Ban Medical Trips Too – Gyampo
Head of European Studies at the University of Ghana, Professor Ransford Gyampo, has said President Nana Akufo-Addo’s temporary ban on foreign trips by all government appointees, is good and urged the president to go further to ban his appointees from medical tourism, too.
According to him, the trips come with huge cost to the nation.
“The cost for many of the travels are shouldered by the state. These inter alia, may include airfares, hotel accommodation, cost of feeding and huge travelling allowances or per diems that actually serve as good incentive for frivolous travels,” he wrote in a statement.
A memo announcing the travel ban has been circulated by Chief of Staff Frema Osei-Opare, to all Ministers, Deputy Ministers; Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) as well as all heads of government institutions.
The ban excludes only the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchway.
According to the memo, “The President of the Republic has directed that all foreign travels by Hon. Ministers, Deputy Ministers, MMDCEs and Heads of Government Agencies be temporarily suspended with immediate effect.
“Guidelines in respect of future foreign travels aimed at minimising disruption to Government’s domestic work, will be communicated to you shortly.
“The Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration is, however, exempted from this temporary ban on foreign travels.
“Please acknowledge receipt and accept for strict compliance”, the internal memo which found its way into the media, said.
Commenting on this, Prof Gyampo said: “I support the temporal ban on travelling by top government appointees. Ministers and top government functionaries travel abroad to represent Ghana at international conferences, meetings, summits and workshops. Others travel abroad for medical checkups and attention. There are those who also travel abroad to attend lectures for some sandwich courses they surreptitiously enrol in. Some also travel out for their vacation and relaxation. It must be noted that these trips come with huge cost to the nation. The cost for many of the travels are shouldered by the state. These, inter alia, may include airfares, hotel accommodation, cost of feeding and huge travelling allowances or per diems that actually serve as good incentive for frivolous travels.
“Other trips that aren’t paid for by the state, also cost the nation because, work slows down in the absence of the top appointees. Some of these conferences may present useful lessons that may be helpful to the nation. Others, however, may be avenues for soliciting ideas from those who attend them. In the case of the latter, the Conference may not benefit the nation and even though all expenses may be covered by the organisers, the nation still loses as work back home is disrupted or slowed down.
“Therefore, there should be stringent rules to regulate frivolous travels that disrupt work and impose needless cost to the nation. Appointees are to serve in their ministries, departments and agencies and not to indulge themselves in luxurious travels. The cliché among many appointees that: ‘It is our time to enjoy’, must be abandoned in service to the ordinary people. Some appointees create and monopolise all travel opportunities just because of the per diems and travel allowances. Even though some of the conferences require technical information and must be attended by technocrats who may attract lower per diem rates, top officials may prefer to embark on such trips themselves, thereby denying technocrats the exposure required to work home.
“Again, some conferences may require quick implementation of decisions reached back home. Technocrats required to implement such decisions may, however, be denied the opportunity to attend such conferences. The big man, a mere appointee who can be reshuffled at any time, would want to do all the travels to receive all the information germane to his ministry, only to be reshuffled. In the process, work slows down, huge cost is imposed on the state and institutional memory as well as the implementation of key decisions reached at international conferences, is sacrificed. We cannot allow this practice to go on just because of somebody’s inordinate desire for per diem!
“Going forward, only conferences that brings us assistance in cash or in kind must be encouraged. These shouldn’t be attended necessarily by top officials. They should be attended by technocrats who have what it takes to fully grasp what is discussed and can implement decisions taken. Top appointees must stay home to work and give the political representation of the government at their places of work.
“All foreign trips for medical checkups must be banned to force us to prioritise in improving healthcare home. Let appointees die here as a result of poor healthcare facilities to compel us to sit up. Ministers and top appointees who are caught traveling abroad to attend lectures must be sacked. Only Ministers who have the requisite qualifications should be appointed, not those who would want to use the opportunity given them to acquire degrees. Vacation travels and leave outside the country must be managed well so they don’t halt work progress and impose cost on the nation.
“Presidents must also consider minimising their frequent travels in the light of the above. When it is necessary to travel, the number of people who accompany the President must also be downsized. There is no money and we must protect the public purse from needless expenses. Prof Mills of blessed memory made it a personal policy not to receive travel allowances and per diems for his trips abroad. Other Presidents and appointees can learn from this act of selflessness all in an attempt to whip up patriotism and desire to die or sacrifice for the nation, among the citizenry.”