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American Professor identifies 3 positive traits in Civil Service

Professor Erin Metz McDonnell

In a book titled “Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States,” the Author, Professor Erin Metz McDonnell, outlined three levels of lessons that could be learnt or incorporated into managing effective civil/public institutions’ bureaucracies and outcomes.

Prof McDonnell identified these lessons – small group culture, ‘slack’ and small wins, and management style – through research conducted in Ghana. The book was launched on the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) platform in Accra recently.

She said most often international organisations or individuals, when measuring institutional performances in developing countries, gave a macro representation of issues without digging deep to ascertain the various pockets of successes within the gloomy picture being painted.

Per her analysis, inter-governmental organisations were quick to peg white capitalists’ ideology of organisation against African states’ ways of managing their affairs, meanwhile, they had different settings.

She argues that regardless of how much individuals in developing countries were fighting to improve their systems at personal levels, the storyline of African organisations had remained bribery, complex bureaucracies and long queues for accessing basic services.

“Hearing the negative does not actually tell us how to do it well. Weak states like Ghana contains within them highly effective niches acting completely in the public interest. There are places that are working well and providing quality services to Ghanaians,” she noted.

The Sociology Professor, while understudying four institutions in Ghana – Ministry of Finance, the Commercial High Court, Bank of Ghana (BoG), and the National Communication Authority (NCA) – for a one-and-a-half-year period (2007-2008), identified persons in these institutions who were working positively to influence others’ behaviours within the same working environment.

She said those small group cultures were those individuals who were concentrated in one unit or department and were working tiredly to get things done. While members of the group could be moved around the institution for a snowball effect, she advised that those decisions required great caution, in order not to occasion a relapse of negative behaviour, stressing the individual or creating a vacuum.

Prof McDonnell added that although it was irrational to work in an environment without resources, managed style counts in every length and breadth of institutional success. In what she described as managing generously with accountability, placing a responsibility on the institutional head to model behaviours, extend opportunities, enable real decision power, encourage ideas and feedback recognise, acknowledge and reward befitting staff.

According to her, it took a refined leader to teach his or her subordinates how to say no to bribes without offending the giver.

The was reviewed by Prof Frank Ohemeng, Lecturer at the Department of Political Science, Concordia University, Prof Nana Akua Anyidoho, Director for Social Policy, University of Ghana, and Dr. Emmanuel Ayisi, Lecturer at the Department of Public Administration and Health Services Management, University of Ghana.

One of the major issues raised by Prof Ohemeng was that the book failed to connect institutional effectiveness to efficiency.


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