06.08.2003 Feature Article

Government and Governance - Where lies our Limbo?

Government and Governance - Where lies our Limbo?
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One thing seems to have characterised the present Mr. Kufour’s administration in Ghana. That is, the government’s ability to see what appears good for the majority of Ghanaians. Seeing is in fact a good omen to comprehend and catalyses the building of effective mechanisms for success. However, whatever strategy the government is adapting to tackle the both macro and micro targets have been conveyed wrongly to the mass. Most policies adopted for now and the position of the government works on secular setting of the cabinet only as decisions geared towards the accomplishment of the wider fiscal goals have been framed with the ignorance of those who should carry out the policies. In the setting of the government, one thing clearly defined is the attempt if intentional though is the creation of many presidential offices under the office of the president. In addition to those offices are many positions which carry the tag ‘presidential initiative’. This posture is the top hierarchy indicates two angles of reasoning. Firstly, the government’s eagerness to solve (or better, address) the economic and social problems of Ghana. Secondly and most importantly, the heavy centralisation of the top hierarchy which not only exclude majority of Ghanaians from taking active part in decision making but it also ensures that government’s expenditure to members making up the top hierarchy blows up and affect national budget greatly. One has to again reconsider that even the top hierarchy be more proactive and diligent in its work to get results, the passive nature of the lower hierarchy or Ghanaians will not help to the attainment of the set goals. The situation as painted here creates a vacuum between policy planners and implementers at one side, centralisation of fiscal plans at the top and the passivity of Ghanaians towards national goals is another. In such a case, it is very difficult to achieve whatever targets laid out in national plans, and for which the assessment of accountability is difficult based on four reasons. Firstly, who should take the blame of poor results of targets – the planners or the passive implementers in the lower line of the civil service? Two; How can the effectiveness of the plans or it accomplishment be measured? Thirdly, will the measurement of national plans be carried out by independent body or by the government itself through an in-built systematic procedure? Fourthly, how will the regulation policies be carried out? As reported at Ghanaweb, on 17th July 2003, the President has inaugurated an Accountability Office to be chaired by Mrs. Florence A. Sai, an expert in consumer economics and public policy. This attempt in really in line considering the urgent desperation of the Ghanaian populace who are yearning for fair market practices and control mechanisms to streamline or regulate the business field. What appears and ever the commencement of Ghana’s democratic dispensation has been a superimposition of democracy on a ‘rotten system’. The consistent interruption rules of the military regimes in democratic governments at some points in our history have helped to create ‘a state in tango’. By their ability to wonderfully ransack the state of its linen fabric of governance, crafted excess pandemonium and a greater urgency to the Ghanaian course – the desperation to change fortunes from worse to excellence. Throughout the period of democratic governance like that of Prime Minister K. A Busia, and Dr. Hilla Limann failed to drive the country on the determination of good governance. For, their governments were cemented on ‘rotten systems’, which they never took into account but were desperate to achieve results. Since the rots in the system were deep, they had a lot to do in levelling the laws, which will go to support good governance. Dr. Busia’s government was one fine example which paint clearly how his government has to juxtapose eminent results and changing the system at the same time. Within such dichotomy, his government promulgated a number of laws to change the system and to serve as a catalyse in the quest of development. Years passed and so between 1981-1991 when Mr. Rawlings took over power in another military government a lot of laws were overrun and people’s participation of government was indeed minimal until 1992 when the country yet again made a leap-jump towards another democratic governance. Since Mr. Rawlings’ became president the transition from former military rule to democracy was not a headache as the country kept swimming in the same pool of laws under the military rule with little semblance to democracies as exist elsewhere. All this while, Ghana has failed to come clean on what has to be done. A clear distinction of government and governance is less visible. It has taken the central government machinery to frame the laws and implement the same laws. One sees this desperate situation the present government as the President, Mr Kufour, has created many ‘presidential initiative projects’ under his office to yet again prove his determination to provide results and change the system. Since it will be hard to change the system, in a short period considering the wanton challenge stirring the face of the President and his government, the solution has been to ‘by-pass’ it and creates mini-cabinets under him. Within such process the magic to transform the country’s warranting speed to poverty may be rescued to sound economic footing without dealing with the ‘rotten system’. The pre-election promises and the desire to win the next election have forced the government to fantastically end up in the same coat of the previous government. Active presidents and government, passive implementers and majority Ghanaians obeying as the ‘top says’. Heretofore, the problem facing the country is the inability of governments to perform. Not perhaps they do not have noble ideas but a clear distinction between government and governance has eluded one democratic government to another. A spectacle that has created and harnessed corruption, greed, debts (due to borrowing – as the government solely plans, implement and evaluate at the same time) rather than building efficiency, effectiveness and responsibility towards development. One appearing achieve opening to Ghanaians is that they in passivity are entitled to keep changing governments who fail to achieve results and not to reform the system – the bureaucracy, the way of doing things, having government become part of governance. We do the right thing painting the huge buildings of the ministries but not the people working within them. We keep asking people to support the laws and the efforts of the government without telling them what the laws are. We keep asking them to appreciate the efforts of the government but we fail to tell them the substance of measuring performance. Government’s recurrent expenditure has always led to controversy. The ruling governments as often and unwillingly pointed to the huge government expenditure as salaries paid to civil servants and financing education. This being true to some extent, one has to view what constitute the civil service. Admittedly, the civil service of Ghana is a strong camouflage of expensive caricature. The huge buildings of the ministries in Ghana tell a lot of its venomous existence to state coffers. Lack of policy framework and direction of operation have led to free for all activities in the Ministries. One finds some of the workers at early hours busy analysing ‘lotto plans’, impending or aftermath funeral celebrations, marriage and family issues and yes the good ones who have to keep praying for another blessing. Since the civil service cannot perform, the government has to find a way of making things work and so rightly done is the attempt by the president in creating many initiatives at his office to walk round the big and troublesome civil service while increasing recurrent expenditure. Adding to the problem being painted here is the failure on the part of succeeding governments to enact laws to regulate activities. They have rather concentrated on implementing the laws of the past. That is to say according to Savas, ‘rowing’ rather than ‘steering’ affairs of the state. For government to be up and doing Osborne and Gaebler called for ‘reinventing’ governments to be productive rather than being a spending machine. But in many 3rd World countries like Ghana, governments have been spending more than helping to create sustainable governance. A sustenable governance where institutions of the state are brought together to partake in policy discourse and program implementation. Sadly but reasonably true is that our governments have today become what one poet likes to name the great ‘Ozymandias’ on our necks. An urgent need for effective dialogue in political discourse is to draw symmetry through government and governance. Government would have to be efficient, effective and responsible. It has to make policies on politics and the economy and help regulate the market and civil society activities whiles protecting national assets and helping small competitors. In this motive the government act as referee and facilitator, encouraging dialogue and pulling stakes for civil community and the people to engage in competitive ventures. Certainly, it will not be the function of the government to ‘steer’ and ‘row’ the country at the same time. Choosing steering means regulating the playing field for both private and public sector businesses and corporations to engage freely in brisk trade. IMF and Word Bank moves to advise governments and encouraging them to privatise state enterprises come from the angle that government needs to act as a referee, steering and encouraging and not rowing. When government assumes both it fails and when it takes rowing, it fails rather miserably. But in Ghana, the government is actively involved in steering and rowing. Implementing guideline for governance means to encourage stakeholders in the management of the state to be more productive. In Australia, the Local Governments compete effectively with private sectors in providing services to its citizens. With such competition, local units do not only help in governing local areas but they become more productive. The local government units in Ghana are capable of competing with private sector as well. However, when such local units receive started receiving some percentage of tax to help in development areas within their domain, no one district in Ghana has engaged in any productive venture to yield income but they keep spending. What has been the feature is to build assembly halls for local celebrations. Will it not be productive for example, to have districts of Western region invest in farming (e.g. cocoa purchases). Or for such districts to put up a splendid Chocolate firm in the region to give employment to the people and be assured of continuous income and more, as long as cocoa continues to be a major crop in Ghana? The government should redirect its focus and challenge local units and districts to be active, resourceful, innovative and competitive. They should NOT be scolded for not misusing all the budget allocation for the previous year. They should not be punished for receiving less budget allocation for the following year in the reason that they could not utilised what they received in the past year. They should be harassed to keep spending. Rather, they should be advised to be productive. To say government and governance are two different things is on the normative assumption that government control, directs, regulates, and monitors the state and its goals - steering. Governance is to encourage, integrate, compete, innovate and employing all institutions in a country for growth and development - rowing. I welcome criticism and comments. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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