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29.11.2005 Feature Article

Is it privatisation or effective management ....

Is it privatisation or effective management ....
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...that leads to increased productivity? A GNA feature by Hannah Asomaning

A public toilet was built for a district in the Brong-Ahafo Region and the Unit Committee of the District Assembly was put in charge to manage it.

At the end of the first month when the District Chief Executive (DCE) of the area visited the toilet to see how the place was being managed it was an eye sore. The stench coming from the place is better not described.

The whole place was very dirty, with human faeces scattered all over t. It looked as if the place had not been cleaned since the people began using it.

When the DCE asked how much money had been generated for the month they gave him 70,000 cedis. Meanwhile almost everybody in the village used the new water-closet toilet.

He was justifiably angry. Unfortunately he was not in the position to do anything to the Unit Committee members by way of sanctions. What would have happened if the DCE had dared to sanction the Unit Committee? He would be branded the wicked DCE. There was a time the DCE caught one of the people in charge of the toilet pocketing money, which was meant for the Government, but even the Chief of the town came pleading for the man and as culture demands he had to let go the issue.

The DCE decided to change the management of the public toilet. He dissolved the public toilet committee and introduced a private individual, Mr Omane (not the real name) who was ready for business. Mr Omane charged 500 cedis instead of the 200 cedis charged by the Unit Committee members for the use of the same facility but the place was very neat.

He also installed radio sets at the toilet and at the end of the month he generated more than one million cedis and he paid the few workers very well.

This story was told by Mr Joseph Danquah, Member of Parliament for Tain in the Brong Ahafo Region, as a contribution to a forum on Local Government and Civil Society organized by the Friedrich Nuamann Foundation, a German nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that promotes liberal democracy and human right issues.

Mr Danquah's contribution was supporting an earlier argument by Nana Ato Arthur, Deputy Central Regional Minister, that privatisation is one of the best tools to encourage citizens' participation in local governance.

Other DCE participants at the forum, who argued otherwise in reaction to the story by Mr Danquah, said members of the Unit Committee of a district assembly were not paid, so the only way they could get money was by managing such facilities where they could also get money to look after their family.

There has been a long-standing debate as to whether it is private organizations or government that contribute to the economic growth of a country.

It is argued that privatisation means downsizing workers in a particular organization, which means more work and more pay for the remaining workers. It is, however, argued that downsizing workers in an organization leads to high unemployment rate.

Other people argue that government organizations could do better and be productive if there was an effective management in place to monitor workers' activity and ensure that everybody did the right thing. Nana Arthur argued that it was not every government institution that could be privatised, mentioning an area like defence. He partly agreed that effective monitoring on the part of managers in an organization could determine the productivity level of the organization but said sometimes leaders lacked the courage to discipline employees, who faulted in the name of goodwill.

The Deputy Minister also said the Ghanaian attitude where people would employ their relations with the idea of helping friends and family also contributed to the lazy attitude of some workers, adding that if one sacked one's nephew from work for misbehaving one would be called a bad person.

Most people working in government institutions do not care whether the work goes on or not. It is common to hear people say, the work is not for my father, and so one would not do his best for the organization.

Nevertheless if the same people were working in a private businessman's organization they would be at work promptly and work seriously and sometimes even compete with colleagues to come out as the best.

Nana Arthur said privatisation was carried out mainly because of economic reasons where government could not smoothly fund the operations of an organization and admitted that it raised efficiency and consolidated public budget for wider distribution of wealth. He, however, said government might lose influence when many organizations were privatised, explaining that people were more likely to listen to orders from management instead of government. Mr Arthur said privatisation could encourage private monopolies that could result in raising prices and consequently reduce quality of service.

It is noteworthy to mention that there are some private organizations, which are not doing well because there are very lazy workers while some government organizations are doing very well because there are serious and hard working people. The big question is: Is it privatisation or effective management that leads to increased productivity? 28 Nov. 05

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