Bright Simons of IMANI-Ghana
Bright Simons of IMANI-Ghana

IMANI Ghana has released its 2012 ‘Top 5 Public Leaders of the Year? list. The group also released a set of five?institutions?whose performance in the year it considers very disappointing.

Professor Joshua Alabi, Vice Chancellor of the University of Professional Studies, Graphic Communications Group, the Ghana National Fire Service, DVLA and Dr. Kofi Mbiah, Chief Executive of Ghana Shippers Authority made the list of ?IMANI Ghana’s Top 5 Most Inspirational Public Sector Leaders in Ghana, while The Ministry of Energy,?Ghana Youth Employment & Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA),Ministry of Works & Housing,?The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, and?National Pensions Regulatory Authority Board made itsWorst 5 Public Leaders or Institutions List.”

Below is the full report

IMANI Ghana expends so much energy and effort on scrutinizing the work of public sector institutions because unlike some other observers we do not believe that a significant transformation of this country can be possible without a root, stem and branch overhaul of the public sector.

Our constant criticism of the conduct of certain public institutions is therefore the result of disappointment rather than scorn. We believe strongly that were these institutions to be offered strong leadership and direction so that they can focus on rule of law, competent and minimal bureaucracy, and the transparent provision of public goods, such as security of life and property, sound regulation and the enforcement of quality standards, Ghana would be much better off.

To be candid, without strong public sector leadership, the rusty mantra of ?private sector as the engine of growth? will remain just that: a tired slogan.

It is not only that weak public sector leadership forgoes opportunities for growth and development, it actually also gets in the way of private sector and civil society and undermines the efforts of entrepreneurs, innovators and changemakers of all hues.

However, basic human psychology is such that scrutiny and criticism alone are not sufficient springs of good conduct. Measured, and purposeful, praise can sometimes be used to even more powerful effect to motivate those on the right path, to shine a light on positive developments, to erect powerful role models for the guidance of the rest of society, and to serve as a sharp contrast to beahaviours considered detrimental to the country?s progress.

That is why we launched our ?Top 5 Public Leaders of the Year? list in 2010.

Since focusing on this issue over the last 3 years, of what is it that makes some leaders in the state sector adopt a transformational posture while others fail, we have learnt a lot about the challenges such leaders face in maintaining the course of reform.

Some of the leaders we selected for inclusion in the early recognition lists have since then been unable to resist the lure of mediocrity. But that was to be expected. The Top 5 list is not a ?lifetime achievement index?. It is an?advocacy tool to support on-going reform?and to boost the stature of those pursuing those reforms in the here and now. It is unashamedly current in its emphasis and agenda.

Should we change this approach?

Certainly not in this 2012 edition of the Top 5 List. We are still convinced that rather than make this an ?awards program?, it should continue in its current nature as an advocacy tool, to fuel reforms facing resistance, and to bolster the position of those engaged in a transformational agenda, thus spurring wider reform of the public sector.

So, distinguished readers, there you have it: the 2012 Top 5 Most Inspirational Public Sector Leaders.

Top 5 Most Inspirational Public Sector Leaders in Ghana
(The full methodology is published in the version of the report that appears on the IMANI and AfricanLiberty.org websites after the embargo date.)

1.?Professor Joshua Alabi – Vice Chancellor, University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA)?
Barely a year ago, Parliament passed the University of Professional Studies Act. What was then the Institute of Professional Studies was overnight admitted into the prestigious ranks of the country?s public universities.
This could have been the highlight of Professor Alabi?s tenure at the Institute. He had been appointed three and a half years prior to the change of status, and had been responsible for shepherding the process past sceptical Parliamentarians from all sides of the political divide worried about the ?lack of focus on core mandate? that has become the bane of many of Ghana?s public universities.

But Professor Alabi, whose first term of office came to an end in January of this year, can point to more than one highlight in his term. Having worked for about two decades prior to his appointment to the position of Rector, he demonstrated very early on a keen eye for spotting the institute?s assets and unique value propositions. As a specialist school in accounting and management, he immediately realised that the institute had a competitive edge over the traditional science and humanities universities in Ghana that were busy piling up courses in business disciplines. He charged into the business education space with a vengeance, investing appropriately in facilities and adjunct faculty to capture a new customer base, those eager to set up on their own. This freed the University from the excessive reliance on the pool of public servants looking for promotion, a pool fiercely targeted by the likes of Legon and GIMPA.

UPSA?s post-graduate program is steadily rising in stature, and more courses are passing successfully under the sharp scalpel of the National Accreditation Board. This year,?IMANI believes that Professor Joshua Alabi deserves the top spot in its public sector rankings for his quiet, sturdy, and persistent focus on utilising the resources of UPS with a shrewd emphasis on returns and a long-term goal of sustainable excellence. Given the fiscal recklessness we have seen in parts of the public sector this year, this attitude is worth celebrating.

There is of course more to do at UPSA. Curriculum design could receive more attention. Institutional governance could do with a facelift. Student welfare and alumni relations can still be improved, but all in all, comparing the present with what Professor Alabi came to meet, we can confidently applaud him for remarkable leadership in the face of general constraints.

2.?The Graphic Communications Group
With its household-name brands, such as the Daily Graphic and the Weekend Mirror, the Graphic Communications Group has long been a prominent fixture of the country?s media landscape. But rarely have Ghanaians paused to consider the management and systems excellence responsible for the staying power of these publications.

Despite fierce competition in the heavily depressed packaging industry in Ghana, Graphic Packaging, the Group?s industrial arm, managed to reduce year on year losses by over 90% during the last financial year for which independently audited results are available.

Graphic Communications has shown consistently that it has one of the most advanced internal controls and preventive structures among corporate organisations in the country by regularly presenting robust accounts to internal and external auditors. For a public corporation, this dedication to world-class corporate governance is remarkable, and certainly commendable. For this reason the Group takes second spot on our 2012 rankings.

3.?Dr. Kofi Mbiah – Chief Executive, Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA)
Given all the hassle Ghanaians go through at our ports due to arbitrary and chaotic clearance procedures, despite years of costly IT-based and other reforms, it will come to some as a surprise that the winner of the third slot on our 2012 Public Sector rankings is someone from the country?s maritime leadership.

But it is precisely because we want to fix the spotlight on these unacceptable conditions at our ports – the corruption, inefficiency, arbitrariness, abuse of discretion, weak systems, etc. – that we want to acknowledge Dr. Kofi Mbiah as one of the few individuals working to bring some decency into maritime trade affairs in this country.
While the GSA does not play a major role in the more chaotic part of the sector: the goods clearance process, since it is primarily an executive agency representing the interests of cargo handlers and shippers, nevertheless, the GSA?s drive, under Dr. Mbiah?s leadership, to introduce technical and service quality standards stands out like a beacon on the shores of troubled waters.

4.?The Driver & Vehicles Licensing Authority
The DVLA wins the fourth spot in this year?s rankings primarily because of success in one major reform: the outsourcing of some of the vehicle assessment and testing processes to more efficient external garages, a development that has in no mean fashion eased the horrendous burden placed on motorists in this country in complying with our rickety road traffic regulations.

The current DVLA deserves to be acknowledged for taking this bold step after years of foot-dragging at the agency on outsourcing matters. A lot remains to be done to improve those functions that the agency still performs, such as license plate registration. Motorists cannot continue to be the butt of weak service standards.

But the successful outsourcing effort shows clearly what can be done when public sector activities are professionalised. The hope in highlighting this here is that other agencies, such as the Passport Office, will take note.

5.The Frontline Personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service (GNFS)
Despite persisting weaknesses in Ghana?s fire management system, frontline staff of the Ghana National Fire Service continue to risk their lives daily to fight the infernos raging across Ghana in sharp succession.
With limited gear and equipment, despite recent additions to the stock, personnel of the Ghana National Fire Service have increasingly shown a regimental discipline in taking on mighty blazes, all the more difficult to manage because of the tropical heat.

Unlike was the case some years ago, response times are almost within acceptable limits for a good proportion of incidents reported. Though GNFS? personnel must still improvise all the time, diligent observers have recorded an impressive improvement in the tactical approach used by personnel in navigating cramped incident sites as well as in locating sources of water, including in some instances even using private water tankers during moments of desperation.

We believe that this recognition will prompt the management of the service, even as they clamour for more equipment, such as aerial sprinklers, to show a better appreciation of the agency?s human resources, including working harder to address deep and festering concerns such as the on-going tussle over plans to relocate the agency from the Interior Ministry to the Local Government Service.

So that?s that:?IMANI?s Top 5 most Inspirational Public Sector Leaders (our heroes and heroines) for 2012.
Some of you would surely be disappointed. But the one thing we can certainly not apologise for is our inability to please every reader of this report. We are also certainly aware of a few organizations that have been working hard according to internally developed benchmarks, some of which accord with our own framework, to improve service delivery.

The newly reformed Export Development & Agricultural Investment Fund comes to mind. As does GIHOC. We urge such organisations to continue moving along the path of reform. Surely, when they begin to show clearer results the blips on our radar screen shall grow stronger.
We deliberately don?t publish a?Worst 5 Public Leaders or Institutions List. We feel we do enough though our general advocacy to criticize the public sector and in our own small way to contribute to deterring grave misconduct.

Still we cannot end this report without mentioning how deeply worried we are about some agencies and Ministries, and their shoddy conduct of public affairs. Last year, and not surprising continuing into this year, the following institutions, in descending order of magnitude, broke our hearts, and we suspect those of many Ghanaians.

1.?The Ministry of Energy?? For its inability to exercise sound leadership and oversight over the sector. It has failed to cogently champion, in the cabinet and elsewhere, the cause of organisations like Ghana Gas that are embarked on difficult and ambitious projects requiring strong coordination across the government to succeed. They have not been able to rein in the opaque and aloof GNPC and to demand greater accountability, especially in connection with the bloated costs and poor performance of the Jubilee project. They have exercised weak strategic leadership in the electricity sector leading to the exacerbation of a chronic power crisis into an acute one. For this and many reasons, the Ministry of Energy has the dubious honour of being the institution that impressed us the LEAST in 2012.

2.?Ghana Youth Employment & Entrepreneurial Development Agency?? For rampant corruption and a generally chaotic operational model that is leading to a dissipation of resources for very little national gain.

3.?Ministry of Works & Housing?? For utterly failing to redeem the affordable housing policies of the government, and preferring instead to truck with companies like SNECOU that in every respect are unqualified as strategic partners of the government in such an essential sector. Under the weak leadership of the ministry, one-time champions like the Architectural & Engineering Services Limited (AESL) have been reduced to a pale shadow of their former glory to the point where in some years they can?t even pay the social security contributions of their own staff. Meanwhile, a water shortage crisis continues to cause severe distress in our major towns and cities.

4.?The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions?? for thoroughly bungling the prosecutions related to the biggest public sector corruption mess we have ever seen in this country ? the Judgment Debts scandals. Not only has the agency been weak and ineffectual in pursuing popular suspects like Alfred Woyome, they have not even made the attempt to work with the investigative agencies to evaluate the role of companies like Waterville and Michelletti, who were clearly implicated in the scandal.

5.?National Pensions Regulatory Authority Board?? For dily-dallying with the biggest potential transformer of our financial system ? the liberalisation of pensions funds management in Ghana.

Insofar as we are picking some worrying signs from long-revered organisations like the Cocobod, our antennae will be sharper in 2013.

We shall continue to watch keenly how leadership dynamics are affecting the development journey of this country, and the role played by public institutions in offering or failing to offer that leadership.

We hope we can count on your continuing interest and support.

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