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:
“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.