THE COMPLEX ART OF RUNNING A GOVERNMENT
By CAMERON DUODU
Surely the headline above this article is a mistake?
For how can running a Government — something that’s done every day everywhere — be that “complex”?
Hmmm — people imagine that “governing” is just a matter of presiding over a well-ordered process, whereby men and women are employed by the state, assigned functions, and are paid handsomely for what they do. (A cynic might rephrase that to: ”are paid handsomely for what they DO NOT DO!”)
The truth is that in practice, there is one word missing from the simplistic definition given above. And that word is performance.
You cannot realistically legislate a definition for “performance”. You can assign duties to individuals. You can even supply them with the means of carrying out those duties (such as subordinate personnel, motor vehicles, office equipment and in some cases, “petty cash”).
But how do you ensure that the facilities given to those employed by the Government are used for the purposes for which they were provided? And used efficiently, at that?
I once heard a President of the Republic cry out in sheer frustration: “So, did we torture ourselves for nothing?”
That President was the late Hilla Limann, and he was relating the impossible demands of the office into which he had been installed, to the equally arduous election campaign to which he had subjected himself and that had propelled him to that high office.
What he saw when he got to the top was not at all what he had imagined. He saw chaos where he had expected smooth-running processes; failure where the clear objective had been success; and procrastination or, at times, even paralysis, where expeditious action had been what was required.
The irony is that – as President Limann tacitly acknowledged – it is actually the President himself who mostly suffers from the consequences of the very mistakes that cause him personal frustration. There’s nothing to be done about that, of course, for as President Harry Truman reminded his visitors with a plaque prominently displayed behind his desk, “The buck stops here!”; that is: at the presidency.
The President can “hire and fire” and so he is held responsible if non-performers are retained to continue not performing.
But (ask yourself) if the President climbs into the presidential jet to travel abroad, does he expect one engine of the jet to conk out in mid-air?
There are qualified and experienced engineers employed to certify formally that ANY aircraft that takes to the air is fully air-worthy, are there not?
That means, it has been regularly serviced according to the schedules laid down by the aircraft manufacturer. Yet mishaps and near-mishaps do happen to aircraft and their passengers and crew! Even brand-new aircraft!
Oh – we thank God for delivering us from most of these.
But when something like what happened to President Akufo-Addo on 29 September 2018 occurs, outsiders are reduced to speculating on the possible causes. Does the President’s office always inform the presidential flight in time about trips the aircraft is required to make?
Are unexpected flights requested and accepted in order not to cause offence to self-important VIPs?
Now, make no mistake about it: as stated earlier, even a brand new aircraft can suffer from a malfunction. It is the nature of the business.
But a malfunction can also arise from other, foreseeable causes. I hope the presidency will obtain a full and frank report on the latest scare that occurred on the presidential jet. The nation deserves not to be experiencing sleepless nights over presidential flights.
Anyway, whatever be the case, my personal hope is that the President cuts down on his foreign travels, for most are usually boring and replete with repetitive ritual.
If matters relating to the President’s person can be affected by the unexpected, what about those that affect Government business as a whole?
Take, for instance, the situation I described in an article http://cameronduodu.com/uncategorized/3855
last week regarding the supply — or rather, non-supply – of water to the Ako Adjei Park area of Osu, the quarter of our capital that has just been singled out by Time Out magazine as “The 20th coolest neighbourhood” in the world.
One would have expected that this article would be brought to the notice of the chair of the board of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL); that on reading it, he would ring up his Chief Executive immediately about such an awful situation and demand some answers, wouldn’t one? And that one would expect the CEO to kick the butts of his engineers?
Well, you can rest assured that if any of these things happened, their effect has not been felt on the ground. For one month on, the residents are still without water. Just work it out: 50 Cedis a day (typically) per water tanker, for one month! How much? C1,400 of un-budgeted expenditure! Will the residents be compensated for that – even merely with reduced future bills? I doubt it.
The wonder of it all is that, as stated in the earlier article, not a word about the situation has emanated from the GWCL!
Is this lack of concern happening in a democracy, where every household counts because it contains valuable voters?
Now, the chair of the GWCL is a politician who will soon be mounting platforms to entreat voters to send him back to Parliament, so that he can represent their interests. Who, knowing how GWCL is being run under his watch, will believe a word he says?
Broaden that– who will believe that the personnel the President would appoint to high office in his next term – if there is one – will show more concern about the needs of the populace?
There are many roads that need to be URGENTLY repaired all over the country. Many parts of Accra are without street lights; (a visitor from Takoradi remarked to me the other day that Takoradi is better lit than Accra! Imagine that– “seedy seaport ” Takoradi better lit than Accra! Why?)
In every enlightened country, the Government tries to make the capital the show-piece that gives an indication of what it has in mind for the whole country. Is our capital– with its open and smelly gutters; its uncollected garbage; its overcrowded pavements and roads that are constantly obstructed by “mobile” hawkers, something our politicians want to point to, as they appeal for a return to power?
Every Minister, every MP, must please DO, DO, and DO more. And talk less.
Let them listen to the local radio stations in their own languages. Let them talk to their drivers and their office workers. Not everything they hear will be accurate, or the whole truth, of course. But they will at least get a partial assessment of the Government’s overall performance.
It’s no use blaming civil servants for the unconcern felt everywhere as a hallmark of government. Civil servants are NOT ELECTED. But politicians are. So, the buck stops with the politicians.
They will be punished severely, if they forget that.