The issue of low pay, inequalities in pay structure and poor conditions of service for Ghana’s public service workers has over the years been a major concern for successive governments. Undoubtedly, the last two decades has witnessed a significant increase in public sector wage bill reaching a ratio of 11.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the 2008 fiscal year.
This accounts for over 40% of recurrent budget, 46% of all tax revenues and about a quarter of overall government expenditure. Indeed, the ratio of public service wage bill to GDP is deemed very high when compared to ratios of 6.2 for all West African countries and 7.5 for middle income countries. Notwithstanding these situations, public sector earnings in Ghana remained low when compared to that of other countries.
Botswana, for instance pays its top public servants about US$40,235 p.a and Uganda pays its top public servants about SU$12,908 p.a while that of Ghana is about UIS$ 3,373p.a.Data from Ghana Living Standard Survey (GLSS) 5(2005/2006) shows that wages from employment constitute a major source of income for 28.6% of Ghanaians. Incidentally, those whose major source of income is from wage employment constitute 39.5% among those in the highest quintile. GLSS5(2005/2006) further revealed that out of the 18.2% of Ghanaians who live below the poverty line of GhC 371,p.a, 8.3% of them are public service workers.
The challenge to Government and its social partners, therefore, is how to work towards realistic wages that could attract and retain highly qualified and competent staff into the public service. This is to serve as a catalyst for increased productivity and also to enable them render efficient service to the private sector to expand their business and employment opportunities.
From the late 1960s, a lot of efforts were made by successive governments to address the salary disparities, and the poor conditions of service that existed in the public service and also manage the government wage bill efficiently. This culminated in the formation of many commissions to address the issue. Prominent among these commissions are:
- Mills Odoi Commission- 1967;
- Issifu Ali Committee- 1973;
- Azu Crabbe commission- 1979;
- The National Committee for Wage and Salary Rationalization-1983;
- The Gyampoh Salary Commission-1992;
It is worth noting that the results of the above commissions have largely been ad hoc and short lived.
The challenge again, was how to provide a more sustainable mechanism to reform the public service as well as improve pay and conditions of service of the public service employees.
It was to forestall the inadequacies in the previous Commissions’ proposals, that Ghana Universal Salary Structure (GUSS) was introduced in 1997 with the specific aim of resolving the deepening inequities in pay within and across the public sector. The introduction of GUSS necessitated a nationwide job evaluation exercise which was undertaken to develop new grading structures and an improved salary structure. It was expected that all public service workers would be placed on the GUSS and public service pay levels would be enhanced.
Regrettably however, the GUSS could not achieve the purpose for which it was introduced for various reasons including absence of legal backing and inadequacy of financial and material resources for the Central management Board and the Appellate Bodies which were charged to implement the GUSS. Consequently, the disparities in pay and grading continued to exist in the public sector.
In 2006, the Government of Ghana in her determination to improve public service pay and performance began another comprehensive grading and pay reform initiative to address the following:
- Low level of public service pay;
- Inequalities in public service pay within and across service classifications;
- Multiplicity of allowances in the public service;
The lack of Government control over public service wage bill.Following the recommendations of CoEn consulting in 2006, the Government of Ghana finally decided to adopt the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) as the most appropriate pay policy for the public service to promote equity and fairness in salary administration in Ghana.
In furtherance of the above, the Government of Ghana on the 26th November, 2009, issued a White Paper adopting the Single Spine Pay Policy (SSPP) as the new pay policy for public sector employees, effective January 2010, recognizing the first six months as a period to handle technical issues. In 2009, the road map for the implementation of the SSPP was adopted by all stakeholders giving the commission the green light to start with the implementation of the SSPP.