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16.02.2009 Feature Article

Voice from Afar: Do we have to call on the president to congratulate him?

Many individuals and organisations who call on the president to congratulate him mean well. But in many cases, the calls exhibit the sycophantic side of our character.

When Kwame Nkrumah was overthrown a senior minister in his cabinet confessed that most of those close to Nkrumah had become gaping sycophants. The saying became a joke. But it portrayed a negative side of our behaviour. We tend to be excessively attentive to a servile degree to authority and praise those in power in order to obtain favours.

This behaviour contributed to the overthrow of the revered Kwame Nkrumah and has been partly responsible for the shortcomings of our successive leaders. We must stop it. If we cannot we should see to it that it does not detract the President from his essential tasks.

Our Presidency is not a mere ceremonial office. Our Head of State is an executive President. Protocol and ceremonials are incidental to his work. We as a people should not therefore tire him with unnecessary demands. We should allow him to do his real work.

If we must go to the Castle to congratulate the President, the Chief of Staff or Presidential Spokesman should arrange that a Senior Protocol Officer receives delegates on behalf of the President. All the necessary works we love, like television coverage should be arranged and the delegates should heap their praises, advise and requests to their hearts desire. The President would naturally hear or learn about it but he should be spared attendance. We need him for the many outstanding tasks which the times demand.

For example, this year will not be easy as far as the economy is concerned and the President should tackle the major issues now. Already there are grumblings. Those who live with the help of remittances from their children or relations abroad are feeling the pinch.

Some children or relations abroad have lost their jobs or are facing financial difficulties. But a more serious problem which faces the country is the effect of the global financial crisis on the economy in general. We may not be affected directly by the collapse of major banks. But the downturn in the economy of Europe and America and elsewhere will affect our exports and earnings. The support for our balance of payments is likely to be reduced and the expectation from our oil finds will not be as envisaged. President Mills is saddled with a big problem and he should not be loaded with trivial protocol.

Even before the on set of the international financial crises life had been hard for many Ghanaians. Salaries and wages are inadequate and pensions are near derisory. There will be pressures for increase in emoluments which the nation can hardly afford. Those in authority should therefore set the example for moderate demands on the economy.

It is therefore unfortunate that the last Parliament appeared to have agreed to generous financial settlements for legislators and presidents. The mood against these payments is strong anti nation-wide. We should not blame the committee which made the suggestions. The proposals were made in good faith, and appear to be in line with the terms of reference and the spirit of the constitution. But implementation is politically untenable. The proposals of the last Parliament should be rejected. New financial settlements should be formulated.

Some have raised legal or constitutional issues about our inability to modify or reject the proposals. Our legal expects should for once tell us how we can do what we want to do and not why we cannot do it.

This is the time to put away what is wrong and put on the amour of fair play, truth and justice. We cannot weather the storms ahead otherwise.

Apart from the major issues the President has a lot to do and for which he requires peace and quiet. Many problems have been 'unearthed during the transition encounter. In my view there would not have been the need for such a transition encounter and recriminations if time-honoured procedures had been followed and if we had a free flow of information.

The President himself put what is required succinctly when he was reported to have said that administrative acts should be in consonance with laid-down procedures and laws. There has been a lot of ignorant comments about new procedures and the role of auditors to avoid what has been revealed about the Ghana at 50 secretariat, missing cars acquired for the presidency and other state property. If time honoured procedures had been followed, transparency could not have been so vitiated.

Successive governments have for various reasons undermined laid-down procedures. Ministers and others' with political authority have been in a hurry to get things done. They found the civil service and officialdom rather slow and apparently unresponsive to the urgent demands of the times. Procedures were brushed aside as unnecessary red tape and the civil servant who would act in accordance with the rules and regulations was often in trouble. The slide to arbitrary action and corruption has been a natural consequence of ignoring laid down procedures.

We should hasten slowly with new suggestions. We should go back to the past and find where we have gone wrong. For example any property bought with government funds was stamped or recorded as such and entered in the inventory. The auditor did not direct that this be done. His duty was to ascertain that government property was properly registered and accounted for in the books. When even a cup was broken, the handle was kept for the record and thrown away only after appropriate inspection. When I was Principal Secretary, I was also the Accounting Officer. It was my duty to see to it that procedures were followed and rules and regulations obeyed. It was the auditor's duty to check whether this had been done.

The interesting thing is that procedures need not cause delays. The conference centre, job 600 was built in one year and even when last minute purchases like a generator were made procedures were followed.

It is not easy to change our present wayward ways. President Mills needs all his leadership skills to put us on the right path. And he also has to find solutions to the problems of employment, pay, pension, education, health, housing and sanitation to name only a few of the issues which agitate the mind of the people.

He needs all the 24 hours in the day. The unnecessary calls on him should stop.

Credit: K. B. Asante

MyjoyOnline, © 2009

The author has 338 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: myjoyonline

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