The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 April 2013
In less than ten days president Koroma is expected to officially launch his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ for nationwide public consultation. He told ministers and heads of public agencies at a recent presidential retreat that; delivery of this new agenda cannot be allowed to fail.
“The targets we set in the Agenda for Prosperity will be directly aligned to the Performance Contracts that I will sign with Ministers. My election as President was an act of performance contract signing with my employers – the people of this great nation. I must fulfil the objectives of my employment” said president Koroma.
Such promise, coming from the president is nothing new. It has been heard before. What is different this time?
In 2007 when he was first elected to office, president Koroma promised the people of Sierra Leone that his period in office will be marked by a new style of governance.
He said that ‘the key values and principles that will drive his government and party are: transparency, openness, probity and accountability’.
And to ensure that the management of all organs of state and public institutions are consistent with these values, he said he will not only sign performance contract with all ministers, heads of departments and agencies, but most importantly – will publish an annual performance report.
Six years on, the people of Sierra Leone are yet to see those annual performance reports – telling the people of Sierra Leone how well his ministers are doing.
But then, president Koroma is not very well known for being consistent. He is not known for taking bold decisions based on promises he has made, irrespective of the consequences.
Some say that he is like the harmattan that comes with a chilly wind, before a hot spell of dry season – unpredictable.
But sources close to the president say that he is deadly serious this time around. He wants to prove that he is a man of his word. He says that he would like to leave a legacy behind, after the end of this his second and final term in office.
(Photo: Finance minister – Dr. K. Marah).
However, the only difficulty is that ministers themselves are confused as to what the Agenda for Prosperity is all about, let alone the people of Sierra Leone.
Hence, meeting with his ministers a month ago at a well organised ministerial retreat, the president told his ministers that he will be signing performance contracts with every single one of them
But why should ministers and the people of Sierra Leone take him seriously, with the president finding it increasingly difficult to demonstrate that he is in full control of his cabinet.
Many in the country believe that had the president published the 2010 report on ministers’ performance, he would have gone down in the history of Sierra Leone as the first leader to deliver what he promises.
Critics of the government and policy analysts are furious at the manner with which the president had cobbled together his Agenda for Prosperity.
They say that by entrusting the process in the hands of a selected few civil servants, without a broad-based national consultation – was a big mistake, and fell far short of development policy formulation best practice.
But others argue that by bringing together the best technocrats in the country to take responsibility for putting the Agenda for Prosperity framework together, Koroma has shown that he is truly serious about wanting to make a difference this time around.
The national think-tank responsible for formulating the Agenda for Prosperity is comprised of:
Chairman – Alimamy Bangura – under the auspices of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development – taking the lead;
Herbert M’cleod – Office of the President, State House, responsible for ideas on managing natural resources;
Dr. Kamara – Strategic Policy Unit, responsible for bring forward ideas on human development;
Morlai Bangura – Bank of Sierra Leone, responsible for ideas on international competitiveness;
Samuel Braima – lecturer at Fourah Bay College, responsible for ideas on job creation and labour strategy;
Abu Bakarr Turay of Statistics Sierra Leone, responsible for ideas on social protection and anti-poverty strategies;
Franklin Bendu of the Public Service Reform Unit, responsible for ideas on public sector reform and governance.
Speaking to ministers and the Agenda for Prosperity Think-Tank at the retreat, president Koroma said:
“Many of you here present will recall that on assumption of office in 2007, I invited Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Heads of Government Agencies and other stakeholders to a retreat at Bumbuna where I outlined my priorities for my first term in office. Following the Bumbuna Retreat, we firmed up the aspirations of our people into the Agenda for Change.”
But president Koroma failed to mention that he and his APC party did not formulate that Agenda for Change.
The Agenda for Change was hurriedly put together by Tony Blair’s advisers, after Koroma had won the 2007 elections , using the country’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper 1 document; hence ministers were unable to take ownership and deliver such an ambitious development programme.
“We made significant progress in the implementation of the Agenda for Change, particularly in road construction and rehabilitation, provision of electricity, expanding agricultural productivity, promoting good governance and our flagship project: the provision of Free Health Care for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under five.
“We have made strong economic growth in the last five years and increased employment opportunities. We are seeing significant increases in Foreign Direct Investments and our economic growth rate is the highest in the sub region.”
But conscious of the need to curb his exuberance, the president was quick to admit that:
“No doubt, the progress we made is visible for all to see, but challenges still remain. This is why, when the country turned 50, I set up the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation, wherein Sierra Leoneans were challenged to look at how far we have come and how together we can chart the way forward for the next 50 years.”
And there lies a serious failing of the president’s modus operandi. His policy formulation process is seriously flawed.
By asking the people of Sierra Leone at a conference two years ago, what the country needs and how he should go about developing the country, he showed clear lack of leadership and vision.
Critics say that after just four years of implementing his ‘borrowed’ Agenda for Change, the president is now quickly ditching his failed national development plan.
Speaking to his ministers at last month’s ministerial retreat, and in order to convince them of the need to come up with a new Agenda, president Koroma said:
“Drawing from the aspirations made known during the conference, and determined to continue the transformation unleashed by the Agenda for Change, my Party and I, campaigned on the platform of ensuring greater transformation; we vowed to do more when re-elected; and we committed ourselves to implementing an Agenda for Prosperity.”
“With this retreat, we are continuing the process of firming up the promises we made during the elections; we are moving forward with the aspirations for the nation to become a middle income country; we are using the Agenda for Prosperity as the first five year road map towards achieving this goal.
The truth though is that when president Koroma came to power in 2007, there was only one show in town and it was called POVERTY. There was a great need then to promote PROSPERITY.
But of course, tackling poverty was not the president’s Agenda. Before the 2007 elections, president Koroma’s opposition APC party was in disarray, due to a policy vacuum.
Why the u-turn now?
President Koroma told his ministers; “If we are to become a middle-income country by 2035, we have to address the challenges. We must do more to bring down the poverty levels, reduce unemployment amongst youths, and continue with the transformation in the health sector to further reduce infant mortality rates.”
The president may at long last seen the light, but there is very little evidence that he is clear about what needs to be done to tackle poverty in Sierra Leone.
So what are the strategies that the president will put in place in order to tackle poverty and achieve his new Agenda for Prosperity?
He said: “We must identify, articulate, design and implement flagship projects; we must build a new airport and airport city; build a national railway system; we must complete the Lungi bridge; establish multi-million dollar centres of excellence for youths; build affordable housing estates; and focus on science and information technology and agriculture.”
“This time around, we want to ensure that the revenues from natural resources are properly managed and are utilised for the benefit of present and future generations. To that end, we will be establishing a Transformation Development Fund from the proceeds of our natural resources.”
Reminding ministers of the important role they will play in achieving his Agenda for Prosperity, president Koroma said:
“It is important to note that we must all put greater emphasis on committed and regular collaboration and coordination among all Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“For example, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, our universities, technical centres and the private sector should collaborate strongly in the area of curriculum development and professional training.
“For job creation we must emphasize collaboration between the ministries of Youth, Labour, Tourism, Mineral Resources, Marine Resources, the private sector and other appropriate agencies. No single entity can do it alone.
“We must all be engaged in effective monitoring of the programmes, projects, and policies articulated in the Agenda for Prosperity. Ministers and stakeholders will form coordinating committees to ensure that Pillar and Sector objectives are constantly monitored and achieved.
“The targets we set in the Agenda for Prosperity will be directly aligned to the Performance Contracts that I will sign with Ministers. My election as President was an act of performance contract signing with my employers, the people of this great nation.
“I must fulfil the objectives of my employment. All of us must fulfil the terms of our employment if we want to keep our jobs; Let me warn you that no one is indispensable and no one will be allowed to derail the Agenda for Prosperity.
“I will not allow it; this Government will not tolerate it; and the people of this country will not approve it.
“After today’s meeting, the technical committee will finalise the relevant sections with the Ministers. But please note that, all what we will say here today, will not be finalised without the buy – in of the wider population.
“Therefore, I am expecting the Technical Committee of the Agenda for Prosperity to hold nationwide consultations with the wider public, including Parliament, Civil Society Organisations, Religious Groups and Private Sector operatives.
“As a democratic government, we cherish the views of the people who are the target beneficiaries of our programmes and projects. The people’s inputs into policy formulation and implementation will promote a progressive debate that is vital to the success of the Agenda for Prosperity.
“I cannot end this statement without calling on all civil and public servants to rise to the challenge, think more creatively, produce ideas and innovations that will enhance service delivery and push for greater coordination and cohesion across government.
“Business as usual will no longer be accepted; rewards and sanctions will be applied on the basis of the performance management processes that are now in place.
“We are still on track to launch the document in April, after which we will start the great work of mobilisation of resources to actualise our dreams. I am sure with the commitments and determination which we have, worked with, the Agenda for Prosperity will be realised.”
Will president Koroma publish the performance review reports of ministers this time around, as a legacy to his second term in office?