Dennis Vandi takes over finance ministry as JJ Saffa dissolves office of chief minister

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 May 2021:

Sierra Leone’s outgoing Finance Minister who is now the government’s Chief Minister Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa, on Wednesday handed over his ministerial portfolio to his successor Francis Dennis Vandi, as the controversy over Vandi’s appointment continues.

Francis Dennis Vandi was expected to face MPs in parliament for approval before taking up his ministerial role, but according to State House sources speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “There is no need for Vandi’s appointment to be approved by MPs because he was never sacked from his previous role as minister of agriculture when he was accused of corruption. He was merely suspended by the president until after due process has been completed. Vandi has been judged not guilty by the Appeals Court and must now resume his ministerial job.”

Speaking at the handing over ceremony, J.J. Saffa said he finds it difficult to say goodbye but also proud of the progress made in the last three years that resulted in the Ministry of Finance winning the best performing ministry of the year award.

Saffa (Photo) said that despite leaving the ministry of finance, he will continue to provide support in his new capacity as chief minister, especially with regards achieving international benchmarks and engagement with other Ministries, Departments, and Agencies on budgetary support issues.

Addressing Francis Dennis Vandi, JJ Saffa said: “Mr. Minister, I can assure you that you have a strong team, and this is the strongest team in the public sector.  I inherited a system where there was no laydown organogram and where half of the technical staff were contract staff. I have been able to do some structural change to regularize that”.

Responding, Dennis Vandi said “JJ Saffa is the new Chief Minister, but he hasn’t gone 100%, he is still with me. There are a lot of issues in which we will have to hang heads together to pursue”.

He said he is pleased with the programs his predecessor has been supervising over the years and that as one of the authors of the New Direction Manifesto – Mr. J.J. Saffa, has touched on all programs and policies that the manifesto promised.

Dennis Vandi promised to continue with the programs outlined in the finance ministry’s Strategic Plan, the SLPP party’s New Direction manifesto, and the Mid-term National Development Plan until such time that the president gives directives on further direction as to how he wants his government to be financed.

Comparing JJ Saffa to the outgoing Chief Minister Professor Francis, Dennis Vandi said: “I think my predecessor – Saffa will be a better Chief Minister because of his knowledge of the operations of other Ministries, Departments and Agencies; he can understand their constraints and have a clear knowledge about their strategic plans and how they intend to implement those plans”.

This statement by Dennis Vandi suggests the deep division at the top of the Bio-led government and the shifting of internal political alliances and loyalties.

And in another related development, there are reports JJ Saffa has decided to dissolve his office of Chief Minister even before sitting in his predecessor’s chair.

Saffa whom many within the ruling party suspected to have been appointed to the role of Chief Minister by president Bio because of his finance ministry background, with the aim of ensuring that every ministry, department and agency is driven by strong financial management performance, now appears to have chopped the legs of the chair he is to sit on by announcing the dissolution of his office of Chief Minister. (Photo: Former Chief Minister Professor Francis – sitting left and Saffa – right). 

If these reports arre correct, the decison by Saffa to get rid of the office of chief minister would be welcomed, after president Bio was heavily criticised for creating that office in the first place, which many regarded as superflous to requirement, an unnecessary drain on State finances, and a duplication of the role of vice president.

According to reports, Saffa made this ironic announcement at a meeting in his office with members of the ruling SLPP Young Professionals who had called on him to congratulate him on his appointment as Chief Minister.

Saffa told his audience that the decision to dissolve the Office of the Chief Minister was “out of the desire to address core functional management dynamics, especially those relating to the Presidency.”

“We cannot have an Office of Chief Minister within the Office of the Presidency. We all belong to the Office of the President…thus no more Office of the Chief Minister,” Saffa said.

Saffa is understood to have also said that his job title is now Head of the Office of the President.  “The Chief Minister’s Office is a unit within the Presidency and should remain so. No more Office within an Office,” Saffa told his visitors.

9 Comments

  1. Brother Hashim, you are absolutely right. The accused has every right to defend himself, and as far as Mr Vandi is concerned, he has done so with resounding success, capped by his elevation to the headship of a ministry that is so critical to our nation’s development and well-being. And this, through the workings most unfortunately of a judicial system that as you rightly put it, ‘sucks’. A very worrying reality indeed.

    Clearly, as long as the operations of our courts can be tweaked at will for political ends, our country and its resources will always be at the mercy of those with the right political connections to do what they will with them. These well-connected few know they will get away with anything. The wages of sin being not punishment in this case but a handsome reward. This amounts to living in a world turned upside down; a world in which fair is foul and foul is fair, to put it in Shakespearean terms.

  2. Mr Matturi – I acknowledge this openly and unreservedly: you are a true patriot: a very patient, kind-hearted and fair-minded person, one who is ever so willing to give Mr Vandi the benefit of the doubt, to allow him to either rise by his merits or fall by his demerits, and in the final analysis, to wish him well in discharging his duties as our country’s new Finance Minister.

    As for me, I find it hard, not to say impossible, to be so indulgent as to give a second chance to an official known for having a career history blighted by allegations of corruption. An official who has been expeditiously brought in from the cold, where he had been languishing following his dismissal (his defenders and friends now say suspension!) as Agriculture Minister. His hurried reinstatement has been made possible by a deliberate and flagrant manipulation of our judicial system. Bio, the unapologetic tribalist and regionalist, wants him back; wants one ethno-regional brother of his to replace another in a key ministerial post left vacant, and the workings of our judicial system have been choreographed to make that possible.

    And another thing. Right from the word go, the rehabilitated Mr Vandi cedes all initiative, all independence by pledging his allegiance unequivocally to both the President and Minister Saffa, the person he is replacing but under whose shadow he will be serving most willingly; whose footsteps he will be following most scrupulously. Doesn’t Mr Vandi acknowledge that Mr Saffa is a key architect of their Party’s – and its Governmenf’s – manifesto? As Mr Vandi has made no secret of his obsequiousness, can one truly hope that he will perform his duties to the best of his ability, in accordance with his own better judgement – assuming he has any left – and therefore in the best interest of the nation, rather than in accordance with party-political and ethno-reginal considerations dictated from above? This whole business of a cabinet reshuffle amounts to one thing only: comedic and indeed nationally ruinous gesture politics grounded in ethno-regionalism and serving the individual interests of those in power.

    • Ngor Yillah, well even Mr President was accused by Samura of cash & carry during NPRC dying days. So accusation is one thing – an imagined or real occurrence, but is it not the right of the accused to defend himself . And in Dennis’s case , he has been absolved of any wrong doing. Unfortunately, our judiciary sucks.

  3. There are 12, 14, 16 tribes in Sierra Leone depending on the perspective of the people. One would be forgiven, if you opened a history book a 100 years from now that only Mendes live in Sierra Leone. Saffa, Francis, Tunis, Vandi. Now, if tribalism is the order of the day, let us forget about development and progress. It is not attainable. Brigadier Bio, as he likes to call himself is an old soldier, although to jump from a lieutenant to a brigadier is banana republicanism. I digress. Anyway, I grew up with relatives in the army, which is composed of different tribes and is an expression of synergy.

    Now, if he had not learned to be open and non-discriminatory in the army, he will never learn. Gentlemen, a government and civil service based on tribalism will never work, an army based on tribalism will lose its battles. A country based on tribalism is like building your house on the sand. So, there are no hopes for Dennis Vandi, is he the best qualified man for the job? I doubt if he is the best qualified south easterner. A country needs political parties that represent the people, which would be a paradigm shift.

  4. Hahahaha…With this incompetent government every thing is done in a backwards half-arse manner; They are a bunch of opportunists that put carts loaded with obligations in front of the horses that are supposed to pull them; “Its quite possible for the sun to rise in the West,” said their corrupt old soldier as he chewed on fried hot pork entrails. (lol) Answer – If the President does not know the difference between his knees and his elbows and the David Francis tells him a sneeze and a regular cough are nothing but the same thing and he believes it,who is to blame?

    If JJ “The Hangman” Saffa now comes out of the dark shadows and tells me that the grand Office of the Chief Minister is no longer financially and politically viable, what do you think would be my response? Will I not take a deep breath, sigh and say; After the ship has sank, and the cargoes are lost, and we are all stranded in the unforgiving frost that bites with a quiet resilient rage..So it is now in middle of nowhere with very little time left on the clock to rule that you have adjustments to make, mistakes and wrongs to correct?” You can’t be serious. JJ Saffa I said that you were
    incompetent and time has proved me right; Our people are worse off than ever before; (lol) How much have you stolen from the blind and lame beggars languishing on the scorching streets of Freetown? Bread and butter issues gave you migraine headaches huh?

    What’s going to happen now with our finances in the hands of another criminal with slippery hands? You’ve taught him how to rob,plunder,ransack and hide didn’t you? Folks,its one square peg in a round hole replacing another – a vagabond
    being replaced by a cruel armed bandit.(lmao)

  5. What are we to make of these strange goings-on within Bio’s administration? Out of the blue, the Chief Minister is demoted and becomes Foreign Minister, leading to the unceremonious dismissal of the woman holding that office. At the same time, the Finance Minister is whisked away to become the new Chief Minister. Most curiously, he is replaced by an official recalled hurriedly from the cold, having previously been dismissed from the post of Agriculture Minister on grounds of alleged corruption.

    Stranger yet are the reports that the new Chief Minister is taking up his post only to abolish it outright, seeing it and belatedly so, as an unnecessary duplication, but then goes on to create a new post, that of Head of the Office of the President. The question is, if the President does need a Head for his Office, who then heads the Presidency: the President or the Head of the Office of the President? Or do we have here a new phase of co-presidency, the Bio-Francis phase having gone awry?

    It is no exaggeration to say that this is political comedy sui generis unfolding before our very eyes. Indeed it is political creativity, or rather, imbelicility we are witnessing. At this rate, Bio and his fellow actors will end up killing us all with their madness and buffoonery. Yes, our country is paying with tears and blood for this unwanted,cruel and ugly political drama.

  6. Welcome Mr Denis Vandi. I hope you will use all the powers vested in you as Minister of Finance to improve the lives of the ordinary Sierra Leonean. I can’t say anything about or against you at the moment. All I could say is for you to do your very best to work for our people and not for the President. Congratulations to Mr JJ Safa for dissolving the office of Chief Minister which was a waste of public funds. Another factor was that the Vice President became passive, powerless and politically irrelevant due to the creation of the office of Chief Minister.

    You hardly hear of the Vice President these days. He is seen when there is sort damage control propaganda to be done. That’s it. SAD for the Vice President. Anyway, let’s see if the situation changes for VP Juldeh Jalloh after this latest development. God bless VP Juldeh Jalloh and congratulations to Mr Dennis Vandi to his new job.

  7. According to Mr JJ Saffa, “we cannot have an office of the chief minister, within the office of the presidency. We all belong to the office of the president… thus no more office of the chief minister” Dissolving the office, or the title of the office you were about to assume may sound commendable, or be celebrated like a supper hero that saves the day. That Mr Saffa, was quick to make such common sense approach to help the president realise his one direction goal he promised the country. But for some of us that are sceptical of Bio’s ulterior motives for creating that office in the first place, begs the question why on earth it took three years for his government to realise the office of the chief minister, was an extra burden to the tax payers? That it was unnecessary, and is not even featured in any part of the constitutional arrangements in our country.

    Now JJ Saffa, by coming out, and making such outrageous statement, regarding how he felt all along that the office of Chief Minister was a waste of public funds, how on earth we managed to get here? Why you waited so long to voice your concerns? What else have you got in mind, since you are supposed to be our new hero, that speaks out his mind. What else is going wrong with this out of touch Bio government that you are ready to tell us? Seems to me, there is a lot of bad blood spilled on the floor, as a result of this hasty reshuffle. And only you know where the bodies are buried. The irony of all ironies, you were the Finance minister, Mr JJ Saffa. You were supposed to look after the public purse, and save the Country much needed funds, cut waste and government leakages. Three years on we had nurses, teachers, and some public servants crying out for help, or asking for their unpaid salaries.

    Three years later, you come with this horse Sxxt statement. Either you were too timid to voice your opinion, or the office of Chief Minister was created to undermine the vice president Juldeh Jalloh. Just so he is tagged, and placed in a cage, and it seemed to have worked. The president could have done with a national security adviser. Just like the United States. The national security adviser is appointed by the president, and doesn’t require confirmation by the United States senate. God help our country. It take Bio and Mr Saffa three years to figure it out. And when you think Mr Saffa previously occupied the finance portfolio, responsible for accountability, government expenditure, creating management framework that issues grants and procurement policy and other services, and you add up the characters involved in running it, now we know why our country is not developing. Another three years of wastage. They are still get to grips how to run the affairs of state.

  8. This junta government incriminate it’s personnel on a daily basis thinking they will escape prosecution as a result of flouting constitutional laws of that nation. The next enquiry would be so hash that, never again will a government in that part of the world flout laid down laws….NEVER!

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