The former Chief of Staff in the ex-President John Agyekum Kufour’s administration, has taken a quick dash from his earlier claim that the 678 staffers working under the presidency, were employed by President John Mahama as part of his “jobs for the boys” scheme.
Mr. Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani, backtracked when he was confronted with evidence that he presided over a more bloated Presidential Staff of 692, while serving as the Chief of Staff under President Kufuor.
He claimed that he was misquoted by the media, but failed to mention the particular media house which misquoted him. President Mahama, did not appoint the staffers except the political appointees
Mr. Mpiani, last Thursday, went to town granting various interviews to media houses, especially radio stations and making a political meal out of the list of Presidential Staffers submitted to Parliament by the Flag Staff House as part of the Constitutional requirement.
The former Chief of Staff said, the figure was too high and described it as “job for the boys”, adding the State spends so much money to pay the salaries and wages of people in public service, yet they complain of low wages.
According to him, majority of the appointments at the Presidency, were made before the current President, John Mahama took over from the late Prof. John Fiifi Atta-Mills adding, “So were the appointments made when ex-President assumed office”.
He said the sentence “jobs for the Boys” was attributed to him by the media, however, he stands by his position that the numbers since Kufuor regime have been too large.
Mr. Mpiani spoke on Joy FM’s socio-political news review programme; News File hosted by Samson Ladi Ayeneni, last Saturday.
He rather attacked Ghanaians saying, looking at the appointments in terms of numbers was unnecessary, so Ghanaians were looking at the issue wrongly.
“The numbers does not matter, no President appoints public servants, stressing that a President goes into office with over six hundred staffers already there,” he explained.
He said, the President upon assuming office has no power to sack them and if he wishes he (the President) can only transfer them from the Presidency into the public service to further draw their salaries from the public service.
He said, what the President may wish to do was transfer five hundred into the other sectors of the public service and leave one hundred in his office.
He negated his earlier claims saying, the President can only appoint his political appointees and ex-President Kufour did so by appointing two or three more appointees to the existing number to assist him deliver on his agenda.
The man, who had the benefit of being one of the longest serving Chiefs of Staff, mentioned that when ex-President Kufour assumed office in 2001, he only had to appoint his Secretary, the Chief of Staff and a few other people as part of his political appointees at the Presidency.
“So this matter of political equalization that President appointed a large number of appointees will not take us anywhere,” he averred.
Professing some antidotes to lingering problems of over-staffing at the Presidency, Mr. Mpiani said, “Government should cut half out and pay the rest better” to save the huge, but ineffective public and civil service.
Mr. Mpiani, believes Ghana is ultimately the loser, because dissatisfied Ghanaians have to live with the public bureaucracy.
Government has been complaining about the huge wage bill currently pegged at GH¢11 billion and spends 70 percent of its tax revenue on footing these bills, he noted.
He recommended accurate head count of Ghana’s public and civil service, since it is unknown, but players estimate it as over 600,000.
“Maybe if we have 600,000 as we are being told, half of this number can do the work well. So that we pay this half very well and have the other half off…this is the way I believe we should approach it,” Mpiani said.
On the same programme and speaking to the same topic, Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, Kweku Baaku condemned the country’s politicians in the raging debate over the number of persons engaged as presidential staffers.
He said, moves by members of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), as well as the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) to politicize the debate, amount to dishonesty and double standards.
Mr. Baako described the controversy as “needless” and “uninformed”.
“I think the controversy out there is needless and uninformed and there is an element of dishonesty and hypocrisy driving the debate across the political divide”.
The NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for Mpraeso Constituency, Seth Kwame Acheampong, had earlier on the programme, called for the need to streamline the numbers in order to align with the size of the economy.
“…if we could put up an ideal organizational chart, then we can restrict ourselves to the size of the people and at the same time, save the people [who are bashing us] some money in their purse,” the MP suggested.
Government in the wake of the controversy, also released a copy of the 2005 list presented to Parliament by President John Agyekum Kufuor. The Presidency under John Kufuor in 2005 had 692 staffers compared to 678 staffers under current president, John Mahama.
But Kweku Baako explained, persons working in the public service but have been assigned to the presidency, cannot be equated to political appointees engaged by the president in his office.
“The number of presidential staff employed [by the president] at the office is distinct from the employees in the public service assigned or attached to the president’s office,” he clarified further.
A breakdown of the numbers he stated supports his argument, since staff on assignment from the public service draw their salaries from their respective agencies and not from the presidency.
“So then you begin to ask yourself; “If we did the argument on this informed factual basis a lot of the emotions would come down,” he stated.
Spokesperson for ex-President Jerry Rawlings last Friday said, Mr. Mpiani should be the last person to complained.
Mr. Kofi Adams explained that “the numbers at the presidency grew under him…if we are talking about numbers, it has even been reduced. He should not be the one talking about this.”
Contributing to panel discussions on Peace FM’s ‘Kokrokoo’, Kofi Adams said, the discussions would have been more objective “if it was an ordinary person who was complaining about the figures”.
“I wouldn’t have had any problem if an ordinary Ghanaian was complaining, but a former Chief of Staff, who has presided over a larger number than ours to be seen to be making such comments… someone who should know better…numbers at the presidency, grew under Mr. Mpiani. Even if we are working with numbers, the current number we are having has reduced,” Kofi asserted.
He added that Mr. Mpiani, instead of criticizing the current administration “should have been able to explain to us why the number is large and why he was not able to reduce it during his era”.
He additionally suggested that “for Kwadwo (Mpiani) to do what he has done; people will ask if our politicians are genuine or they criticize for criticizing sake…he has badly exposed himself, especially when he presided over a number bigger than this.
Meanwhile, Kofi Adams advised government to find ways of reducing the numbers; according to him, ‘we must see where we can trim’ down the number of presidential staffers.