Sandwiched between my two noisiest periods of public service (VRA & GHANA@50), I served as the Special Adviser for BUDGET IMPLEMENTATION for the late Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu from 2004 -2007. I established a special purpose vehicle called BIST (Budget Implementation Support Team) to assist with the preparation of the Annual & Supplementary Budgets, but more importantly to oversee the implementation of the POLICY MEASURES components of the Budget.
Anyone who has read any of our Budget statements since the start of the 4th Republic, and even before that, will know that the Chapter on POLICY INITIATIVES is immediately followed by one on IMPLEMENTATION CHALLENGES; to wit “ This is what we would like to do, but these are the excuses why we cannot do it”. The goal of BIST was to do away with the EXCUSES and by and large this was achieved, but not without a lot of sweat and angst.
For the first time in the 4th Republic, the full Annual Budget for 2006 was laid before Parliament at the prescribed time, on 10 November 2005. Its thematic title “Investing in Jobs, Investing in People”, was filched by the NDC for its 2008 Manifesto. And for the first time, every single one of the POLICY INITITIATIVES was implemented. Included in these were 1) the genesis for GYEEDA; NREST ( the vehicle to expand the tax revenue base); FUEL MANAGEMENT MEASURES; MARGIN OF PREFERENCE rules for Ghanaian suppliers and many more that somehow resurfaced in the 2013 Budget as new initiatives.
The trick to getting things down was the same as I had used everywhere else in my service to Ghana. BIST became a weekly encounter with those charged with the implementation of the Policy measures. From Ministers to Chief Directors, from Chief Executives to Contractors, anyone who had anything to do with getting things done was summoned to Tarzan’s version of the “Sole Commissioner platform to demonstrate what ACTIONS were being taken to make the PLANS happen.
A few who had the temerity to suggest that they put things down in the Budget but did not really expect them to be done, were given very short shrift and severe “lashings’ from my acerbic tongue. I told them in no uncertain terms the opprobrium for failure of policy was and would always be heaped onto the heads of the politician and not the civil servant, so I was not going to take the voters’ knocks for their inactions.
The Buck for getting things done stops with those in political office and the sooner those who get our mandate understand it the better. Or in the refrain of now, “If they cannot stand the heat, they must get out of the kitchen or vamoose abroad if they can get a biometric passport done it time. (Many teachers, nurses and other public servants are unpaid because they are not biometrically registered still).
I was brought to Ghana by Ato Ahwoi and Theresa Owusu in February 1988. The mission was to prevent the early death of the National Energy Board (NEB). After writing out the prescription and disappearing with my green bucks as all good consultants do, my clients called me back and boomed frontally and loudly: “ Who do you think is supposed to come and implement all that you have suggested. If we had the competence, we would not have brought you in the first place”. My protestations were brushed aside and I returned to Ghana with a self-created grandiose title of ENERGY POLICY ADVISER.
I superintended the preparation of ENERGY & GHANA’S SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, domesticating PNDC Law 63 instead of following Donor prescriptions. I then divided the law into 75 distinct projects, each with its goal, objective, activities, outputs and expected benefits to which class of every Ghanaian living everywhere. Each project had its own manager who was charged with the responsibility for delivering what we set out.
For each and every week of the year, the professional staff of the NEB had to write and deliver a weekly report to reach my office by 0700 hours on Monday morning. I marked each report with my red pen and followed this up with twice weekly “Professional Contact Time” surgeries at which I held ONE ON ONE discussions with individual managers. All of this was topped up by monthly, quarterly, half-yearly and annual peer review sessions to learn from and encourage each other.
Did it work? Ask Dr Oteng Agyei(Minister), Dr Ofosu-Ahenkora,(Energy Commission) James Owusu-Bonsu, John Dekyem Attafuah ( NPA), Dr. Rose Mensah-Kutin (Abantu); Omane-Frimpong ( WILKINS); Michael Opam, Dan Amoah, Dr. Essandoh, Wisdom, Sekor and the many others my word limitation will not permit me to acknowledge, who “suffered’ under my tutelage and are now making real and substantial contributions to Ghana’s development.
The greater and more satisfying accomplishment in terms of productivity enhancements was turning six messengers who had hitherto spent most of their publicly-paid jobs shopping at Makola for the NEB ladies into useful and skilled professionals. I wonder where Paul Tagoe, Godfried Arthur, Atta-Badu, Opare and the 2 others are doing with themselves now?
Unfortunately as is our want in Ghana, instead of praising the work of the NEB, which led to the National Electrification Programme, the LPG programme, the Lube Oil Plant, BOST, the Expansion of the TOR, Improved cook stoves, etc. some smart guy decided that they were overpaid and needed to be brought down a peg or two to the same levels as the rest of the public service which had accomplished ZILCH.
Onto VRA and gosh what a shock to discover that the most vaunted and revered institution in Ghana was quite simply the most deserving candidate for carve up by the NON PERFORMING ASSET. When I, the Chief Executive was asked to sign the leave approval letter of a junior messenger, I simply flipped and ranted as to what all the many Directors did with their time to earn the best salaries in Ghana’s public service.
My answer was DEVOLUTION & DECENTRALISATION, the creation of cost-centres managed by each Director with full responsibility for everything under their supervision. This time round, weekly reports were confined to Directors and peer reviews to quarterly sessions at Akuse. (Age had reduced energy levels).
Well the rest is history. The workers leaders renamed my D & D as DEMOLITON & DESTRUCTION. They lured the workers into a bogus agitation about something they little understood (SRP) which panicked the Gentle Giant into offering me sweeteners to exit; promises that he has failed to honour to date. As for the measures I put down, Awotwi (twice) and all in between have retained them, including ABU, who Nana Yaw recommended to me and has driven every CEO to date. EVERYTHING CHANGES AND EVERYTHING REMAINS THE SAME INDEED.
Guess what? The last time I was at VRA, and in the presence of President John Mahama, I received a standing ovation from the staff at the 50th anniversary durbar. When I inquired, the reply all the staff are nostalgic for your tenure because nothing has happened to improve their lot since you left. Hmmm, “Ce la vie”
So it is possible to square the circle of paying public servants well and also insisting that they deliver work commensurate with the gargantuan pay. That is the challenge for President Mahama and his government. If he decides to make real his promise of “BRINGING ALL HANDS ON DECK”, he might be surprised to find that the answers are and have blowing in the Ghanaian winds all of these 22 years of the 4th Republic of Ghana.
At VRA, the favoured response to whenever you asked of when things would be done was “As soon as possible”. I banned this term and deducted fines directly from the pay packet of recalcitrant users. Every action had to have a specific delivery date. No wonder I got chucked out. But guess who had the last laff.
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- Abolish Section 27 of CAP 127 which makes Islamic marriages invalid – Dwomoh
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- Akufo-Addo’s silence on corruption in SONA was as loud as his guilt – Asiedu Nketia
- Economic crisis: Ghanaians want relief not flimsy excuses – Asiedu Nketiah tells Akufo-Addo
- Reduce all ex-gratia payments to one-third – CAC Ghana Chairman
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