Ghana is, currently, in the bad books of the World Bank and her multi-donor partners.
The wrath of the two groups has been triggered by the fact that she spends over 70 percent of internally-generated revenues on the remuneration of about 500,000 civil and public servants and some politicians in the executive and parliamentary branches of government.
However, with the rampant incidence of the phenomenon of ghost workers across the public sector, the latest being at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, possibly up to half of the trouble-causing 70 percent, blamed routinely on the Single-Spine Salary Structure, may well be going into the pockets of ghost workers and their godfathers. And since government finds it inexpedient to tamper with the SSSS, the best option at regaining the confidence of the World Bank and the multi-donors would be an all-out assault on, and elimination, of the government employees who smuggle ghost names onto the payroll, or connive to leave them there.
But for the dire financial straits that has engulfed the nation since the beginning of the year, the Ministry of Finance would have released funds for 690 supposed nurses at the KBTH, who had not being paid for 21 months, when, in actual fact, they were only 250 such nurses.
Now, when for other reasons, KBTH was ordered to pay the "690 nurses" from its own takings, it turns out that a whopping 440 of the 690 were not nurses. EBEI Ghana! And what explanation do we get from the KBTH authorities? That the list comprised nurses, doctors, administrators and other healthcare professionals prepared 21 months ago for financial clearance. Fine! But if the Ministry of Health requests for the names of nurses who had not been paid for 21 months, why should anyone forward a list that contains 440 others who are not nurses and have been receiving their salaries regularly these past 21 months?
In the opinion of The Chronicle, the KBTH authorities are soiling their own good names with the hogwash about "inherent weakness" in the public sector being responsible for such a potentially criminal action, if not patently so. What are management and boards paid for, but to correct such identified weaknesses in the system?
Is it God who should come down from Heaven to fish out personnel posted to the KBTH, but who fail to take up the appointment or report for duty, but leave some months after? How can anyone expect the Public Services Commission, which offered the appointment in the first place, to order a freeze on any such person's pay, when the KBTH had made no report of the non-appearance or departure of the people to the PSC?
Ultimately, however, it is politicians who should be blamed. It is those of them in power who allow their appointees to take advantage of the cooked, but easily curable inherent weaknesses in the system, to dupe the state of its scarce resources in a "create, loot and share" set up to fund their political parties.
The Chronicle recalls that the incidence of ghost names has been part of our public discourse, since after the 1966 coup. But, has anyone been held responsible for the canker? How difficult is it to hold personnel or HR managers responsible for cooked staff lists? It should begin today.
As a direct lesson from the shame at Korle-Bu, and, most likely, across the entire public sector, we call on President John Dramani Mahama to, with immediate effect, decentralise the public sector payroll preparation, so that each District Assembly, Ministry, Department and Agency would prepare its own payroll.
The Accountant-General's Department should, henceforth, only serve as a clearing house of the bulk salaries in the public sector, after a physical staff audit across the sector by the Auditor-General's Department. It is time the demonisation of the SSSS ceased.