Australia has had diplomatic relations with Ghana since the country gained independence in 1957. Australia was one of the countries to open a mission in Ghana that same year.
Australia has had some excellent relations with Ghana and made some contributions to the country’s infrastructure while the mission focuses on helping Australian companies pursue their interests in extractive industries such as mining and oil and gas.
But a darker side of the relations became public, when on Tuesday August 16, 2022, an unprecedented event took place in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. There has never been any such thing, in the history of diplomatic missions in Ghana. A former employee of the High Commission in Ghana, a Ghanaian citizen held a press conference and made serious allegations of abuse against the Mission.
This was the first time any former Ghanaian employee of any diplomatic mission had gone public on allegations of abuse related to employment.
Ms Mercy Catherine Adjabeng who had worked at the High Commission for three years told reporters at a press briefing in Accra that the Australian Mission terminated her appointment in a way she considers wrong. But the High Commission has not yet responded to the serious allegations.
Ms Adjabeng had worked for the Mission as Public Affairs and Events Manager.
It’s been more than a week since Ghana Business News sent an email to the High Commission seeking a response that we would include in this article. While we waited for the response from the High Commission after we have sent reminders and followed up with phone calls, then sent a final notice for right to reply, on Wednesday October 12, a staff of the High Commission called to ask which email address we sent our enquiries to. We told her and she asked us to resend it to another email address bearing the additional letters HC, and we did. But as at the time of publishing we don’t even have an acknowledgement of receipt.
Ms Adjabeng had said the High Commission terminated her appointment on August 8, 2022 due to the Mission’s own refusal to honour an agreement to continue her employment at the agreed level.
“This was as a result of the Australian High Commission’s refusal to honour an agreement to continue my employment at the agreed level reflecting my experience and expertise, expected to be above Level 5,” she said.
“They had removed me from that level, demoting me to a Level 4. This demotion came together with a treatment that fails the standards set by the High Commission of respect, transparency, and community,” she added.
She further explained that she had previously been employed by the High Commission under former High Commissioners Andrews Barnes and Gregory Andrew until September 30, 2021 when she resigned.
According to Ms Adjabeng, after she resigned the High Commission contacted her and asked her to return after advertising for the position and not finding a replacement, but she declined.
She further indicated that she eventually agreed after the Mission made continued requests for her return.
She stated that when she agreed to return to work at the High Commission, after continued requests, she agreed and took on some additional roles and maintained that these reflect in the new engagement and that she was to be duly paid for that. She also indicated that the new role she agreed to take should be above her former position she resigned from and therefore asked that she should be put on Level 5.
According to her, the Mission failed to honour all the agreed terms of her re-engagement, and instead she was demoted.
She also said on her last day at work she was hounded out of the premises.
“On my last day, an Australian member of staff at the Australian High Commission hounded me out of the building, treating me with disrespect, a lack of humanity, and a lack of professionalism,” she said.
Ms Adjabeng further accused the High Commission of infringing on Ghana’s labour laws.
Their actions, she said, “fall foul of Ghana’s labour laws; fall foul of Australia High Commission’s standard of treating employees with respect, courtesy and in a professional manner. They were unfair, unjust and a misrepresentation.”
She then decided to pursuing the following recourse: “Using media advocacy to stand up, speak up and tell my story; Petitioning relevant institutions; Taking legal action and any other legitimate means for redress,” she said.
She also demanded an apology and compensation at the level agreed for her re-engagement from the High Commission.
But the High Commission has been silent on the matter.
Anytime we receive a response from the High Commission, we shall publish their side of the story.
By Emmanuel K Dogbevi
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