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.