Social Responsibility in the Ghana Civil Service

Part I, Section (1) 1 of the Code of Conduct for the Ghana Civil Service reads, “The Ghana Vision 2020 envisages a Public Administration System (PAS) which is driven by a market oriented, liberalized economy, operating in an environment of good governance. This expectation of the role of the PAS, calls for a Civil Service which is customer sensitive and responsive to its social obligations” (Code of Conduct for the Ghana Civil Service).

The fact that the first statement in the Code of Conduct for the Ghana Civil Service calls for Civil Service employees to be customer sensitive and responsive to their social obligations shows that the Ghana Civil Service of today recognizes social responsibility as an integral part of its overall evolution into a successful 21st century institution.

The traditional public service in Ghana was not originally set up as a market driven Service. It was purely socially oriented. But during the early 80’s, Ghana embarked on mass privatization programs embracing market economy ideas. This soon influenced the Civil Service and it became more market oriented.

The phrases used in Part I, Section (1) such as social obligations, social responsiveness and social responsibility mean different things but encapsulate the same broad social responsibility ideal. Robbins and Coulter (2005) define them as follows:

Social Obligation

  • The obligation of a business to meet its economic and legal responsibilities and nothing more

Social Responsiveness

  • The capacity of a firm to adapt to changing societal conditions through the practical decisions of its managers in responding to important social needs

Social Responsibility

  • A firm’s obligations as a moral agent extends beyond its legal and economic obligations, to the pursuit of long-term goals that are good for society

It bears repeating that the Ghana Civil Service has always been socially responsible and met its social obligations in the sense that it has never existed for profit or for the acquisition of gain. Instead, in transacting its business, the Civil Service’s aim has been the furtherance of the welfare of the Ghanaian society. It has always met its economic and legal responsibilities even if it had to borrow from external sources every now and then. Where they have fallen short in times past was their inability to adapt to changing societal conditions through the practical decisions of its managers in responding to important social needs. This was partly because of the highly centralized, tall bureaucratic structure of the old Civil Service where individual managers were restricted in how much flexibility they had over decision making. The new public sector reforms along with the decentralization efforts has hopefully dissolved a lot of these knotty issues making it easier for the Service to be more socially responsive as the Code of Conduct advocates.

The Ghana Civil Service is socially responsible to its customers when the customers are made aware of what their tax monies are used for i.e. when there is full disclosure of what government funds are used for. It is unethical to misrepresent benefits or costs. That is why Ghana established the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament which holds public hearings on the Auditor General’s reports on key public service institutions. Also it is unethical to engage in collusion especially when citizens are bidding for tenders hence the establishment or the Ghana Public Procurement Authority which harmonizes the process of procurement in the public service to secure a judicious, economic, and efficient use of public funds to ensure that public procurement is carried out in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner while promoting a competitive local industry. The two institutions validate and support the Ghana civil service Code of Conduct. They are additional mechanisms which help the Code in enforcing the ‘rule of ethics’.

The Civil Service is socially responsible to its employees by offering them security of tenure in employment. No employee of the Civil Service can be arbitrarily dismissed without due process and legitimate reasons spelt out by the Code. Also career progression or promotions in the Civil Service is based on a merit system and not on favoritism. The Employees are also guaranteed a conducive working environment by the Civil Service code by its strong stance against sexual harassment and other workplace misconduct that will threaten the favorableness of the work environment.

The Civil Service is socially responsible to investors when it creates incentives for them such as tax exemptions. The Code is designed in such a way that when employees behave ethically, it facilitates good governance and reduces document processing delays thus creating a favorable environment for investors to operate in.

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