Local Gov’t Service suspends controversial training after The Fourth Estate report

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The Local Government Service has suspended its planned workshop for its 240 workers, who were to pay Gh¢6,000 each for a promotion-interview training.

The decision follows The Fourth Estate story which raised alarm on what some civil servants described as extortion.

This money, the Local Government Service says, was meant for organising “a three-day High-Level Residential Refresher Training Workshop to prepare the officers for the impending interview”.

“The amount will be used to cater for the training materials, accommodation, feeding as well as the administrative cost of the interview,” the letter explained.

Less than 24 hours after The Fourth Estate report, the Chief Director of the Local Government Service, James Oppong-Mensah, has written to all directors withdrawing the March 3, 2022 directive.

“Following concerns raised by some staff, the Head of the Service has directed an immediate suspension of the workshop,” the Chief Director said in his latest communication.

It however said, “a new date would be communicated to applicants after a broader consultation on the matter”.

The decision has triggered jubilation among civil servants who could not voice out their concerns openly for fear of victimisation.

“The suspension is good. It’s a good thing because there is a lot of outrage everywhere. We are happy about it. This place is spoilt; I mean the Local Government Service. This money, they will, by all means, look for a way of taking it,” a civil servant who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

“If The Fourth Estate had not blown the cover, nobody in the Local Government Service would have made them suspend this workshop. Left to the members of the Service alone, nobody would have been able to make any noise. You dare not. They would victimise you. They are good at victimising people. To victimise you, they can call you back to come and sit in the office and work under somebody whom you shouldn’t work under. They can send you to a district where you have no accommodation. They have so many ways of victimising people,”  another worker who knows the price of victimization stated.

But some still have doubts.

“They are now saying they are going to do broader consultation. They should do the broader consultation and we’ll see. Sometimes, they announce that they have suspended it but they still find a way to force people to pay in secret,” another one is in disbelief said.

“We heard the Minister for Local Government and Rural Development has taken interest in the matter and he is very angry about it. We want to see how far it will go. We have also heard that they are likely to reduce the amount they are charging for the promotion interview and make the payment secret and before you know it the workshop has started,” another one speculated.

The Chief Director of Local Government Service, James Oppong-Mensah, in an earlier interview with The Fourth Estate said payments for interviews -workshops were not new, but had been increased slightly this year due to economic hardships.

“It’s not compulsory. They are not under compulsion to pay,” he told Editor-In-Chief, Manasseh Azure Awuni, adding that if someone was not able to pay the money and attend the preparation, they would still be allowed to take part in the interview.

A planning officer had expressed fear things might get worse for his colleagues in the local government service if schemes of this nature were not stopped.

“It doesn’t happen. You don’t have to go and pay for any promotion. Where are they going to get that Gh¢6,000? The truth of it is that it is robbery,” he said.

Mr. Oppong-Mensah was unhappy that the employees had expressed their disapproval to the media instead of the management of the Local Government Service.

When asked whether he did not see the amount being charged as very high, the Chief Director said even if the employees felt it was high, they had to use the right approach. They could have reached out to the Local Government Service for a negotiation, instead of going to the media.

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