Controversy over appointment of chief minister of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 May 2018:

The creation of a new top ministerial position known as Chief Minister by president Julius Maada Bio, has sparked widespread debate as to whether the new post is superfluous to requirement, and furthermore, duplicates and undermines the role of vice president.

There are questions also, regarding the current ministerial position of chief of staff; whether this role will now be scrapped and replaced by the chief minister position.

Sierra Leoneans far and wide – including many ruling SLPP supporters, have criticised the decision of president Bio to establish this new ministerial position.

They say that  it smacks of hypocrisy at a time the country is buried under the weight of massive debt left behind by the outgoing APC government, and the economic austerity that Bio himself has vowed to enforce.

So far, president Bio has appointed a total of 33 new ministers to help manage the affairs of the country and deliver his New Direction. He is yet to appoint deputy ministers.

This too has sparked controversy and criticisms – even from among Bio’s supporters, who are convinced that Sierra Leone cannot afford to pay the salaries of key public sector workers – such as doctors and nurses, let alone the salaries of an army of ‘useless joy-riders’.

Any further expansion of the government’s wage bill is likely to be frowned upon by the IMF, who are currently considering whether and how best to support Sierra Leone throught the existing loan agreement signed by former president Ernest Bai Koroma.

The IMF had suspended its loan agreement with the Koroma government because of profligate spending and its inability to generate revenue. Can president Bio inspire the confidence of the IMF?

So, how does president Bio explain the need for the position of Chief Minister in his cabinet? This is what State House said last night in a statement:

“His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has appointed a new Chief Minister of the Government of Sierra Leone as part of his efforts to ensure that his new Government delivers on key strategic priorities.

“President Bio has appointed the Chair of the Governance Transition Team, Professor David Francis, as the Chief Minister designate.

“Some of the roles and responsibilities of the new Chief Minister of Government will include:

  • Under the directive of the Executive President, the Chief Minister will provide competent leadership for the day-to-day operational co-ordination, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of government business.
  • The Chief Minister serves as the central hub responsible for the overall co-ordination and facilitates the implementation of the Government’s Strategic Priorities.
  • Working with all Government ministers, the Chief Minister facilitates the co-ordination and implementation of government policies across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
  • As directed by the Executive President, the Chief Minister chairs the 3 cross-cutting sectoral ministries for inter-governmental co-ordination including: Education and Social Development Sector Ministries; Finance and Economic Development Sector Ministries, and the Peace, Security and Justice Sector Ministries.

“The Office of the Chief Minister incorporates the former Office of the Chief of Staff and is supported by the following strategic directorates: Directorate of Presidential Infrastructural Projects and Service Delivery (DPIPSD); Directorate of Strategy, Policy and Planning (DSPP); Directorate of Performance Management, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPMME); Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCU); and Directorate of Institute for Science and Technology (DIST).

“A Permanent Secretary will provide the administrative leadership for the Office of the Chief Minister.

“Before his appointment as Chief Minister, Professor David J. Francis is currently the Chair, Governance Transition Team. He was accredited by His Excellency President Bio as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation for the purposes of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) / Commonwealth Summit in London from 18 to 20 April 2018 and the state visit to the State of Qatar from 21 to 23 April 2018.

“In his roles as the current Chair, Governance Transition Team and the former accredited Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the highly respected Professor Francis (Photo) has been praised both nationally and internationally for his efficient, professional, diligent and straightforward approach and commitment to result-oriented delivery.”

Whilst this statement does not resolve, nor explain the controversial issue of conflict and duplication of roles in Bio’s cabinet, it remains to be seen whether the elected vice president Juldeh and even the president himself will be taking a back seat to allow David Francis to wield the enormous power and control he has now been bestowed.

But the question that many Sierra Leoneans are asking is: Can president Bio afford to expand government spending on ministers, when the rest of the country is being asked to tighten their belts, because of austerity?

The government of Sierra Leone is financially broke, and will need to muster tremendous amount of goodwill from the IMF and international partners, to help pay for the delivery of much needed public services, such as education, health, water, and electricity.

Monies saved by president Bio through his austerity measures by starving other ministries and departments of cash, as well as the sacking of ambassadors serving the country overseas, must not now be used to pay for a bloated ministerial cabinet. This is wrong – plain and simple.

12 Comments

  1. Based on the results the current transition team has announced in terms of the budget due to the help of Mr Francis who is the head, I don’t really care about the name of the title that the President will have for his office.

    My main concern will be only DELIVERANCE from the economic and educational humiliation that our country has been through the past decade.

  2. Our brother and president of our nation has just started ruling the country. We must give him the benefit of doubt to govern at will with the help of all those ministeries. The number of ministeries should be reduced and manage the country financially. I am going to give him the 100 days grace. Until he fixes the country´s problem I cannot say anything against him. He is my brother and my president.

    Let me ask this question: How many ministeries existed under Siaka Stevens and Dr. Koroma? Why can we not allow our brother to do the same in the hope of eliminating the acute problems in the country?

  3. Good evening Patricia,
    You are right. Why does a small country like Sierra Leone need 33 ministers???
    In Germany with about 80 million people we have only 15 ministers.
    This money will go in special pockets, again and again. The rich will become richer and the poor majority poorer. Thank you Maada Bio.

    • Agree. Totally unnecessary. But you see it is all designed to pay back their friends and allies.

  4. We are talking here of a govt. operations oversight guru who actually should team up with the VP to carry out this mammoth task, to ensure that the development programmes are all on track.

    If they are really serious about monitoring all bureaucratic activities to avoid waste, fraud, and abuse, they will not make it a one-man team.

    And I think all they have to do is require every Minister and his Vice to give an update to the office of the VP, and this administrative guru for review every quarter or so to determine progress, or lack thereof, in that department.

  5. It is possible to reduce the number of Ministers by almost two-thirds of what has been proposed, and Sierra Leone can run a very efficient and non-wasteful government, as regards “policymaking”, “policy implementation”, and “government administration”.

    In fact, right now, I can foresee many overlaps and confusion in the potential governance that will come out of the proposed structure.

    With what has been proposed, the world that Sierra Leone will need to support it – international organizations like the IMF and the World Bank, bilateral governments like EU members, and private sector companies seeking investment and business opportunities, will be willing and able to come and do business in the country when the business environment is sound.

    They will all be dragging their feet for the next several years just to see how on earth this bureaucratic governance structure is going to achieve anything beyond waste and confusion.

    With the current governance structure, any of these potential supporters that refuse to maintain their normal standards, will live to regret their gamble.

  6. I am impressed with this appointment and indeed a very good idea especially for a developing country like ours. Let’s give it a try. This was the missing link in EBK’s government.

    Good luck for our country and hope that the unnecessary political violence will also stop!

  7. Patricia,

    Is there any evidence to back up your wild allegations relative to Diaspora Bio supporters contributing those sums of money to Prez Bio’s campaign?

  8. PAY BACK TIME TO THE ONE WHO SHOULD HELP HIM GET HIS PHD, INCLUDING HIS EQUALLY CASH-STRAPPED UNEMPLOYED COHORTS.

  9. This expansion of Ministerial posts is wrong and should have no place in our democracy. I am a supporter of President Bio and do admire his stances in curbing corruption and trying to create a plain level field for the average Sierra Leonean.

    However, the creation of this Chief of Minister position clearly duplicates his functions, that of his VP and Chief of Staff. Prof Francis can still serve the country in his current position as head of the Transition Team. Once the transition is complete, he can serve in other previously designated positions without necessarily being a minister.

    It is too early for the President that we so trust, to put spanners in the spokes of the wheels of progress in Sierra Leone. I hope he listens and crushes this controversy in its bud.

  10. It is common knowledge that some diasporan SLPP supporters of President Bio, paid a portion of their salary into Bio’s campaign fund every month since 2012. Some paid even up to $500 monthly. If you add one person’s contribution over 6 years, that is a LOT of money. Multiply that by several other people and we are talking about a very significant contribution to the fund.

    I guess this is now payback time. Some of these supporters will now be put in ministerial posts to reap back every penny.

    I sincerely hope I am wrong about this and that they will carry out their work with the utmost dignity, sincerity and honesty.

    But I still ask myself, why does Sierra Leone need 52 ministers?
    I hope they will deliver to us the people who elected them. Please do not disappoint us.

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