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16.06.2005 Politics

PROs in MDAs urged to avoid partisan tendencies


Accra, June 16, GNA - Mr Mark Woyongo, Deputy Director in-charge of Administration and Finance at the Information Services Department, has urged Public Relations Officers (PROs) in the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to work closely with a their Chief Directors and Ministers and avoid partisan tendencies. He said government put a high premium on information flow to the people for good governance and high productivity and that was why so much was being spent on the training of PROs in MDAs.

A statement from the Information Services Department said Mr Woyongo made those observations in the opening address of a day's seminar attended by some 30 PROs on Comparative Public Relations at the Office of the Head of Civil Service in Accra. The seminar was the first of its kind to be organised by the MDAs Chapter of the Institute of Public Relations, with the support of the Information Services Department, for its members to acquaint themselves with global trends of public relations in government.

Mr Woyongo, who represented the Acting Director of Information Services Department, Mr D.A. Kwapong, stated that at present, the Ministry of Information was discussing with officials of the World Bank possible assistance in the training of PROs to equip them sufficiently to perform their crucial function as bridge between the government and public. He said to be able to play this role with greater efficiency and professionalism and to be more useful to the public and government, PROs should always avail themselves of training programmes.

Mr Woyongo added that the Information, Communication and Technology Section of the Ministry of Information, which manages the Government of Ghana official website, was now well equipped and some personnel had benefited from external courses in India, Malaysia and Singapore. Mr Woyongo also said measures had been put in place to sensitise Ministers and Chief Directors on how best to maximize the use of PROs to get information about government policies and programmes to media houses and to the general public. The resource person, Miss Susan Parker Burns, Director of Information at the United States Embassy, who spoke on the topic, "Structure, Function and Importance of Public Relations in the American government", said the nature, function and importance of public relations in a government were closely related to that country's historical and political background.

Thus, whereas one may find openness and mutual trust between public affairs officers as government spokespersons and their political heads in the US government, for instance, the relation between the two may be characterised by mistrust and suspicion in other countries. She said in the US government, for instance, public affairs officers might directly address journalists without official clearance from the top, whereas in other countries, such clearance was required before official releases were made available to the media. The essential thing for the public relations officer was to present the truth to the public at all times.

Quoting Mike McCurry, former press secretary under Bill Clinton, she said: "Governments have so much information that they need an effective way to distribute it to their citizens, and that's where the government spokespersons come in. The spokesperson is like a reporter working inside the government, collecting information for the public; it is the spokesperson's role to get as much information to the public as possible." She, however, cautioned that public relations officers and public officials should be wary about rushing to answer any call from the press in the office, at home or elsewhere, when such an official did not have the available information ready. 16 June 05