19.05.2008 Feature Article

Public Service vs. Politics: Should Isaac Osei & Emmanuel Agyarko resign now?

Public Service vs. Politics: Should Isaac Osei  Emmanuel Agyarko resign now?
19.05.2008 LISTEN

The thin blurry line between political activities and official duties is bound to resurface again in this season of politics. It is agreed that politicians are the agents of development in our nation; it is also clear that the only way to gain the political mantle of leadership is to campaign. What is not clear however are the benefits that accrue to the nation when a public servant decides to use the resources of the nation in his/her pursuit of political power?

Though the constitution debars certain public service officials such as those in the security service and civil servants from engaging in politics, it is quite mute on the position of public servants, like the CEO of some state institutions.

Though theirs is not the first case in point, it is interesting that the Heads of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Isaac Osei and the Food and Drugs Board Emmanuel Agyarko who have been elected parliamentary candidates for their respective areas are still at post. They are not alone, there are others including an Engineer at the Ministry of Transportation (a civil servant). Can we not talk about the loss of man hours to the state anytime these people embark on their campaigns?

They have been campaigning already and all that have been to the disadvantage of their work. Or as was stated by the then CEO of Korle Bu, they are good managers and have things well laid out, and also make time to work to take care of lost man hours. If that is the case however, it will suggest that places can function without them.

The FDB's Emmanuel Agyarko told the dailyEXPRESS that he has no plans of resigning making reference to the constitution, which he says does not require him to do that. According to him, he'll not be the first person, making reference to year 2000 to defend his stay in office, politicisation of the FDB top management and subtle use of the FDB's resources during his campaign.

Mr. Agyarko in an answer to another question explained that he will take a leave from work later in the year to concentrate on the campaign, giving him an opportunity to return should he lose the seat.

The constitutional ambiguity on the issue has provided a safe haven for such heads of institutions who hatch political ambitions to embark on political campaigns while riding their official vehicles and use other national resources including the nation's productive time. This would not have been a problem had it not been the fact that anytime there is this deliberate act of abuse of office, it is the ordinary taxpayer whose meager resources are wasted.

Unless it can be proven that the affected personalities drive their own private cars with fuel bought from their private funds to travel to the constituency every weekend and also that their activities do not lead to absence from work and affect productivity.

Shedding his thoughts on the issue, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), Kwesi Jonah said the silence of the constitution on whether public servants should resign before embarking on any political drive or otherwise is the root course of the problem. Because of this, he added, public servants intentionally hide behind going on official duties to do their political campaigns.

Though he admits the helplessness of the situation, he contends that political parties should come together to agree on an acceptable framework that will see public servants resigning their positions before going into politics in order to save the taxpayer the worry of seeing his/her taxes being used for the personal gains of some individuals.

There are those who have argued that until nominations are opened by the Electoral Commission, they are not yet candidates, but the truth is that all the affected persons are already actively campaigning.

Should it be agreed that once the civil/ public servant decides to enter politics, he resigns his position? Because there is also the central issue of the perception of politicisation of purely technical or professional decisions only because the unfortunate recipient of the decision would infer and make reference to the Head or Chief Director's political leaning.
For example, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Health Lepowura Nurudeen Jawula whose name has been mentioned as a likely presidential running mate must probably resign. That way, his decisions or utterances as the chief civil servant at the Health Ministry would not be unnecessarily politicised.