.... Government Disagrees The government and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) yesterday clashed over accusations that the public sector reforms project had failed and drained Ghana of $120 million.
At a forum for African regional executives of organised labour in Accra, the Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, Mr Kofi Asamoah, made the accusation and described the reforms project as a doomed one that had only rewarded consultants with $120 million of taxpayers' money.
The accusation, however, attracted a swift reaction from the Minister for Manpower Development, Youth and Employment, Mr Kofi Adda, who affirmed that the reforms remained paramount in the efforts by the government to eradicate poverty and disease, build an inclusive society, as well as help all people to attain their goals.
He said the government, in its quest to have a more efficient public sector, had created a ministry for that purpose and appointed a substantive minister, since 2005, to work towards improving productivity, among others.
Mr Asamoah, in his criticism of the programme, said, “Not only have the reforms failed to achieve the desired objective of increased efficiency in the public sector but equally important they have cost Ghana US$120 million of taxpayers' money.
Thus the only beneficiaries of the numerous reforms have been the consultants who are paid huge sums of money to offer recommendations that remain on the shelves.”
The TUC's other criticism of the policy was that the 2006 Budget Statement had presented nothing new except the usual promises “to attract and retain professionals in the public sector”.
“Among the measures being taken is the provision of incentives in the form of high salaries for a few public servants at the top.
In the next three years all transport and housing-related allowances for senior public servants will be monetised and consolidated as a means of enhancing the salaries of some public servants under a so-called Selected Accelerated Salary Enhancement (SASE) scheme,” the deputy general secretary said.
He said the reforms posed a great challenge to public sector unions because their members seemed automatically excluded from the scheme, adding that that was happening at a time when majority of public sector workers earned below $2 for eight hours' work.
“The implication is that if we allow such discriminatory reforms to go ahead, the already high inequalities in incomes in the public sector will worsen,” he added.
Mr Asamoah said the unions could only have the strength to fight the injustices inherent in the decisions and policies of the public sector that affected their members if they built capacity to analyse, engage public authorities and mobilise members.
“We should always remember that governments and our employers have all the resources at their disposal and are able to hire consultants and so-called experts to provide the necessary support for implementers of these reforms.
We do not have the resources to do all that. We, therefore, have to rely on our capacity to mobilise our members to resist the aspects of reforms that are unfair,” he said.
While disagreeing with the TUC's position on the issue, Mr Adda said the government, in its quest to improve the quality of life of the people, would consider the pay and pensions policy, establish a more professional cadre and a policy framework for recruiting, developing and utilising human resource in the public sector, as well as review the organisation and structure of the Civil Service.
He said it was in that regard that the government appointed a Presidential Commission on Pensions which had already submitted its report to help implement a better retirement system for public sector workers.
Highlighting some of the government's achievements, Mr Adda explained that earnings from debt cancellations had been invested in health, agriculture, roads and transport, education, among others.
He cited the increase in enrolment in basic schools, as a result of the introduction of the Capitation Grant and the school feeding programme, adding those were some of the issues being addressed by the government.
He said the government had also chalked successes in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), particularly in the northern regions, and said a lot of health institutions were being constructed in all parts of the country.
On the payment of salaries, Mr Adda explained that the government had an estimated annual budget of ¢39 trillion, of which ¢10 trillion went into salaries, with a total revenue at ¢26 trillion and asked whether all revenue generated should be spent on the payment of salaries.
“These are the difficulties we have to grapple with. We need to improve our income but we have to strike a balance and prioritise,” he said.
He gave assurance of government's commitment to social dialogue as a form of improving the economic and social well-being of the people.
The General Secretary of the Teachers and Educational Workers Union (TEWU) of the TUC, Mr Dan Ayim Antwi, in a message, described the theme as appropriate and timely, since the present unfair world economic order continued to erode the gains of most trade unions in developing countries.
He, therefore, called on public sector unions and their global unions to intensify their efforts at uniting the labour movement and work harder to strengthen international solidarity by providing services and assistance to member organisations.