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Opinions of Sunday, 23 July 2017

Columnist: Andrews Krow

The ‘faceless petitioners’ petition and our civil service

The petition submitted to the President by lawyer Maxwell Opoku-Agyeman on behalf of his faceless clients is what has dominated media discussions throughout the week.

The political actors as usual are playing their political chess game with it and the lawyers are taking us through legal lessons. My problem with the ongoing discussions is this pressure being exerted on the President to act to satisfy personal egos of some individuals and the saddest aspect is that some of these persons leading this crusade, are people who over the years have presented themselves to the public as adherents of the principle of rule of law and have constantly been seeking for interpretations upon interpretations of actions and decisions of our governments and policy makers. Before I proceed, let me respectfully share with my friends some of the happenings in our public and civil service.

The President has been in government before, he was a former Attorney General, Foreign Ministers and former MP. I can confidently say, his answer to prosecution question during his encounter with the media, was based on hardcore experience and facts and how we ignorantly sacrifice the politicians to the comfort and mercy of some corrupt civil servants. He mentioned the case of the customs officers whose criminal activities led to the state losing billions of cedis. It must tell you his understanding of the issue (corruption) fighting corruption is not about aggression and show of revolutionary zeal on our social media platforms.

The fundamental problem, which any proper review of the civil service ought to have tackled, are its relationship with Parliament, with the public and with the organised interest groups which constitute so much of what the civil service must regard as public opinion. The civil service from the days of our colonial masters has operated without upheavals. Recently however, there has been some criticisms and some arguments about its structure in addition to the more standing discussion of how their heads dominate their departments and misappropriate state funds through over budgeting etc.

Look, the system adopted by most of these civil servants is a concept called “the old order" political appointees and new executives appointed to these state agencies and departments either succumb to this "old order" principle, or say goodbye to their new offices. That is the reality but because of the partisan environment we live, and effect of tagging a political opponent with corruption, we ignore the main perpetrators of the canker and place all the cameras on the politicians.

A new director of one of our state agencies was presented with a deal by his accountant the second day in office and the deal involved 145,000 GHC which the dying state agency was to pay from its coffers. The new manager after doing his own checks, did not approve of the deal. This singular action generated serious tension between him (self) and the gang of thieves. He started receiving threats on his phone etc. and they confidently told him they will do everything possible to get him out.

To the surprise of the new boss, the accountant and his gang, used another outlet to get the money (145,000GHC) cleared from the agency's account. He instituted a full scale investigation into the matter, and sadly, the anniversary brochure issue saved these thieves. The new boss resigned voluntarily because of the issue mentioned above. Another case was when a chief executive presented a latest Benz car to his boss as his birthday gift and lied it was bought by his son for the minister. The minister rejected the offer and reported the man to security agencies for surveillance to be placed on him.

Mallam Issah was warned by the civil servants at the FA to relax his aggression or suffer serious consequences he downplayed the threat, and we all saw what happened to him. How many of our ministers try to instill discipline at their work places have survived. This and other issues are what we must dispassionately look at instead of narrowing our thoughts and discussions because of our hidden partisan inclinations.

Because this partisan posture we take on corruption issues, the civil service seems too isolated, complacent and insulated from outside pressure. I am not going to put here formidable catalogue of sins but I can say without fear of contradiction that many of these sinful practices are becoming generally accepted and undermining government operations seriously. I will respectfully recommend report of the Fulton Committee's proposal to those calling for the head of the EC boss.

Women heads suffer these brutalities but get vindicated finally. One person whose case I always use when discussion discussing women administrators is one Mrs Asibey a former headmistress of Aburi Girls Secondary School a true disciplinarian who carried out her actions without looking at her back. I remember how this woman courageously stood her grounds over her decision not accept a daughter of Gen Akuffo to Abugiss because of her grade and did same to BB Bismarck.

Read the full petition and do your own sincere assessment of the claims presented to the President and ask yourself, what triggered this sudden tension and antagonism, why the gang up and why now. I am happy parliament has taken over part of the issue. I don't think we must base out individual judgements based on hearsay and the partisan punches in the past. Let's scrutinize the issues, looking at all the dynamics including power play at the place and individuals personal interest. We vehemently condemn corruption and pretend fighting it but we rather end up giving oxygen to the real perpetrators. We narrow our lenses, and enter into the so called corruption fight with our deeply coloured partisan hats on our heads.

I will never and never condone corruption, any attempt to support or defend obvious corruption makes you an accomplice and you will suffer the same punishment spiritually or physically as the main perpetrators. Corruption is evil and must be fought with all the force it deserve. That notwithstanding, let's thread carefully when discussing the menace, let's veer off this attitude of putting everybody into the corruption basket for political convenience it is dangerous, and can destroy our democracy. I have worked closely with some former appointees, I cannot readily vouch for all of them but beloved, the little I saw of the one I worked closely with, gives me hope that we still have well cultured and decent characters in the system.

The other issue is how these civil servants mislead our politicians to act hastily and recklessly. Most of the contracts and loans our governments contract are proposed, introduced and initiated by these civil servants in collaboration with their friends. This is the reason why I wrote a piece demanding for the full details of the China loan and I know soon, my friends will bring me my stone.

Charlotte Osei is not an Angel and I am not sure anybody will equate her to an Angel because of her morphological beauty. But we must massage our emotions and purge ourselves of perceived notions and bury all ulterior motives and begin looking at the issues dispassionately.