During the last matriculation ceremony at the University of Professional Studies Accra (UPSA) the Vice Chancellor, Prof Abednego Okoe Mantey appealed to the government to save the public universities from losing their professors and senior lecturers.
The appeal which resonates with all public universities has been necessitated by the recent position of the present Auditor-General that persons above the retirement age must be removed from the government payroll.
The same position was articulated by the University Teachers’ Association Of Ghana (UTAG) when its National President, Dr. Eric Ojoku Mensah made the call at a national forum on education held in Elmina. UTAG’s position is that the implementation of the directive by October 31, 2018 will put the public universities in grave danger as far as the issue of post-graduate studies in public universities is concerned.
It is so unfortunate that a public policy of this nature with dire consequences for public universities will be solely conceived and driven by an Auditor-General.
The Auditor-General, Mr. Daniel Domelevo appears to be pushing an agenda which ostensibly may appeal to the authorities in certain ministries. The case of the Auditor-General is that the huge social and potential security challenge of unemployment can be addressed by his major intervention which is the Nationwide Payroll And Personnel Verification Audit (NPPVA) exercise.
In striving to push his personal agenda, he explains that this exercise will not only weed out ghost names but remove from the government payroll those above the legal retirement age of 60. This, in his wisdom, will provide a surprise opportunity for creating jobs for the large cadre of unemployed persons and cut down on the government wage bill.
To further consolidate his position, he shared his initial observations that though the exercise has not been completed, the data from the regions showed clearly that there were many employees who are above the legal retirement age of 60 and still working.
He even went further to state that drivers, security men and secretaries in many state institutions particularly those at the tertiary level who were above the legal retirement age of 60, were still at post.
Of course, typical of him, he throws in his recent mantra about the fact that he will not be cowed by any political pressure. This is one of the arguments he has been making in recent times, of course with the support of some selected NGOs who have always hero-worshipped him.
In fact, to further buttress his position, the Auditor-General has been struggling to whip up public sentiment against the senior citizens by introducing evidence to the fact that many government workers who are close to 75 and above are working without even being on contract. As far as the Auditor-General is concerned, until the constitution is amended to change the present retirement age, the public payroll should not accommodate such senior citizens.
The DAILY GUIDE’s considered perspective on this issue is that the Auditor-General is playing on the sentiments of Ghanaians, especially within the context of our present day social and security threat as has been identified by several public policy thinkers, offering data on unemployed graduates and post-graduate Ghanaians. This is how populist it can get!
As our opening paragraphs have indicated, the issue is far more complicated than the simplistic way that the position has been packaged to the nation and the authorities.
We are concerned about the challenges our universities have been facing in terms of the qualifications of our university professors. Not so good working conditions and the fact that all public universities have had to struggle to retain senior lecturers and professors who are sometimes poached by private universities is a matter of grave concern to those in the tertiary sector.
At the national and global levels, universities are ranked by the caliber of academic staff and their publications.
In recent times, the Ghana Export Promotion Authority has called for collaboration of university authorities in promoting our universities within the West Africa sub-region. The high reputation of our universities has been achieved and sustained by the old and experienced lecturers. Any attempt at forcing our public universities to offload these professors will have a very negative impact on our tertiary sector.
The situation has even been compounded by the fact that the National Council For Tertiary Education (NCTE) appears to be collaborating with the Public Services Commission (PSC) and the Audit Service. We believe that the NCTE, as the council responsible for upholding the interests of our universities, must be up and doing on this matter.