Sierra Leone’s social welfare minister Blyden sets standard of transparency, openness and accountability

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 December 2016

Few ministers, if any in Sierra Leone – including the president, have gone all out to ensure that as a matter of duty they routinely inform their paymaster the tax payer about their daily work activity.

But as many Sierra Leoneans would admit, only a handful of public officials actually perform a day’s work in their entire lifetime in office. This says a lot about president Koroma’s ministerial performance contract monitoring.

And not many public officials see their role as servants of the people either. Instead they regard the people that pay their salaries as servants, whilst busy siphoning public funds or engaging in their own unlawful personal enterprises.

Productivity in Sierra Leone’s public sector is one of the lowest in Africa, although this is also to some extent true of the country’s private sector. The entire economy is inefficient.

The slothful obsession of public officials with donor funds, is seriously hampering their ability and capacity to innovate and think outside the box of ways to either generate revenue for the state or run their ministries economically, efficiently, and effectively.

It is therefore quite refreshing to see at least one minister who is quite rightly obsessed about routinely giving account of their daily work activity. This sets a new standard of transparency, openness and accountability that should be mandated across government. Not even State House should be spared.

By the way what does president Koroma and his vice – Victor Foh do every day? Yes they head the government – then what.

But what is their real job; and how productive are they in discharging their daily work activities?

Can both honestly justify the £30,000 monthly salary, plus state benefits they receive? Is this value for money for the poor tax payer?

Last week the Sierra Leone Telegraph received three reports from the social welfare ministry about Dr. Sylvia Blyden’s work activities for publishing. Each of those reports provides extensive detail of her engagement work with communities and vulnerable people.

Some may see this as self promoting. But, like her or hate her, one must demand that such level of accountability, transparency and openness must be a minimum standard expected of the country’s public servants, which the president is failing to uphold.

These are some of the reports. including one received this morning:

19th December 2016:

I spent my morning at my office at New Englandville handling various issues like speeding up our civil servants to process payments long overdue (once again!!) to the hardworking grassroots women who sweep the streets of urban Freetown.

I have assured the over 500 women that they will definitely get their small stipends tomorrow.

Then I drove 3 hours up North so as to spend my afternoon in Makeni giving a Goodwill message to our grassroots rural women of Bombali as my Ministry re-launches the Community Wellness Advocacy Groups (CAGS).

In my speech, I highlighted how CAGS compliments the free health care programme.

As over 100 Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) from across all the chiefdoms of Bombali, listened in rapt attention to me, I used the chance to also lament the manner in which Northern Province, since Colonial days, has been suffering from disproportionate lack of social services as compared to other parts of Sierra Leone.

I said that this was the primary reason why the North always had the highest percentage of any index measuring negative human development.

To combat this patently unfair allocation of social services is one of the reasons why there is wisdom in the soon-to-be-proclaimed Re-division of Sierra Leone administrative boundaries by His Excellency the Supreme Executive Authority of Sierra Leone.

After the formal event, I led our grassroots TBAs and community activists in a joyous parade through the streets of Makeni. We had a lot of fun singing and dancing traditional songs.

Before returning back to Freetown, I also found time to visit Mamie Sam and her mother at their temporary location in Makeni. Mamie, whose hormonal imbalance causes her breast to overgrow, is such a charming girl and obviously deeply attached to her mother. She is actually only 11years old despite her rather tall height.

I also think that it is pertinent to here note two points. Firstly, my Ministry learnt about Mamie Sam at the same time the whole world did – via social media update of journalist Saffa Moriba. That was last month.

The other point is that Mamie Sam and her mother are deeply attached to one another. Their emotional bond is amazing to watch.

I feel so proud to be leading a Ministry that has ensured a very poor woman was not deprived of love of her child by ill-motivated persons who merely used a child to score cheap political points.

The recent radio broadcast of a voice purporting to be Mamie Sam saying she does not want to be with her mother, should be treated with the contempt it deserves. Some people can go too low. This entire hijacking, impersonation, fraudulent and criminal activities around this poor girl without the Consent of her parents, the two sets of her grandparents or her guardians, all have left a very bitter taste in the mouths of right-thinking citizens.

Anyway, I’m back in Freetown this night preparing for another long day tomorrow. Please enjoy the photos of me in Makeni today.

Two gentlemen whom have always displayed their respect for gender equality were present today and I send their photos out as well – taken as they delivered their Gender Sensitive words. They should need no introductions as they are both great men in Makeni. If you cannot figure out whom these eminent men are, then you need to put more gender in your agenda.

22 December 2016:

Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, has in evening of Thursday 22nd December 2016, told the women of Yele in Gbonkolenken Chiefdom, Tonkolili District, Northern Sierra Leone, that the recent National Census has revealed that 60% of Sierra Leone women live in rural areas.

She also lamented that social service delivery has since colonial days, been always inadequate in the rural areas hence the decision of President Koroma to initiate targeted programs which aim at enhancing social service delivery. She said the President has a special focus on looking into serving the needs of rural women as it was recognized that rural women had huge gender based challenges. She said this was most marked in Northern Province.

Hon. Blyden spoke of President Koroma’s Community Wellness Advocacy Groups (CAGS) which her Ministry has formally re-launched in both Bombali and Tonkolili this week as adjuncts to the ongoing Free Health Care Programme of the government for women and their children. She revealed plans to intensify research that targets constraints faced by rural women in agriculture in order to design solutions for them.

Hon. Blyden also passionately appealed for rural girls to be empowered to be anything they wanted to be. She said the best way forward to ensure this is by allowing girls to freely grow up and become well educated women. She said extra school charges even after free education was made mandatory, Child Marriage, Teenage Pregnancy and Under-aged FGM are amongst the vices affecting girls in rural areas.

She vehemently warned parents not to forget that any girl below the age of 18 years is a child and cannot get married neither be initiated into the Bondo society. Blyden said girls were diamonds and when allowed to become polished, they add allure to their communities. She said an empowered and independent woman was always a center of positive development in her community so the more empowered women in any society, the more developed that society will be.

Hon. Blyden also spoke of innovative ways whereby girls can be empowered. She spoke of an event she launched last weekend with Madam Isha Johansen, the female President of Sierra Leone Football Association which aims at using football to empower girls to dream to be anything they wanted to be.

She said football can be a tool to empower girls to dream big things and go on to achieve them. At this point, the female minister distributed footballs and other designer sports items like jerseys and matching designer socks to the Gbonkolenken Female Football Team, the Central Queens FC.

Speaking of what might be reference to a recent attempt by her detractors to use a misguided child wrongly portraying himself on the radio as a national executive member of the Children’s Forum Network, the Children’s Minister urged the girls in the football team to be disciplined as Hardwork, Discipline and an unshakeable focus was why she is successful at whatever she does.

She said adults in social positions of trust had to mentor children to be capable of facing challenges of adulthood. She said it was an obligation.

“When you tell children that they can be spoilt to extent of ignoring due administrative procedures, what are you really doing? You are spoiling the future generation to grow up and become adults without respect for law & order. When you tell 10 years old children that they can be allowed to go into defective, un-serviced buses and be driven hundreds of miles in un-serviced buses, just because you want to be popular with them, you are grooming the future generation to be reckless. No responsible adult can raise the next generation to be reckless, indisciplined, lawless and without respect for order. I consider myself to be in this position today with a sacred mandate to oversee the well-being of children who are the future generation of tomorrow,” Hon. Blyden lectured the Tonkolili girls to loud applause.

Meanwhile, the auspicious programme itself was held in the Court of the distinguished Paramount Chief of Gbonkolenken, P.C. Bai Sunthuba Osara III and it saw hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of traditional women from across the chiefdom gather to listen to Hon. Blyden.

Prior to the programme kicking off, Hon. Minister Dr. Sylvia Blyden that evening led a crowd of over five hundred traditional women in a colourful street parade from the residence of the Paramount Chief right through to the center of town and then back again to the old traditional town in a display that lasted for over two hours.

Long past midnight, the Bondo Dance celebrations actively continued in the Chiefdom and at press time, it looked all set to continue into the early morning hours of Friday as excited rural women are not letting go of their chance to ‘rub skin’ (freely interact) with their Gender Minister who was spotted dancing vigorously with the rural women of Gbonkolenken.

Yesterday, 28 December 2016:

The Minister responsible for Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in Sierra Leone has on Wednesday 28th December 2016, hosted a cross section of national executive members of the Children’s Forum Network (CFN) at her ministerial offices at New Englandville.

The cool and smiling minister reassured CFN that just as she has always been there for them, she will continue to give them her maximum support. She however cautioned them not to fall into the way of becoming juvenile delinquents who behave like they are in a *JUNGLE*. She said children will always be treated like children and thugs will be treated as thugs deserved to be treated.

Hon. Blyden has meanwhile dismissed the unfortunate recent commentaries on social media alleging that she is not friendly to children. She says what is happening is that unsavory characters are using children in cheap politics.

Hon. Blyden, as a one-time National Party Leader of the Young Peoples Party in the year 2002, is on record as being vehemently against the use of Children in politics. During the 2002 elections, she was vocal in condemning the then-SLPP led government over their use of children in campaigning. See link below:

http://www.ipsnews.net/2002/05/rights-sierra-leone-furore-over-child-campaigners/

“I have noticed the same trend arising like in 2002 where children are being used to score cheap political points. This must stop,” Hon. Blyden asserted.

She also dismissed the talk that she had to negotiate with a parent whose son was allegedly slapped when the son tried to forcefully go passed the barrier leading into the ministry’s conference hall this morning.

“All I did was call the woman into my office for her to listen to the numerous secret recordings we have of a few misguided children meeting last night in what they called a strong jungle as they plotted to come and forcefully take over the ministry today,” Hon. Blyden said adding “when the woman listened to the utterances of her son’s associates, no one had to tell her to go quietly.”

Meanwhile, this media can confirm that last night, upon receiving the recordings and the intelligence that thugs were planning to move into her ministry today, the Hon. Minister had alerted both Inspector General of Police Munu and the Internal Affairs Minister Hon. Major Rtd. Palo Conteh.

She had revealed of the plan designed within what was called “the Jungle” in the recordings by those who had planned to hold an unauthorized destructive activity at the Ministry under the guise of a so-called press briefing at the Ministry’s Conference Center.

“The IG of Police was aware of what was being planned as I personally alerted him,” the Minister confirmed.

Meanwhile, the New Englandville Police officers who received the juvenile delinquents who had attempted to forcefully trespass into environs of the Conference Room of the Ministry, have strongly cautioned all of the delinquents to avoid engaging in any further activity that will lead to disruption of the peace.

About the alleged thugs who intercepted the juvenile delinquents, the Minister confirmed that they were not thugs but they were “my very good friends who decided to visit me at the office and spontaneously met a situation which warranted them to step in and take needful action to help protect lives and government properties”.

Also now in the possession of the Police is one of the recordings done last night by a young man from Lunsar who though not in school anymore, was imported into Freetown overnight from Lunsar. His name is Mohamed the Hunter Conteh and he is the only person who travelled from the provinces to team up with the mere handful of those who are on an inexplicable but intense campaign of lies and calumny against the Hon. Minister. The Hunter chap is heard saying their Jungle team is getting strong.

What is clear is that some persons are using the children because these handful of kids don’t have any cogent grievance for their campaign against the minister. One minute they will say it is over a bus, the next they will say it is because they don’t know the color of carpet in the minister’s office. Another time, they will say it is over an alleged AGM that was to be in Kono.

According to recordings of the voice of some of the juvenile delinquents, one of their grievance is that the Deputy Minister in that Ministry who also hails from Lunsar like Mohamed the hunter, should have been made the Cabinet Minister instead of Hon. Dr. Blyden.

Hon. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden, one of the most focused women of substance in Sierra Leone today, is however not bothered by her political detractors. She just is concerned over the way in which minors are being used to fight her as the Minister.

She has therefore urged the visiting CFN executive members headed by the elected CFN Secretary General Hussein Muckson Sesay (who led the national CFN executives’ visit to their hardworking minister), to ensure they do not cause her, as the Honourable Minister, to take the decision of dissolving the current national executive of CFN and allowing only School CFN chapters to be run under the ministry’s supervision of District CFN branches.

7 Comments

  1. Sylvia Blyden appears to be an upright and service devoted public servant. She’s making a clear difference among President Koroma’s ministerial team. One might erroneously judge her actions as intent to scoring points for herself, yet, public service delivery is what it is all about – scoring points for a good job done, and this is just exactly what the honorable minister is doing.

    She is setting a precedence which has never been known in any government dispensation of duties in the country, since our independence. Her way of duty performance could be a sensitizing source that catches the attention of other ministries to emulate her good work.

    She may slip somewhere in her duty engagements, but we should focus more on the positive side rather than subtle mistakes likely to occur.

    Most people will agree for now she is the most laudable government official in the country. She has continually demonstrated honesty and integrity in her job since she took over the ministry.

    As we interact on this forum, our ultimate desire is to see good governance put in place in the country so; we must give support to any authority whether in public responsibility or the private sector of the like of Honorable minister Sylvia Blyden.

  2. In any team – it matters not what its objectives are – it is always the case that there is a participant or player who stands out as a beacon and everything seems to radiate from him/her.

    In the Ernest Koroma team Sylvia Blyden is that person. Her inclination toward transparency renders her as somebody who recognises, unambiguously, that she is an employee of the people and not the other way around.

    At any one time, an employee who knows her job description, wants her employer to be aware of what she is doing to achieve her goals for constant assessment.

    In such an atmosphere, even when the employee stumbles, the employer will know that she did so while heading in the right direction and make no scene of it.

    This is Sylvia Blyden. A forceful fighter who seems not be interested in taking prisoners and incur the expense of taking care of them, funds that should be used for more productive endeavours.

    President Koroma should revive his dying administration by looking for and bringing into his cabinet more Sylvia Blydens.

    The administration is dominated by people who cannot afford to be transparent because they are sitting on a mountain of mess – getting up is politically suicidal. And Ernest Koroma Knows it.

    I believe with my entire being that had President Koroma made Sylvia Blyden Minister of power and energy as his administration took its first breath, the entire country would have a constant supply of electricity by now, with everybody being thankful about it.

    And if a constant supply of water were added to it the electorate might start wondering whether, with all sincerity, Ernest Koroma should be allowed go anywhere – term limit or no term limit.

    But the President lost his bearing right from the very beginning – a self-inflicted blow for a man who wooed his people by declaring that he was coming in to run the nation like a business.

    Some have alleged that Sylvia is on a self-promoting mission. May this continue to be the case within the context of what she is trying to do for the entity called Sierra Leone.

    Once again I must thank profusely Sierra Leone Telegraph for the unique opportunity to vent my feelings, anger and frustration. It does help for me to maintain my balance.

  3. “…. As over 100 Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) from across all the chiefdoms of Bombali, listened in rapt attention to me, I used the chance to also lament the manner in which Northern Province, since Colonial days, has been suffering from disproportionate lack of social services as compared to other parts of Sierra Leone.

    “I said that this was the primary reason why the North always had the highest percentage of any index measuring negative human development.

    “To combat this patently unfair allocation of social services is one of the reasons why there is wisdom in the soon-to-be-proclaimed Re-division of Sierra Leone administrative boundaries by His Excellency the Supreme Executive Authority of Sierra Leone.” (Minister Blyden).

    If only the other parts of Sierra Leone that Minister Blyden is alluding to have such advantage – something to show for these illusionary advantages, they would be the envy of the country.

    But from what I have seen and read, the other parts of the country seem to be so backward that I am asking myself what advantages do they have over the Northern Province?

    The East for example has only one higher learning institution (Eastern polytechnic), the worst road network as was seen in the recent Mamba TV production, the highest infant mortality as was recently published. The south has nothing good to write about.

    I am expecting madam Minister to use her connections and position in the government to advocate for the rest of the country, as it is a shame that we still have a country where we have to count development projects on our single fingers and yet all we can get from those in governance is the same divide and rule policies that we rejected the colonial masters for, in order to promote their political constituency.
    .

  4. To be Honest in my assessment of your diary (Minister Blyden), I would like to have read other journeys you took to the Southern Province and Eastern Province, and the challenges you encountered through your road trips to these other provinces.

    AS YOU KNOW THAT 3/4 OF THE ROADS IN THE NORTHERN PROVINCE ARE PAVED. AND IT IS EASY TO DO A DAY’S TRIP TO THE NORTHERN PROVINCE WITH EASE AND RETURN BACK HOME TO FREETOWN WHEN COMPARED WITH JUST 1/4 OF THE PAVED ROADS IN THE SOUTHERN AND EASTERN PROVINCES. 3/4 OF ROADS ARE Unpaved in these provinces

    You are earning over $12000/00 a month as a minister in the EB Koroma led APC government. Can we know the stipend the street cleaners are earning each month, in your quest to see them paid their stipend for the work that they do?

    Also, you elaborated about the prevention of female circumcision and initiation of girls under 18 years, which is good. But you didn’t elaborate on homelessness, efforts to curb domestic violence and the need to update the ministry’s employees with current knowledge about social work, psychology etc.

    Liaise with the ministry of education, so that modules on social work, psychology, Drugs and Alcohol Education, etc. can be incorporated into the education curriculum, so that your staff can be updated on the current trends and how they can go about doing their work.

  5. Well done Sylvia.

    I dont know you and have never met you, but you seem like one of the very few politicians with the best interest of Sierra Leone at heart.

    Keep up the good work that you are doing.

  6. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden is nothing but an egotistical opportunist. She has and still continues to slither her way into national prominence, by using her trash newspaper – Awareness Times, to blackmail and intimidate people who do not share her primordial political desires.

    And after witnessing the disgrace that was visited upon our President Ernest Bai Koroma in the early years of his presidency before she was appointed “Special Executive Assistant”., it might not be far fetched to surmise that she probably had the poor fellow compromised because after failing to live up to expecting as SEA, she was forced to resign only to slither her way back as the Honorable Minister of Social Welfare.

    But there is nothing Honorable about this woman. Her overtures to the so called rural women during the FGM debate is another ploy to align with these gullible women, and to gain popularity, when she is not even a member of the “Bonds Society”

    All Sylvia is interested in, is to expose herself in whatever form necessary to satisfy her innate desire to be considered a real woman of substance.

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