Over a period of four working days, I had the opportunity of being a member of two separate delegations to meet two of our leading duty bearers. Unfortunately, the experiences were so different; as different as night is from day. Whilst one experience was an admirable class-act, the other one was horrible and a very low-blow to decency and respect. For both encounters, appointments were scheduled about three weeks ahead and went through processes of confirmation and assurances of confirmation.
BEST PRACTICE EXAMPLE OF TIMELINESS
My first stop was at the Jubilee House for a scheduled meeting with the Vice President on a Friday. Although we were scheduled for 4pm, our 10-member delegation decided to gather at 3pm, an hour earlier to ensure that we will be together, and on time. By 3:40pm, all our team members were ready, seated in the Vice President’s conference room. At exactly 4pm, a staffer walked in to announce that the Vice President was ending another meeting so will run five minutes late. Then, at exactly 4:05pm, he walked in!With that, I bore witness to an excellent example of a duty bearer setting a beautiful example.
In a grand display of courteousness, he walked to each of us to shake hands and welcome us. The meeting went on for 45 minutes. At the end, he again walked to each of us to shake our hands and thank us for coming. The timeliness was respectful, professional and fully loaded with dignity. The experience was a best practice example that should be emulated in all state institutions. There was no wasting of our time or of his time. It occurred like a well-oiled machinery with a no-nonsense sort of efficiency.
WORST PRACTICE EXAMPLE OF TIMELINESS
The fourth working day after Dr Bawumiah’s display of best practice time-keeping, I found myself in an awkward situation at the health ministry. Our survival depends on our good health. For that reason, I consider the Ministry of Health as one of the most critical ministries because poor handling of health could spell death.
I was a member of an eight-member delegation to meet the Minister of Health. Four of our team members had travelled long distances for this meeting. Two came from Wa in the Upper West Region, one from Bolgatanga in the Upper East, and two from Tamale in the Northern Region. The remaining three of us were your average Accra folks. Our appointment with the Minister was scheduled for 2 pm. It had been confirmed through letters, telephone calls and face-to-face contacts. Ourteam decided to assemble 30 minutes earlier (by 1:30pm) to be double sure that we were on time.
By 1:40, we began to sense that something was not right. By 2:36, no one was around to see us; and we waited and waited at the reception hall downstairs—without the decency of an explanation. After our team leader pressed andliterally lobbied for the powers that be to give us audience as scheduled and promised, at 3:15pm, we were invited to go upstairs to the conference room. Finally, at 3:30pm, one and a half hours after our scheduled appointment, a deputy minister appeared with an entourage of some sort.
He gave a casual apology, explaining that he did not know anything about our appointment and that he had just been asked to meet us! At the end of the meeting, I made it my business to point out to the deputy minister that the ministry is ill, since it cannot even keep appointments. His attitude was that we should be grateful that he met us!
My take on the poor attitude displayed by the Ministry of Health is that when a person from upscale in officialdom is very late in meeting ordinary citizens, it presents a stark reminder of who is the boss. It is the person’s ego on display, and a glaring disregard for others owing to a warped feeling of self-importance.
PREZ NANA, LEAVE A LEGACY OF TIMELINESS
How come the Vice President displayed respect toward us by being on time but the Minister of Health showed us so much disrespect by keeping us waiting for a whopping one and a half hours?In the end, he did not show up! Rather, he sent a deputy who had not been briefed about the purpose of our meeting.
What is the policy of President Nana’s administration on timeliness? My experience at the Ministry of Health suggests that whatever good examples the presidency is setting is only skin deep and is not permeating into the fabric of government. There is no way change could occur at the top if the old mess is left to fester at the ministries, departments and agencies of governance. If the chieftains of Jubilee House respect the citizenry but their representatives do not care a hoot about us, then the president might as well stop putting in the effort!
Time is no respecter of persons. The kind universe allots to each of us the same number of seconds, minutes and hours in a day. It is 24 hours for a president or a commoner, male or female, a university professor or an unemployed depressed youth. It is the same 24 hours a day that roll into weeks, months and years.
The interesting fact about time is that when it is gone, it is really gone! You cannot retrieve the time you wasted yesterday and make use of it today. Time is the boss and has a mind of its own. Time is the finite gift of the universe to living beings. Time is therefore a privilege.It is the quality of what we do with our time that makes all the difference. Wasting time is therefore tantamount to wasting one’s life.
When you have the majority of your population rolling by and wasting their time, they are by that wasting the national time and life. If we could compute the number of hours people waste when they go to work, the results will shock our national consciousness. Just observing the extent of idleness at some government offices gives me the chills. Some people have perfected time-wasting tactics. Chatting endlessly about inconsequential personal matters; or going on extended breaks even though they arrived very late for work.
Indeed, laziness lurks in our national shadows!Our disrespect for time casts a large dark shadow over our collective effort to attain progress. Our national lackadaisical attitude toward time needs healing. Whatever President Nana and Dr Bawumiah could do to set the clock of Ghana to make us a time-respecting society should be done. If they succeed, it will be their greatest legacy to Ghana.
By Doris Yaa Dartey. The WatchWoman Column