how do we begin? Do we have the right Leadership? Should it be left to leadership. What partnerships are we building? Which groups make up the partnerships? What are the stakes in these partnerships? Could the partnerships advance the public good but also be winners.

The suggestion will be my token remedy to a mammoth handicap Ghana faces, call it a "malignant disease" that needs careful but a slow therapy. You may call it an experiment but should have a "control." I once remember what a Dad (father)told his son, to "hasten slowly."

This is as good for the individual, just as for our nation, because the whole "phenomenon of reform or change must be driven by human behavior and local circumstances. It is a long and difficult process that requires public servants to change, fundamentally, the way they regard their jobs, their mission and their interaction with citizens."

As such I consider that if we start doing things together (unison) as one people, like a brief physical activity. A kind of "Radio Taiso/Minna no Taiso" (radio exercises) regularly a work places, as practised in Japan (which might takes just five to six minutes at a time, say in the morning) we, as nation could be on our way to the peak of the mountain.

Whereas in Ghana today, in some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), public service workers engage themselves in (used to) morning prayers in offices (at work place) during office hours just before the start of work. They sometimes in the process even become rather noisy, also in the process may be disturbing the peace.

Many Ghanaians are able to replicate what occurred over 2000 years ago, by doing what they regard as speaking in "tongues" when praying. Obviously, they are the blessed. My worry is what happens immediately after that, do we care about our clients and customers in order to deliver services properly?

Prayer I believe is a good thing but not when your prayer disturbs the peace in their immediate environs and those of others. Besides the if I correctly recall, the Bible is against (or rebukes) showing off with prayers or "making everyone see, feel and think we are praying.

In the third book of the synoptic gospels somewhere in St Luke's, it was stated clearly. I wish to paraphrase it this way if I am allowed to I will say that it is never the wish of God for people to be boastful in prayer.

It also mentioned or exposed how some "person," a Pharisee prayed loud and ridiculed a near by tax collector, hoping to gain advantage in the face of God. This behaviour or what you may call attitude, did not go well with Jesus I believe.

I must say (or admit), although I might need assistance on the real story please. As I remember the advise was "he that humbles himself will be exalted" and so on. It is not as if one can just pray in public and in the office with everyone for the sake of it.

Then immediately after that I am free to treat a client, customer, patient, a buyer etc., any how, the way I like, as we tend to see in Ghana. I will prefer people pray at home, in their church or in a rather peaceful secluded (not in the public's eye) place, and exercise at the work place. This probably will make us a better people, honest, disciplined and fit for work of the day.

These days we can also call a pastor on a radio programme to pray on my behalf or together. Thereafter what do we do? Sooner or later in secrecy or secretly we bully clients, customers and even staff at different levels.

The answer is for each one of us to soul search, diligently but privately and judge from experience. This is where true leadership comes into play. It is not until and when we do away with the "H" (how) factor and certain number of "Ws" factors; like the who you are, what are you, and whom you know that we might begin to make a headway into efficient public service delivery.

Senior management tend to maltreat junior workers, colleagues etc., junior staff on the other hand design retaliatory schemes of inertia, nonobservance. Everyone seem to work in an unfair manner and in the process overall performance grounds to a halt and breeds apathy .

I do recall in Kotobabi, Accra during my Middle School KB '1' (Great Kotosko) days. I remember those days with nostalgia. There was a trucking company just across the street from KB '3' School, that had the words "honesty is the best policy" on all its 'articulated' hauling trucks.

Shouldn't this policy be good for especially for the Ghana Public Sector workers in service delivery, even the private sector and as it were all Ghanaians to follow or make efforts to abide by in their dealings with each other?

We should by now be asking ourselves, "what do we make of a country that you could easily be 'profiled' just for being honest." How come people who do the direct opposite are most of the time those we see to be riding high in society?

I will leave it as an open proposal, to the minister for public sector reform (PSR), his "lieutenants," consultants and civil society to discuss and consider the acceptability and subsequent adoption of some form of exercises in the morning for all workers.

The participation is essentially voluntary and should be spontaneous for the MDAs and the time of the day to exercise could remain be flexible. In Japan some institutions do it in the afternoons. Another interesting outcome of this proposal is evident in two separate experiences I had in Japan.

All foreigners (often called 'aliens') in the city I lived in were invited to a Lions Club meeting and another time to a Rotary Club Christmas party and surprisingly even in our suits, they had invited someone to lead in a "Radio Taiso" before the toasting with drinks.

This is just to remind all and to portray consciousness of Japanese are towards what they believe to be in the name of good health, cooperation and development. As in the case of Japan, at the office before the day's work begins, they do the " "Radio Taiso." By that we will not just be first and foremost bettering our own health but possibly working towards a national good.

A US organisation has launched a programme known as "Get Active America!" In the hope of, or with the aim of helping fight inactivity and rising healthcare costs. As we are aware America had also been a nation of "junk foods" (the french fries or 'chips,' greasy food, hamburgers, sodas or 'minerals,' etc.,) for a long time.

There is also the presidents council on physical activity and sports. It is a call known as "the President's Challenge;" a program that encourages all Americans to make being active part of their everyday lives.

My advise is that before it starts, the experts will have to design a set of very useful exercises in the contest of the age groups and culturally sensitive physical activity. Which should be spearheaded by the Sports University at Winneba and distributed to the schools (40 minutes 3 days a week) and institutions (maximum 6 minutes daily).

It could begin with parliamentarians if they so think it?fs a noble idea, to be followed up with the cabinet. A part time physical activity trainer could be made in charge of the exercises.

I believe a lot of the "mudslinging" (limited to pre-election or campaign period in some countries) at all walks of life in society will slowly die away. We would have searched our soul, turned a new leaf and begun to value the very little things as a people.

This clarion call could not have come at a better time than now, as Ghana prepares to go for the FIFA World Cup in 2006.

In conclusion if the above is done there will be a sense of togetherness. Something worthy of looking up to and a sense of good health, for going to work and working hard in unison towards the greater goal of development.

I hope readers will bear with me on this line of approach to reform, which in reality may seem paradoxical and dreamlike in the first instance. The process could be fast tracked but should then pass through an envisioning process before reaching the scientific phase to cause a real social redesign and change.

I am also convinced that, although complex, public sector reform in Ghana must be simple, even superficial, to be broadly accepted. Peoples fitness will mean departmental fitness able to cope with the values of the code of ethics in he delivery of services to the public (customers and clients).

[Please read a brief, Public Sector Reform (PSR): the first line of defence ...... evidence from every Ghanaian's nightmare or experience.]



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