Economic Transformation amid COVID-19 pandemic: the responsibilities of an adaptive civil service

Economic Transformation amid COVID-19 pandemic:
Nana Otuo Siriboe II, Chairman of the Council of State

It is a great honor to be invited to participate in the 2021 ‘Civil Service Week and Award Ceremony’, which is aimed at acknowledging and appreciating dedicated and committed Civil Service staff whose relentless efforts have contributed to national and global development.

I must admit that since emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic it has posed a catastrophic turbulence in the global economy, and Ghana is not an exception. Despite the economic downturn and interruptions in our work processes, our gallant civil service staff have another forefront in reshaping our economy, and have worked tirelessly to ensure the continuity of government business. I say “Ayekoo” for your great efforts toward national development.

Managing such crises and addressing their socio-economic consequences requires audacious policy actions to maintain functioning healthcare systems, guarantee the continuity of education, preserve businesses and jobs, and maintain stability of the economy. While political leadership is essential to sustaining the complex political, social and economic balance of adopting containment measures to reduce the pandemic’s impact, it is an adaptive Civil Service that will ensure the realisation of these policy actions.

Given the current situation, the theme for this year’s celebration ‘Economic Transformation amid the COVID-19 pandemic: The responsibilities of an adaptive civil service’, could not have been more apt. The Civil Service must therefore brace itself and harness the winds of opportunity inherent in this pandemic through professionalism, innovation, creativity, adaptation and diligence in its mandate to support government’s transformational agenda for national development.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic                                                                               

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the most disruptive health crisis that the world has faced in recent history. It has disrupted economies and our way of living with unprecedented consequences for our daily lives, including how we work and learn.

According to estimates from the International Labour Organisation [ILO], 14% of working hours were lost globally in the second quarter of 2020 when compared to the last quarter of 2019 [ILO, 2020]. This loss is equivalent to 480 million full-time jobs – an indication of a massive disruption to the labour markets around the world, of which the Ghanaian labour market was not excluded.

Beyond the inevitable impact of the global COVID-19 disruptions on Ghana, the response of government – which included the closure of all borders and partial lockdown of selected areas – had its toll on all sectors of the economy; especially because Ghana is an import-driven economy.

As the COVID-19 situation persists longer than anticipated, in its different shades, key actors must devise robust strategies to restore the economy to avoid declines in government revenue and expenditure. Hence the need for a responsible and adaptive Civil Service.

Government of Ghana’s Mitigation Measure/Transformation Agenda

In line with the measures being adopted globally, government has sought to implement a mix of fiscal and monetary measures and policies to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the economy. Most of these measures are targetted at stimulating economic growth and positioning Ghana’s economic development and transformation agenda back on track.

For the effective fruition of this agenda, the Ghana Civil service must position itself strategically and remain adaptive toward transforming our economy. The successful implementation of these measures depends largely on a capable and highly-motivated workforce at the Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

An Adaptive Civil Service

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Given the wide-ranging impact of the pandemic, government efforts to accelerate economic recovery and transformation have taken centre-stage. While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges to Public Service administrations the world over, I dare say the Ghana Civil Service has remained resolute amid the pandemic through a number of reform initiatives; such as creating a more integrated and flexible work culture. Staff of the Civil Service must remain instrumental in this recovery process for sustained socio-economic growth. As the Civil Service plays its pivotal role of policy formulation, coordination and implementation, I will focus on some key areas for our reflection.

  1. Build collaboration and synergy with all sectors/stakeholders of the Economy

There is a need for effective and timely stakeholder engagements in the various critical sectors (Finance, Health, Education, Communication etc.) of the economy, to ensure a coordinated approach to the transformation agenda. While this was largely achieved during the pandemic, leadership of the Civil and Public service must harness these opportunities to advance the vision of a Civil Service that is forward-looking, flexible and fulfilling.

The Civil Service must lead the partnership with other global Civil Service Organisations such as Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea to stay relevant in its work process. There is also need to champion a national plan for mitigating such pandemics, as I am reliably aware the Office of the Head of the Civil Service has led the development of Workplace Health and Safety Strategies to mitigate such occurrence in work processes in the near-future. This is indeed a great step in the right direction, and more of such initiatives must embarked upon within all the sectors of our Public Service.

  1. Develop strategic and tailor-made capacity building programmes

It is said, “The ultimate resource in economic development is people”. It is people and not capital or raw materials which develop an economy (Peter Drucker). For the Civil Servant to be adaptive amid the COVID-19 crisis, its workforce must build on its skills-set to stay focused and become the needed change agents. I am aware that within the year under review, the OHCS as a central management agency – as part of its staff development plan -has deliberately ensured that most Civil Service staff undergo appropriate capacity building programmes to better position the workforce toward the needed service delivery.

As government continues to support the training of staff in the Civil Service, I charge leadership of the Civil Service to keep staff capacity development initiatives paramount in the quest to make staff responsible and adaptive to the changing global environment. There is a need to constantly strive to produce a highly skilled workplace that meets the standards of the fourth industrial revolution.

  1. Accelerate the digitisation of work processes

To stay responsive and adaptive to the new normal, I must first and foremost commend the Service for the innovative solutions to achieve its deliverables through use of the various e-platforms – spearheaded by the Ministry of Communication – to promote a paperless e-governance system for government business. The introduction of the smart workplace system for effective work processes by all Ministries, Departments and Agencies is a step in the right direction for the Service to leverage on technology to promote productivity and enhanced service delivery.

The virtual promotions, e-records management initiatives, having meetings via the virtual space are great initiatives from the Civil Service in order to stay responsible and adaptive, and must be applauded. However, as the global economy rapidly evolves into the digitisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) era, there is need for staff of the Civil Service to build capacity in more competitive information communication technology skills to stay adaptive.

As intimated by Mr. Anthony Kwasi Sarpong, partner of KPMG in Ghana, our people are the real gold that must be polished to attract the right value. Thus, building the capacity of staff to deploy appropriate technology is imperative for our development and must be highly embraced by leadership of the Civil Service. Let us stand ready and prepare our current and next generation to align with the emerging dispensation for speedy growth of Ghana’s development agenda.

  1. Strengthening the Performance Management Systems

I am excited that one key administrative reform of the service is institutionalisation of the performance management system, which ensures that all staff (Chief Directors, Directors and all staff) are accountable for the target they have to achieve within the year. I applaud leadership of the Civil Service for deepening the performance management of staff, which has translated into increased productivity in the Service and resulted in the reward of meritorious awards as stated in section 88 of the Civil Service Act, 1993 (Act 327).

I implore management of the Ghana Civil Service to continue strengthening this initiative and place staff of the Service on the highest pedestal in their various fields of work.

Opportunities for transformation and reformation of the Civil Service

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, the Civil Service should consider the crisis as an opportunity for transformation and reform. The following may be reflected upon:

  • What innovative mechanisms for coordination and speeding up decision-making at the centre can be put in place to better cope with future crises?
  • What potentials, limits and needs have the crisis revealed? What are the key tools and factors of success, and what is the role of evidence? How has the crisis affected the administrative political interface, including the role of expertise?
  • Which new insights into building anticipatory governance, institutionalising risk management and mainstreaming strategic foresight approaches have the Civil Service identified as a result of the crisis?

While reflecting on these issues, the pandemic-era Civil Service has an opportunity to embed lasting change.

First, in the longer-term this crisis can enable both civil and public service to adapt many of the traditional assumptions upon which public employment policies are based. For example, the relationship between employees’ presence in the office, mobile technology and worker productivity may likely be re-examined. What will this mean for performance, management recruitment?

Public administrations are undergoing a massive and unplanned experiment in flexible people management, which despite logistical challenges is revealing areas of strength and resilience. Reflection on performance and productivity in this time of crisis will be essential to harvest lessons for the future. Evaluating, adjusting and formalising aspects of the immediate response can provide the Civil Service and public administrations with much-needed flexibility and dynamism to face future challenges.

Second, the pandemic response has shone a spotlight on the work of public servants. The crisis thus provides a new opportunity to reinforce attractiveness of the public service as a career of choice for a new generation of skilled workers who are motivated by public values.

Third, the Civil Service should consider the normalisation of successful innovations/remote working, new communication and information technologies, platforms for agile workforce redeployment, as these are but a few of the tools that public services are implementing to manage this crisis. There are also many other applications across the public service that will become permanent fixtures of the pandemic-era new normal. 


Martin Luther King Jnr. said: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in a moment of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversies”. The Ghana Civil Service must therefore remain determined in its quest to stay afloat with current global trends, so as to be responsible and adaptive notwithstanding challenges the new normal pose in your work processes.

On this note, I want to take the opportunity to appreciate leadership of the Ghana Civil Service Week for making the Awards ceremony yet again a success, and I would like to encourage staff to work selflessly continuously in building a better Ghana. Congratulations are in order for all deserving officers who receive various awards for their relentless and tireless efforts in the performance of their duties.

I wish you all the very best; let us continue complying with all the COVID-19 safety protocols and stay safe in these difficult times.

God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.

I thank you all for your attention.


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