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Opinion | Jan 15, 2018

What Right Has The Minister Got To Ask Latecomers To Work To Go Home?

Joe Ghartey, Railways Development Minister
Joe Ghartey, Railways Development Minister

Many people have hailed Railways Development Minister Joe Ghartey’s decision last week to send home 14 staff who reported late to work (late. According to the report, the offending workers comprise nine permanent staff and five national service personnel and the action was to demonstrate that workers should be disciplined in the discharge of their duties.

It is very important that workers come to work early and perform their duties for the entire duration of the time they are at work. It is also important that workers should be disciplined in the discharge of their duties. But the big question is: what legal right has the minister got to send the offending workers home?

We are a country that is supposed to be governed by rules and regulations. The civil service has its own code of conduct that should discipline offending workers. In many instances, a worker who arrives to work late is given a first query if he or she has no acceptable explanation. The query is filed. After a second or third similar offence, the worker can be dismissed. Which provisions of the civil service code of conduct or even the powers given to him by the constitution of the republic can the Minister cite for his decision to send the workers home?

Even if the minister means well (and we know he does), he should still act within the confines of existing regulations. He cannot take a spur of the moment decision and mete out his own form of punishment as and when he sees fit. What the minister should have done was to see to it that the offending workers are punished according to laid down rules. He would follow this up and demand a report on the action taken to discipline the workers.

His action smacks of the kind of behaviour we see under military dictatorships. We are no longer living under a military dictatorship. Even the actions of ministers have to be guided by rules. The ministry for which he is the politically appointed head is not his private fiefdom or business. He cannot behave like a warlord. In his effort to impose discipline, he should still follow rules. Asking workers who come in late to go back home is not in the rules book and is a very arbitrary action on the part of the minister. The affected workers could have refused the order or asked the minster to give the order in writing citing the relevant sections of the civil service code that give him the right to ask them to go home. Alternatively, they can sue the minister for acting outside his powers.

This should be a reminder to all ministers that even in their efforts to impose discipline in their various ministries, they will still have to follow laid down rules and regulations and not behave like stern and mean village headmasters.

Stephen Atta Owusu, ([email protected])

Stephen Atta Owusu
Stephen Atta Owusu, © 2018

This author has authored 114 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: StephenAttaOwusu

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