Another damning story of reckless maladministration by the Bio-led government of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 September 2021:

The editors of the Africanist Press – Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman have published more damning allegations of serious maladministration by the government of president Bio of Sierra Leone.

In their latest story, the Africanist Press accuses the government’s finance officials of expanding the government’s payroll in order to reward ruling party political appointees, thus widening gross pay disparities in the civil service.

This is what the Africanist Press said:

New payroll documents and official correspondences of the government of Sierra Leone obtained by the Africanist Press reveal shocking evidence of how the Maada Bio administration has expanded the payroll to reward leading members and key supporters of the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

These rewards for party members, friends, and loyal supporters include promotions, higher salaries, and added allowances. Meanwhile, regular civil service employees continue to earn lower wages despite a new internal policy on promotion and salary equity approved on 1st October, 2020. The result is an ever-widening payroll gap between political appointees and other civil servants.

We discovered that senior finance officials continue to earn gross monthly salaries ranging from over Le100 million (US$10,000) to Le65 million (US$6,500) and Le43 million (US$4,300) respectively, while the bulk of the public financial management (PFM) staff continue to earn lower salaries ranging from Le14 million (US$1400), to Le2.9 million (US$290), and a little over Le731,000 (US$73) monthly.

An Africanist Press investigation into salary disparities in the civil and public service published in early March 2020 had shown how Financial Secretary and the Principal Deputy Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance earned monthly salaries, the combined total of which was five times more than the aggregate annual gross pay of all ancillary staff in their department for a ten-year pay period.

We showed specifically that Financial Secretary Sahr L Jusu, was earning a monthly pay of Le86,935,130 (about US$9,000) in 2019, whilst all support staff under him earned between Le1,420,079 (US$150) and Le552,000 (US$50).

Despite ongoing demands for reduction in the wage bill and harmonization of salaries, senior finance officials have instead implemented a new promotion and salary equity policy that increased the salaries of senior political appointees in Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs), and correspondingly widened wage disparities in the civil service.

We discovered for example that the salary of the Financial Secretary, Sahr L. Jusu, has now been increased from Le86,935,130 (about US$9,000 per month) in 2019 to a gross monthly pay of Le173,870,260 (over US$17,000) today. We tabulated a sample list of 31 of the most highly paid staff in the Finance Ministry and we discovered that their combined aggregate gross monthly salaries amounted to a total of Le1,917,940,497.00 (nearly US$200,000); an amount that is the equivalent of the combined gross monthly pays of about 1000 secondary school teachers.

During our investigation, we discovered that in early August 2020 Finance Officials had called for the “promotion and harmonization of salaries and the provision of telephone allowances for newly recruited public financial management (PFM) staff” of the Finance Ministry to be included in the budgetary allocation for the last quarter of FY2020 and FY2021. A record of meeting minutes sent on 6th August 2020 by the Principal Deputy Financial Secretary, Matthew Dingie to Finance Secretary, Sahr L. Jusu specifically recommended the promotion and harmonization of existing PFM staff in Grades 7 and higher who had served for over four years in the civil service, and for the provision of telephone allowances for all newly recruited PFM staff in Grade 7.

Finance Officials estimated that the new proposed expenditure amounting to Le3.8 billion (about US$380,000) monthly in salary increases and Le12.7 billion annually (about US$1.3 million) for added expenditure on telephone allowances would be met by the FY2020 Supplementary Financial Estimates.

“The additional cost on salary increases of Le15.2 billion can be accommodated within the provision made for increase in the payroll budget of Le164.3 billion in the approved FY2020 supplementary budget, while the full annual increases in telephone allowances will be provided for in the 2021 payroll budget to support implementation in January 2021,” Matthew Dingie wrote to Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu on 6th August 2020.

A memo subsequently sent on 14 September 2020 by Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu to the Director General of the Human Resources Management Office (HRMO) confirmed that then Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, approved the Financial Secretary’s recommendation for promotions, salary increases, and telephone allowances for PFM staff of the Ministry of Finance to take effect on 1st October 2020.

“We write to inform you that the Honorable Minister of Finance has granted approval for the harmonization of salaries for 57 fiduciary staff, promotion for 74 existing fiduciary staff, and provision of telephone (top-up) allowances for 237 newly recruited Grade 7 fiduciary staff of the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, including the National Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate, and the Accountant General’s Department with effect from 1st October 2020,” Sahr Jusu wrote, noting that the projected cost of the proposed expenditure amounted to a total of Le11.4 billion.

Despite these internal recommendations and subsequent ministerial approval, Africanist Press discovered that the implementation of the promotion and harmonization process of PFM staff in Grades 7 and above did not follow the stipulated recommendations in the internal memorandum from the Financial Secretary’s Office.

Our investigation found that senior finance ministry officials carried out the promotions and harmonization process selectively and without consideration of the professional qualifications and length of service of staff in the recommended categories. We specifically examined payroll documents at the Ministry of Finance from September 2020 to July 2021 and we discovered that affected PFM staff in the Ministry included internal auditors, budget officers, economists, and a host of other financial management officers who continue to earn the same perennial wages despite the approval and introduction of a promotions and salary harmonization policy.

We discovered that finance ministry officials used different criteria of promotion and a selective method to increase staff salaries based solely on a grade point system, which resulted in alleged promotions of certain PFM staff identified as loyalists of the governing SLPP thereby leaving out highly qualified staff deemed to be non-ruling party members or sympathizers.

We examined, for instance, a total of 91 Grade 8 staff on the Finance Ministry’s Payroll, including staff that are not part of the PFM employment staff cadre. We discovered that 37 of the 91 listed Grade 8 staff, for example, were all promoted with harmonized salaries between September and December 2020. Each of the Grade 8 staff that were included in the harmonization program were receiving basic monthly pays of Le35,042,519 (US$3500).

In contrast, we discovered that 53 other staff in the same Grade 8 level who were left out of the harmonization program were still receiving a monthly wage of Le1,491,083 (about US$150). Thus, we discovered that 53 PFM Grade 8 staff were each receiving a basic salary that is 35 times lower than their counterparts even though they possess similar or higher qualifications than the 37 selected staff from the same Grade level whose salaries were increased and included in the harmonization program.

We equally noted that nearly all staff in Grades 9 and above were also included in the new salary structure and harmonization program, while 30 Senior Internal Auditors have also been left out of the harmonization program with lower wages, even though five of these Senior Internal Auditors were among the 30 employees found to be holding similar or higher qualifications than their counterparts who have been included in the new wage structure.

In February 2021, two separate sets of promotions were carried out within the Internal Audit Department. We also found that 4 of the 5 qualified Senior Internal Auditors were promoted to Grade 9 as Assistant Directors of Internal Audit with new salary increases of Le43,702,579 (over US$4,300) while 11 Internal Auditors, who were on Grade 7, were also promoted to Grade 8 as Senior Internal Auditors with monthly gross salaries of Le35,042519. (US$3500).

We found that within the Internal Audit Department alone, 26 Senior Internal Auditors were deliberately excluded from the new pay structure and harmonization program, and they still receive monthly gross salaries of Le14,797,138 (about US$1500), which is twice lower than their colleagues with similar or less qualifications who have been included in the harmonization program.

We equally discovered that the number of Grade 8 PFM staff in the Finance Ministry who were included in the new pay structure and harmonization program increased from 37 in January 2021 to 68 in February 2021, but several of the Senior Internal Auditors who have been in service for more than five years were deliberately excluded in the new salary increases and harmonization program.

We found that the entire Grade 8 PFM staff strength by February 2021 was a total of 119 staff, 68 were included in the harmonization program with gross monthly salaries of Le35,042,519 (US$3500) while 50 others, including 27 Senior Internal Auditors, were deliberately excluded from the program and they continue to receive drastically lower wages of around Le14.7 million (US$1,470) to Le3,860,208 (US$380) monthly. As of May 2021, these excluded Senior Internal Auditors accounted for about 23% of the PFM Grade 8 staff of the Finance Ministry.

Thus, despite the Finance Ministry’s MEMO of September 2020, salary disparities in the civil and public service have widened in the three years of the Maada Bio administration. Africanist Press discovered that there has equally been a corresponding increase of over 80% in the wage bill in the three years of the Bio administration, owing largely to a drastically enlarged pool of political appointees across all sectors of the civil and public service.

We note that recent wage bill increases are not due to the reported enrolments of new teachers and nurses on the public payroll. Finance Ministry records, we examined, show categorically that expenditures relating to the salaries of political appointees alone now accounts for over 60% of the increase in the wage bill under the Bio regime. We found that political appointees are mostly placed and promoted to higher Grade positions where they earn monthly salaries that are, in most cases, between 70% and 100% the total combined annual salaries of their counterparts with similar or higher qualifications in the civil service.

In subsequent reports, Africanist Press will examine promotions and salary disparities across MDAs. We publish on the Africanist Press website payroll records and Finance Ministry correspondences to illustrate the evidence upon which this report is based.

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