Politician-Bureaucrat Relation in Ghana

  • Abdulai Kuyini MohammedEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-31816-5_3518-1



Because the public administrator is subordinate to the elected executive in both law and practice, the latter tends to subject the former to political control. The former also believes because of its expertise it should be assertive and influential in its area of purview. The pursuit of these rival stands results in tension and conflict between the two categories of officers. However, there is latitude for collaboration and reciprocal influence between the two parties. This paper investigates the precise nature and consequences of the relations between elected executives and the administrative experts in the Ghanaian context.


Governance is a collective enterprise requiring good relationships between all the stakeholders represented in a polity. These stakeholders include the government and the governed. There are two groups of actors in the government realm, that is, politicians and bureaucrats. These public functionaries should not only have a good working relationship with each other but also with members of the public or the governed. This is essential for engendering participation, trust, and consensus building response to the needs of citizens (Dasandi 2014). It is only when the relationship between the bureaucrat and the politician is good will they be able to jointly craft solutions that will be efficacious in dealing with societal problems. Good service delivery enhances the legitimacy of, and trust of the people in, their government.

Perhaps that is the reason why the relationship between politics and administration has been one of the most popular themes in public administration discourse since the works of Woodrow Wilson and Max Weber. Over a long period, the leading notion was that there was, or at least should be, an explicit division between the realm of politics and the domain of administration (e.g., Mouritzen and Svara 2002). Several important scholars of public administration like Campbell (1983), Peters and Pierre (2004), and Svara (2001) have claimed from a normative standpoint that such a neat distinction is difficult, this contrasting view is supported by several empirical works from diverse perspectives and specialization which indicate a wide, though varying, interconnection between the two spheres (see, e.g., Kingdon 1995; Mouritzen and Svara 2002). Yet, irrespective of which side of the debate one stands (i.e., distinction or interlinking of the political and bureaucratic worlds) and as Dasandi (2014) observes, political-bureaucratic interaction can be very important in promoting development, as well as hindering it.

The remit of this paper is to investigate the politician and bureaucrat relations in Ghana from the immediate post-independence period in 1957 to the current period. The analysis focuses on determining (1) the nature of the relations, that is, whether warm or frosty, (2) the factors that are responsible for the observed relations, (3) the consequences of the relations, and (4) the measures that can be taken to engender good relations between politicians and bureaucrats.

The paper proceeds by first sketching the changing complexion of government in Ghana’s history as an independent nation. Next, it expounds on the methodology of the study before considering the nature of the politico-administrative relations across regimes. It then analyzes the consequences of the politician and public administrator relations for the conduct of public business. The final section is devoted to suggestions for improving the relations between the politician and the bureaucrats and conclusion.

The Methodology of the Study

The empirical basis of this study is 50 elite interviews and secondary evidence. The interviewees were selected because of their expertise and/or experience as past and current career politicians and bureaucrats. The respondents included 10 retired civil servants, 20 current civil servants, 5 former ministers, 5 current ministers, and 6 academics. The secondary information included published academic works on politicians and bureaucrats relations as well as media reports and departmental newsletters. The primary information corroborated the secondary evidence and also captured certain nuances that could not be revealed by the published works. This increased the credibility of the findings and conclusions and generalizations that have been drawn from the study.

Nature of Politico-Administration Relations Across Regimes in Ghana

It is important to sketch the historical antecedents of the interface between the elected and appointed officials in Ghana. This will serve as a backdrop against which the nature of the subsequent relations between the two categories of public officeholders will be understood. As Nti (1976: 3) opines, “one cannot explain change or continuity except in terms of history.” The historical background will facilitate understanding of the shifting nature of the relationship as affected by the political turbulence that Ghana has witnessed since its emancipation from colonial rule. The historical backdrop will also assist in elucidating the goals of the series of public sector reforms that have been launched over the years and their impact on the interactions of the two categories of public officeholders in the conduct of public business.

The bureaucracy as it existed in the colonies in Africa was predicated on the Weberian model of public administration (Ayee 2013). During the colonial era, expatriate bureaucrats occupied the apex of the public administration system, while natives were situated down the hierarchy. At the advent of independence, there was the need to replace all expatriate bureaucrats in an effort to dismantle the residual apparatus of imperialism under a policy known as the Africanization of the civil service and the pursuit of rapid socioeconomic transformation (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015). The relationship between elected and appointed officeholders in independent Ghana was, and is still, characterized by this milieu (Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild 1990).

The relationship between the politician and the bureaucrat in the period between 1957 and the end of the Nkrumah’s regime in 1966 and even beyond is aptly described as one of master and servant (Ayee 2013). The elected officers dominated the conduct of public affairs including public policy making, and this dominance has persisted to date. Bureaucrats continue to be precluded from the public policy making process. One of the important ways that was applied to exclude public administrators from public decision-making processes was through the establishment of executive or presidential commissions, which were separate from and external to the civil bureaucracy. These commissions crafted policy proposals and workable solutions to public problems to herald parliamentary consideration, executive acquiescence, and concretization into projects and programs (Ohemeng and Ayee 2016).

The desire to achieve rapid socioeconomic transformation within the shortest possible time in order to improve the living conditions of Ghanaians necessitated the reorientation of the bureaucracy toward political freedom. This engendered a hostile relationship between politicians and bureaucrats (Amonoo 1981). Elected officials arrogated to themselves the design and execution aspects of the policy making process leading them to have an urge over public administrators in both realms. The alienation of the latter bred resentment and led to distrust between the two categories of officials during the reign of Dr. Nkrumah-led CPP government. The frustration of Dr. Nkrumah especially about the bureaucracy stemmed from the fact that it was considered too slow to act – a perceived attribute which was thought to be undermining the achievement of the political goal of rapid socioeconomic development (Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild 1990). Accordingly, this fed the impetus for the extreme politicization of the bureaucracy, with occupants of the top echelons of the hierarchy being replaced as heads of institutions by party members. This view corroborates Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild who aver that Dr. Nkrumah resolved that, “he would see to it that there were no ‘civil masters’ as under colonial rule but civil servants carrying out the policy decided by the cabinet” (Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild 1990: 233). The two scholars assert that “senor officers were regarded with suspicion,” which culminated in their loyalty being thrown into question. The Nkrumah’s regime ensured that the bureaucracy was firmly brought under the control of the political executive.

An effective strategy Dr. Nkrumah’s administration adopted to bring the bureaucracy firmly under political control was the establishment of several parallel bureaucratic apparatuses, to carry out national development (Amonoo 1981). These parallel bureaucratic structures included state-owned enterprises, specialized secretariats like State Planning Commission, the Productivity Center, the Water Resources and Power Secretariat, and the Civil Service Commission. All these institutions were outside the regular public services and brought under the Office of the President, who exercised direct control over appointments (Ohemeng and Anebo 2012). This deteriorated the already frosty relationship between bureaucrats and the Nkrumah’s government because it not only over-politicized the public service, but it also created coordination problems for it in national development efforts. This was because some of the organizations and sectors became silos which grossly undermined sociopolitical and economic growth (Ohemeng and Ayee 2016). Accordingly, an administrative confusion was created for the state, a labyrinth which Amonoo (1981) aptly characterized as “the politics of institutional dualism.”

By 1966 when Dr. Nkrumah’s government was overthrown, the relationship between the politician and the bureaucrat was one of “uneasy tension” (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015: 15), with the latter more or less relegated to the background in terms of voice possession in the setting of an agenda for national development (Amonoo 1981).

From the fall of the Nkrumah’s regime in 1966 to 1981 when the Rawlings-led Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) took over the reins of government, there was considerable turbulence in the relationship between elected and appointed officers. Government successions were frequent principally via military takeovers with the exception of the late 1969 to early 1972 and from September 1979 to December 1981, when civilian governments ruled. Like in the Nkrumah’s time, public sector reforms were also undertaken in this period that adversely affected its effective functioning and performance. The reforms alienated the bureaucracy from the public policy making process mainly because the political decision makers were ambivalent about the dedication and loyalty of public administrators (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015; Asante 2005) The sore relationship between the politician and bureaucrat was exacerbated by economic stagnation which fed corruption particularly in the civil service and dented the image of the bureaucracy.

The National Liberation Council (NLC) was the first military regime in Ghana, which toppled the Nkrumah government in 1966. Initially the NLC attempted to depoliticize the civil service. It made strides to create a cordial relationship with public administrators by substituting politically appointed regional and district commissioners with administrators who were civil servants (Gyimah-Boadi and Rothchild 1990). In respect of economic policy making, the military junta enticed the participation of the bureaucracy in conjunction with the business community in the NLC’s National Economic Council (NEC). The council exercised control over economic policies. The membership of NEC included five senior civil servants and two financial professionals. The governing style of the NLC and NEC, according to Kosack (2012), was reminiscent of the approach of the British. That approach ensured that public administrators were at the center and administered at the local level via alliances with tribal chiefs and through central appointed bureaucrats.

Nevertheless, all was not rosy in the politico-bureaucratic relationship as there were instances when the junta expressed frustration with the bureaucracy. For example, the junta deplored the tardiness of the civil service and its lack of a sense of urgency in the implementation of public policies. Lt. Gen. E. K. Kotoka, a key member of the NLC, complained that “things don’t go as expected in the civil service.” Lt. General Ocran, another member of the NLC, also complained that in his ministries, unlike the army, the line of authority was ill-defined and diffused and civil servants often did not know who was responsible for what (Pinkney 1972).

The impatience which succeeding governments had with the civil service may be attributed to the fact that the service was seen as the main vehicle for promoting socioeconomic programs, which all governments unsuccessfully tried to implement. The vagueness of some of the policies of governments may itself help explain why the governments complained of bureaucratic sabotage and tardiness in the implementation of public policies and programs. The governments themselves failed to clearly spell out what their policies were, and civil servants had to spend much time in deciding which policies appeared to be the most suitable. Even when the aims of the policies were clear, the difficulties in achieving them were not always understood by the governments (Pinkney 1972).

The politician-administrator interface during the Busia’s regime (1969–1972) was similar to what obtained under the NLC rule. The period witnessed bureaucrats as cornerstones in sectoral public policy making particularly economic policy. Similar to the NLC regime, these technocrats were drafted externally including those who had worked with the World Bank and the IMF (Libby 1976). It was clear that the policy terrain was dominated by politicians and bureaucrats from international governmental organizations, which led to loss of policy ownership by local decision makers (Libby 1976).

Although the bureaucracy was over-politicized during the Busia regime, the period did not record any major tension in the relationship between the elected and appointed officers until the dismissal of 568 civil servants. While the government cited incompetence and inefficiency as the reasons for the dismissals, many observers believed they were politically motivated. The political motivation thesis is supported by the fact that a disproportionately large fraction of the dismissed was sympathizers of the Nkrumah’s regime (Frempong 2007). The court order to reinstate the dismissed public servants was ignored by the government, and this destroyed the cordial relationship that existed between politicians and bureaucrats. Moreover, the government’s quest to enhance efficiency and productivity in the economy via austerity measures as well as cost imposed on the civil service further alienated the bureaucracy and exacerbated tension between the political and administrative worlds.

The relationship between the politician and the administrator during the PNDC rule was the most difficult and rancorous. Before the advent of the PNDC, the civil service had witnessed most critical and trying times that arose mainly through the economic crisis that plagued Ghana from the 1970s. From 1974 to the early 1980s, the Ghanaian economy was in decline, unable, for a combination of structural and policy-based reasons, to seize the initiative and overcome the constraints on choice (Rothchild 1991). Declining agricultural and industrial productivity, in some cases despite rising international market prices, contributed substantially to the country’s economic malaise during the 1970s and 1980s. The consequence of the economic downturn for the civil service was the erosion of its pay through hyperinflation which led to its cream of the crop leaving the country to escape the harsh economic realities and to seek greener pastures (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015). The skeleton staff who remained found the task of administration overwhelming, and this made it quite formidable to deliver basic services. Nti (1978:2) characterized the civil service at the time as “a moribund paper pushing institution” to perhaps presage the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that bedeviled it.

The PNDC partly blamed the bureaucracy for the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness in the conduct of public business and for the socioeconomic development problems of the country. This negative opinion formed about the bureaucracy defined its relationship with the government. Not surprisingly, when the government launched its economic recovery program of 1983, the civil service and especially those at the echelon of the service were precluded from the design and even the execution of the program’s critical parts (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015).

The PNDC envisioned that for the civil service to be effective it needed a transformation which would remove the bad nuts, reorient its culture, sharpen its skills, and enhance its responsiveness to public service customers. Accordingly, many civil servants were summarily dismissed, while others were accused of corruption and incompetence. Those who were accused of corruption were arraigned before the freshly constituted public tribunals and slapped with long prison sentences (Gyimah-Boadi 1994).

The PNDC maiden reform was kicked started with the setting up of the Kaku Kyiamah Committee in May 1982 with a mandate to advice the junta on restructuring the bureaucracy (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015). Among others, the committee recommended that the civil service should (1) restrict itself to policy formulation, (2) provide the administrative support units for political heads, (3) coordinate and monitor programs and activities within the ministerial sector, and (4) conduct interministerial relationships. In addition, it advised that, “the politicization of the position of the principal secretary” was in order. This, the committee reasoned, was due to the fact that some of the principal secretaries cultivated the habit of “resisting or blocking the flow of professional advice direct to the political head” (Wood 1984: 46). This charge, however, was untenable because the committee could not produce any solid evidence to back its claim (Wood 1984). Another suggestion it tabled was the obtaining of advice from plural sources both external and internal. From the internal sources, all heads of directorates in a ministry were to be permitted easy and equal access to tender advice to the political head.

The recommendations attracted a receptive political ear which triggered some structural changes, embracing the redesignation of the position of principal secretary to that of chief director. The chief director was appointed on the basis of both merit and partisanship. Ascension to the position was no longer to be based on career progression in the service, but outsiders were also eligible for consideration for appointment (Barnes 2014). By these changes the bureaucrats felt debased, and this fed the already frosty relationship that generated between it and the regime following the mass dismissals and imprisonment of some of its members. This bitter relationship even got worse when the government established revolutionary organs.

The relationship was further ruined by the establishment of revolutionary organs which were variously labeled as People’s Defense Committees (PDCs) and Worker Defense Committees (WDCs). These PDCs and WDCs were established in various cities, towns, and workplaces, including the civil service. The WDCs were created with a mandate to assist in the development of government policy. They enforced price controls and curfews, supported rent controls, and investigated malfeasance in public and private sectors (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015). In contrast, the PDCs were formed under the directorate of a coordinating committee that comprised representatives from all the reformist political organizations. Their establishment represented an aspect of the regime’s schema to introduce new layers into the structure of the planning and implementation of government programs. In this way, it was envisioned that it would decentralize the administrative structures. The PDCs were meant to organize development programs in factories, banks, and institutions as well as serve as vigilantes for the government (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015).

The new democratic dispensation which was ushered in on January 7, 1993 preceded the multiparty contest which saw the National Democratic Congress (NDC) assume power. Since then to date, the country has witnessed three alternations of power: the NDC ruled from 1993 to 2000, and handed over power to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) (2001 to 2008), the NDC regained power and ruled from 2009 to 2016, and the NPP snatched power and ruled from 2017 to date. Since the PNDC metamorphosed into NDC, many people across all walks of life, including civil servants, believed the latter’s rule was a perpetuation of the former’s, and this affected the politico-bureaucratic relationship.

The most telling effect on the relationship between the government and the civil service is the constitutional provision that bars civil servants from openly participating in political activities. A similar provision is in the Civil Service Law of 1993 and Civil Service Code of Conduct of 1993. Under the last two laws, bureaucrats are supposed to demonstrate neutrality in political affairs. The numerous public sector reforms that have been introduced and continue to be introduced have served to continually redefine the relationship between the politician and the public administrator. As noted earlier, the constitution and the public sector reforms have vested the president with vast powers of appointment. His power to appoint the head of the civil service and chief directors of the various ministries conflicts with the arrangement in the civil service where directorship is attained via career progression. The reforms thus served to anger bureaucrats who believe that professionalism, dedication, and hard work may play second fiddle to partisanship as a criterion for progression on the career ladder.

Impact of Politician-Bureaucrat Relations

This section examines the consequences of the tenuous relationship between the elected and appointed officers on the conduct of public business especially in respect to policy making. The impacts that are discussed here include over-politicization of the civil service, high rate of bureaucratic attrition, mistrust of the public administrator, organizational disloyalty, and the civil service unattractiveness as an employer of choice.

The primary information now being explicated here is in tandem with the secondary evidence discussed about the over-politicization of the civil service in Ghana since independence in 1957. Respondents were asked whether they thought the civil service was over-politicized. A majority 89% answered in the affirmative, 9% responded in the negative, while the remaining 2% could neither confirm nor deny that it was over-politicized. Those respondents who said it was over-politicized were then asked to cite examples or instances of the over-politicization. One serving senior bureaucrat said, “in the second term of President Rawlings’s administration five of my colleagues told me that their political bosses asked the Office of the Head of Civil Service (OHCS) to transfer them without assigning tangible reasons.” A retired public administrator revealed with anguish that, “my minister told me blatantly that he could not work with me because I don’t fear to tell truth to power.” He added, “the minister said the strict adherence to my professional ethos had almost become a dogma.” A third bureaucrat said, “the politicians will always assign you a party whether or not they have basis to confirm their perception.” He continued, “the perception of a bureaucrat’s political leanings becomes the basis for promoting or jeopardizing his or her professional career.” A fourth public administrator lamented that, “I was transferred from a metropolitan council to a remote rural district following the change of government from the NDC to the NPP in 2017.” “My transfer, I believe, was not based on competence or conduct but on my political affiliation.” A fifth bureaucrat said, “I applied for early retirement to safe myself the embarrassment of having a confrontational working relationship with my political boss.” A sixth technocrat lamented that, “as a person the minister himself was well mannered and had a collegial attitude but pressure from above reluctantly made him to give me a cold shoulder because of his induced-reading of my political leaning.” But “this treatment of civil servants is regrettable because as bureaucrats our work is inherently political.” Christensen and Laegreid (2004) agree, arguing that the public service can never be fully apolitical because bureaucrats, in delivering a public service to the citizens, inevitably participate in the political role of “deciding who gets what” from the public sector. The outcome of the over-politicization, as one minister acknowledged, is that, “the politician and bureaucrat are not able to engage in frank exchanges that will produce the good ideas to serve as building blocks for policy development.”

Respondents were asked to indicate what the effect of the bitter relationship had on the bureaucrat. Eighty-eight percent pointed to high turnover rate of especially top bureaucrats. One academic intimated that, “many bureaucrats want the freedom, space, and reciprocity that enable them to perform to the best of their ability.” He added that, “if they feel these conditions are not prevalent in the civil service they may either resign or take their services elsewhere.” A retired bureaucrat concurred, saying that, “I had to resign because I could not bear the frustration of having to be instructed to do things that tended to serve partisan interest rather than the public interest.” A third technocrat said, “I was forced to resign and I took up an appointment in the private sector because every action or omission on my part was read with political lenses.” He elaborated that, “the level of suspicion was too high, and this made me hesitant in taking even the most mundane administrative decisions because of the political connotation it would be given.”

This evidence speaks to Adarkwa and Ohemeng’s (2015) assertion that, there are two types of bureaucratic turnover: the first is forced where the bureaucrat who cannot cope is compelled to proceed on early retirement; the second entails moving the public administrator to a different and usually less glamorous ministry. The first is commonly suffered by those occupying the positions of the head of the Civil Service (HoCS) and chief director and even sometimes those in positions a step lower than the chief director, that is, director. To illustrate, in the 8 years (2001–2008) that the NPP was in power, the “HoCS changed multiple times, with no one spending more than two years.” Others were “designated as ‘acting’ with no clear timetable for their confirmation or removal” (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015: 23). Likewise, when the NDC assumed power in 2009, the HoCS position was subjected to the same turbulence. Such rampant changes make organizations headless that proceed in no particular direction – a state of affairs that is inimical to planning and development.

At the Director level, some bureaucrats who are distrusted by their ministers choose an alternative to quitting, that is, simply succumbing to the wishes of the politicians. The deference to the politician occurs irrespective of whether this offends bureaucratic professional ethos or is inimical to the public interest. Consequently, when an administrative problem crops up, there is passing of buck as it becomes quite formidable to pinpoint who should be held responsible (Barnes 2014).

The effect of such high bureaucratic turnover rate, according to some interviewees, is the loss of policy direction of public organizations. Undoubtedly, stability is essential for incisive and vigorous policy direction and implementation. Another problem with the high turnover rate is that it creates fear and anxiety among public administrators, eventually making bureaucrats to lose confidence and in extreme situations disturb their mental balance – both of which are prerequisite to sound policy development and implementation. One informant intimated that, “rampant transfers of chief directors to different regions and districts render sluggish or ineffective the execution of a ministry’s policies, projects and programs.” This is because, reasoned another interviewee, “incoming chief directors require reasonable length of time to get acquainted with the new office and its processes, techniques, and procedures and how these generate throughput.” A third respondent lamented that, “outgoing chief director’s” handing over notes are usually hurriedly prepared and are therefore often wanting on content especially as a source of lesson drawing and guidance.” A bureaucrat who was recently transferred from Accra, the national capital to Wa, the Upper West Regional capital, lamented that, “such unnecessary transfers is detrimental to the creation of a workforce that is built on rapport, comradeship and team spirit.” This is because, argued another respondent, “the new bureaucrat does not have the length of time needed to study skills, competence levels and personal dispositions of his staff in order to match them to specific tasks.” In general, frequent and unnecessary changes of top bureaucrats, just like ministers, undercut the efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service. Some writers concur, insisting that the turnover of personnel in the public service has created an experience and expertise lacunae, which has tended to affect the capacity and capability of the public service to deliver its core mandates (Antwi et al. 2008).

As noted earlier, the high turnover rate, whether it occurs as a transfer or retirement of the public administrator, has several ramifications. In particular, if transfers occur at the behest of the political head, a fresh round of animosity, suspicion, and mistrust awaits the bureaucrat at his new destination. This is because the alleged reasons for the transfer would have been revealed to the political boss at the receiving ministry and would have made the rounds among staff. Consequently, bemoaned one chief director, “the political head mistrusts you and precludes you from important decision arenas as well as arrogate to himself the routine bureaucratic tasks of drafting legislation and preparing policy proposals.” Barnes (2014) agrees, arguing that political heads in such instances attempt micromanaging the ministry and in the process leave out important tasks that form the core mandate of the ministry, department, or agency. In addition, the transferred bureaucrat is unable to establish a good working relationship with his subordinates chiefly because the politician bypasses him and assigns high-level managerial functions to his juniors. This makes the subordinates to disrespect the chief bureaucrat. Another respondent lamented that, “the consequence of the alienation is that it breeds uncertainty, fear, inferiority complex and a sense of resignation on the part of the bureaucrat.” A third interviewee concurred, averring that, “the mistrust of the chief bureaucrat by his subordinates and the politician makes him unable to have a handle on the ministry, department or agency.” This, he added, “on some instances have led to throwing the leadership and professional competence of the bureaucrat in doubt.”

A frosty relationship between the politician and public administrator sometimes leads to the latter’s disloyalty toward both internal and external customers of the civil service. The internal customers include the politician and fellow bureaucrats, while the external customers comprise members of the public. In the absence of loyalty, it is difficult for the bureaucrat to remain dedicated and committed and uphold professional ethos as well as strive to do good for the public interest.

According to Hubbard and Paquet (2007 cited in Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015), disloyalty as far as bureaucratic behavior is concerned can be categorized into two groups. The first is passive disloyalty which implies responding to the minimalist interpretation of what is anticipated and obligatory. This interpretation is reductionist in the sense that the responsibilities of a position are scaled down to a level much less than it should be. The second is active disloyalty which denotes the intentional undermining of the work of superiors and/or betrayal of the trust of partners and citizens. Although both types of disloyalty are discernible in the civil service, it is the latter that is relatively common. To Hood (2001) active disloyalty embraces the divulging of confidential material or policy proposals to journalists or opposition parties by discontented public administrators and other kinds of policy sabotage.

In the context of Ghana, both kinds of disloyalty are identifiable in the bureaucracy. According to one academic, “the posturing of some ministers instilled in the bureaucrat a hesitant approach to public business.” One director in a ministry revealed that, “some bureaucrats out of frustration engaged in bureaucratic espionage that is, selling organizational confidential information to opposition parties and journalists.” One informant, for example, said some “bureaucrats gave copies of government assessment report of the performance of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to the then opposition NDC in the buildup to the 2008 elections.” This probably was, reasoned another senior officer, “the NDC government’s retaliatory measure to a similar move by the then opposition NPP in the run up to the 2000 general elections when government information was leaked to it.” In this case, a draft report of the auditor general was clandestinely obtained by a ranking member of the minority in the parliament (Adarkwa and Ohemeng 2015).

An employer of choice is an employer who offers a work culture and workplace environment that attract and retain superior employees. An employer of choice refers to establishing an organization that is a great place to work. If organizations do not legitimately act to become an employer of choice, then good employees will simply vote with their feet and move to look for an employer who offers them what they want. The essence of becoming an employer of choice is the quality of the employment relationship or psychological contract. Employers of choice have created a culture that is based on a new employment relationship. That relationship is more collaborative and more open than the old “them and us” relationship.

Eighty-five percent of the respondents thought that the frosty relationship between politicians and bureaucrats does not make the civil service an employer of choice. As one interviewee bemoaned, “prospective employees with superior skills hear stories about the antagonistic relationship between politicians and bureaucrats and this puts them off.” Another respondent averred that, “bureaucrats with the best competences, experience and personal disposition quit the civil service leaving only suboptimal staff to do the bureaucratic work.” He added, “that is the reason why service delivery is poor, responsiveness is lacking and corruption is rife in the civil service.” A senior officer agreed, arguing that “bureaucrats are the main source of innovative policy ideas, the cornerstones in sectoral policy making, and without whom policy implementation becomes ineffective.” He added, “all these negatives have occurred and will continue to occur in the civil service because of the tenuous working relationship between the politician and the bureaucrat.”


In Ghana the frosty relationship between politicians and bureaucrats is attributed largely to the parties’ inability to recognize that their supposedly separate roles have a junction or overlap. In other words, the modus operandi continues to be based on the dichotomy or separation model. Such a mindset has been recently exacerbated by the New Public Management (NPM) through the call for political leaders to choose their agency heads in order to overcome what advocates refer to as the overwhelming power of the bureaucracy. However, as in Ghana some scholars have noted that the NPM is seen by political leaders in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States as a reassertion of political control over the career bureaucracy. The proclivity toward political control is certainly not novel; however, the thing that distinguishes this trend in Ghana is that it has led to stubborn conflicts between politicians and public administrators. This rancorous relationship has had implications for public performance, productivity, and effectiveness which together have fed a legitimacy crisis. The conclusion is that politicians and bureaucrats everywhere must understand that their roles are inevitably complementary. And that antagonism between them and their solo pursuits will not engender accelerated national development.



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GhanaLegonGhana