I had a programme to attend at the Ministry of Works and Housing sometime a few days ago. Knowing where I live and considering that I did not want to be late, I set off early arriving at the Ministry by 7.00am. Sitting in my vehicle, I made a lot of observations that mimics the sad spectacle that sectors of our country finds itself.
To begin with, I noticed that staff of the ministries do report to work really late. Even for those who have benefitted from GV-registered state vehicles to commute, only a handful had checked in by 8.50am. Even though they had arrived so late, nothing about their demeanour showed that they were concerned about that. They either engaged others in casual chats at the car park or went looking for breakfast to buy. Indeed only a few actually moved into the building directly.
Being a Friday, almost everyone of the staff members showed up smartly dressed in one kind of Ghanaian apparel or the other – smock, caftan, slit and kaba, neatly-sewn shirts in local Ghanaian fabric, etc. I was impressed with something I believe is commendable and ought to be encouraged.
I also noticed that the Ministry of Works and Housing shared the same enclave with the Ministry of Railways Development as well as the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources. Interestingly, while the Railways Ministry building looked appreciably nice and welcoming, that of the Works and Housing Ministry ironically looked awful. Admittedly though, the building was undergoing some refurbishment but for a ministry whose primary concern is the development and maintenance of public infrastructure to have its own offices in that state was disappointing to say the least. There are ways by which a facility under refurbishment could still be made attractive while works continue. It did not appear to me that the ongoing works was going to be completed within the fiscal year, in which case, authorities may have to find a way of managing the process.
While at this my dear friend, it was interesting noting that most of the government vehicles in use by the three ministries named were all SUVs (mainly Toyota Hilux Pick-ups and Toyota Landcruiser Prados). Watching these vehicles cruising in one after one, I kept wondering what had become of the government’s directive instructing all ministries to stick to the use of only salon vehicles with a few SUVs for travels only. As they kept driving in, I kept wondering how on earth government agencies that were struggling to enforce simple regulations such as this, were going to manage the enforcement of more difficult ones? Another spectacle I noticed was how the Ministries enclaves had over time become a heavy commercial hub. The same can be said of the ministerial enclave across the Stadium Road as well as the Ministry of Information enclave. At the time I drive in, there was just one person that had set up a make-shift shop lose to the vehicular parking bays in the enclave. Within an hour, scores of others came in, swept their ‘allocated’ spaces and moved into a section of the ministry building to bring out their wares, which they displayed.
My dear friend, I remember how under the watch of Dr. Papa Kwasi Nduom as Minister for Public Sector Reform under President John Kufuor, he worked tirelessly to rid the ministerial enclave of all commercial activities. For instance, all the make-shift sellers, shoe repairers, car washers, currency converters, watch repairers, barbering shops, copy centres and commissioners of oaths were all dislodged. Attempts were made to provide decent shops and eateries within the enclave to take care of staff. Security was brought in to ensure that commercial vehicles could not use the enclave as thoroughfare while private vehicles moving in and out were guided as to where to park, etc. Next was improvement in the work ethic of the civil and public servants in the Ministries.
Efforts were made to ensure that the various office buildings of the Ministries were given appreciable facelift. Staff who dealt with the public were taken through training programmes, all to ensure that they operated as 21st Century public servants. There was even an attempt to install access control devices to control punctuality as well as how much time staff spent at work. Indeed, the dividend began to show off and the Ministerial enclave became extremely conducive for the efficient administration of the state machinery. Staff generally reported to work on time and stayed at work. The next stage of the reform programme, I remember, was to rationalise the salaries to ensure that staff were duly renumerated. With that came the steps towards the introduction of the Single Spine Salary Structure.
Alas, my dear friend, this was not to last. Once the tenure of the government ended, the new and succeeding governments threw the Public Sector Reform agenda through the window. Over time, the once orderly enclave has been allowed to return to the Pre-2002 era. Except for the small section of the Electro-Volta House, Ministry of Finance, Statistical Service sub-enclave, the entire Ministerial enclave is a mess exemplifying the chaos that our country finds itself in. How on earth can you imagine street hawkers, truck pushers undertaking their activities in the middle of the Ministerial enclave, while taxi drivers toot their horns with reckless abandon. Try driving into the enclave today and it could take you up to an hour to have a good place to park your vehicle. That’s how bad the situation is currently. I even wonder if our officials have thought of what the security implications of the chaotic situation could lead to.
The once adorable Government Service Area of the 1960s has given way to something unimaginable. I keep wondering how our foreign visitors think of us when they visit and engage our government officials operating under those conditions. It is not for nothing that companies spend huge amounts of money to keep their working environment clean, attractive for work. Beyond the image that it creates for the organization, it ensures that staff have a very congenial environment to operate in and thereby maximising efficiency and effectiveness. But it does appear that our government Ministries and Agencies simply do not care about the collateral damage that we suffer as a nation due to this.
Did we bargain for this, my dear friend? I doubt, abut that’s where we are and I just pray that someone high up there does something drastic about this.
My dear friend,