In recent times, there has been a growing debate about whether competent civil servants should be retained beyond their retirement ages. Dr. Amisshaddai Owusu-Amoah, the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), has been at the center of this debate.
Dr. Owusu-Amoah, who was due to retire in August 2020, was granted an extension by President Nana Akufo-Addo to continue serving as the head of GRA.
This decision was met with mixed reactions from the public. The argument to let go of experienced civil servants once they reach retirement age is valid, especially in a country like Ghana where youth unemployment is on the rise. However, it is important to consider that experience and competence are critical in improving the performance of government organizations.
Thus, in certain cases, it may be necessary to retain competent and experienced workers beyond their retirement age for positive transformation. In Ghana, this is legally supported by Article 199(4) of the 1992 Constitution, which was amended in 1996 to allow public officers who retire at age 60 to be engaged for a limited period of not more than two years at a time, but not exceeding a total of five years. Retiring competent and innovative individuals who have helped to improve institutions and drive them towards greater success simply because they have reached the age of 60 would be a great disservice to Ghana.
Dr. Owusu-Amoah, the Commissioner-General of the Ghana Revenue Authority, is a perfect example of a competent civil servant who has continued to serve beyond the retirement age. Dr. Owusu-Amoah’s achievements at the GRA are a testament to the benefits of retaining experienced and competent civil servants. Under his leadership, the GRA has made significant strides in improving tax administration in Ghana.
One of Dr. Owusu-Amoah’s most notable achievements is the introduction of online filing and payment of taxes. This initiative has reduced congestion in GRA offices and made it more convenient for taxpayers to file and pay their taxes.
Additionally, Dr. Owusu-Amoah has spearheaded the migration of manual auction activities to an electronic platform, thereby enhancing transparency in the process. He has also introduced e-VAT, which requires all VAT registered persons to incorporate the applications into their systems for them to issue Commissioner-General e-VAT, allowing the GRA to track their transactions real-time or near real-time to avoid revenue losses.
Furthermore, Dr. Owusu-Amoah has introduced a cashless initiative that has eliminated the negative aspects of teeming and lading, cash suppression and stealing by some office staff, reconciliation problems, long queues, time-wasting, returned cheques, and fake notes. The initiative has also made it easier for taxpayers to pay their taxes without having to visit GRA offices, thereby reducing the cost of doing business.
It is clear that Dr. Owusu-Amoah’s achievements at the GRA would not have been possible without his experience and competence. Retiring him simply because he has reached the age of 60 years would be a disservice to Ghana. Other public institutions should take a cue from the GRA and consider retaining competent civil servants beyond their retirement ages.
Of course, there are concerns about the potential negative impact of retaining civil servants beyond their retirement age, such as limiting opportunities for young graduates and contributing to the aging workforce. However, these concerns can be addressed by implementing policies that strike a balance between the retention of competent civil servants and the recruitment of young graduates.
For example, public institutions can introduce mentorship programs that pair experienced civil servants with young graduates to ensure knowledge transfer and succession planning.
The retention of competent civil servants beyond their retirement ages should not be dismissed outright. The experience and competence of these individuals are invaluable and can be used to transform public institutions positively. As we celebrate the achievements of Dr. Owusu-Amoah and other competent civil servants, we should also consider the benefits of retaining them beyond their retirement ages, albeit with the necessary checks and balances in place.