Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 February 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Chief Minister – Professor David John Francis has today told the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that he will not be distracted by fake propaganda, stressing that his “focus is on His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio’s New Direction agenda of accelerated delivery”.
Speaking exclusively to the author of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, following request for his response to the barrage of allegations of impropriety in his office published by the Africanist Press, the Chief Minister said he will not be drawn to responding to or commenting on unsubstantiated allegations.
But he spoke about the Audit Service Report and the work of the Office of the Auditor General.
Speaking about the 2019 Audit Service Report, the Chief Minister urged full implementation of the recommendations, as he acknowledges what he referred to as the “outstanding role of Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) in the scrutiny of public institutions on the use of public funds.”
He confirmed the invaluable role of ASSL in scrutinizing public institutions in the use of public funds. He also recalled highlighting this invaluable role in the GTT Report submitted to President Bio.
He confirmed that the New Direction Government led by President Bio will support the full implementation of the recommendations of the ASSL 2019 Report.
The Bradford-trained Professor said Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of Government are all subjected to the Constitution, Acts of Parliament and Policies in the utilization of public funds.
He affirmed that every MDA has a Vote Controller who is principally responsible to account for the use of public funds.
Referencing the Public Financial Management Act of 2016, he said the Act is very clear on the role of Vote Controllers in managing public funds. In this regard, he said that Government Ministers only provide strategic leadership to their Ministries and do not sign cheques for the operations of any Ministry.
The Chief Minister Commended ASSL for producing and disseminating the 2019 Audit Report to the public. He encouraged the public to read and engage with the ASSL Report for their own edification and understanding of how public funds are expended and audited.
He however stated that persons or institutions culpable for the alleged misappropriation of funds will be held accountable as required by law and accountability institutions, including the ACC and Parliament.
Chief Minister Francis then went on to speak about his achievements since he assumed duties in 2018 as the country’s Chief Minister.
According to Professor Francis, “even though the outbreak of the Corona Virus Disease is taking its toll on government wide operations, the Office of the Chief Minister (OCM) has made giant strides, and in some cases – innovative ones that are contributing to good governance and service delivery,” as he highlighted the following achievements:
Hosting of the 3rd Cabinet Retreat
The key object of this Retreat was to take a critical analysis of the New Direction Government’s progress on the implementation of its eight Governance Priorities on the Economy, Free Quality Education (FQE), Energy, Health, Infrastructure, Agriculture and Mining.
President Bio urged Ministers and Public Servants to focus on service delivery in the interest of the people of Sierra Leone. A key outcome of the Retreat was that Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to recalibrate their interventions to enhance service delivery in their various sectors.
Performance Management and Service Delivery of Ministers
Every Cabinet Minister Signs Performance Contract with the President. Each Contract in part, states the milestones to be achieved, based on the Medium-Term National Development Framework and the Manifesto Commitments. In 2020, the OCM successfully assessed Ministerial Performance and submitted to the President for his gracious consideration and action.
The OCM has created a Dashboard wherein the President, the Vice President and the Chief Minister can, at a click of a button, track the performance of every Minister based on their performance contract.
Mid-term Review of the New Direction Government
President Julius Maada Bio instructed the Chief Minister to conduct a mid-term evaluation of His New Direction Government. This event was the first of its kind to evaluate a sitting government. The outcome of the Review was that Ministers identified their successes, challenges, and formulated strategies for effective delivery on their Ministerial Mandates.
Measuring the successes of the Manifesto Commitment of the New Direction Government
The Manifesto Commitment was the basis on which the New Direction Government was voted into Office. To measure the extent to which the Manifesto Commitments have been delivered, the OCM has developed a Compendium of the Manifesto Promises and what has been delivered mid-Term, and commitments delivered outside the Manifesto Commitment. So far, 34 Manifesto Commitments have been delivered out of the total of 38 as promised by President Bio.
Institution Building and the Consolidation of Peace and Governance
Re-engagement with the Constitutional Review process: The President mandated the Chief Minister to initiate actions for a recommencement of the Constitutional Review Process before it was delegated to the Office of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
National Disaster Management Agency: The OCM led Policy and Legal arrangements for the establishment and operationalization of the National Disaster Management Agency as a Statutory Institution. During the launch of the Agency, the President lauded the effort of the Chief Minister for taking the exceptional leadership in the establishment of the Agency.
Independent Commission on Peace & National Cohesion (ICPNC): The President made a Manifesto commitment to address the deep cleavages that continues to undermine national cohesion, peace and unity in Sierra Leone. In this regard, His Excellency the President authorized the Chief Minister to lead on the establishment of the ICPNC. The ICPNC Bill when passed into Law in 2021, will bring into operation the ICPNC.
National Reforestation and Timber Governance Agency: The Office of the Chief Minister led preparation of the Policy and its translation into a Bill for the establishment of the National Reforestation and Timber Governance Agency. When turned into law, the Agency will have the Statutory Mandate to regulate Timber Resources, improve revenue generation management and Governance, scale-up reforestation, and invest in sustainable utilisation of forest resources in Sierra Leone. It is hoped that the Bill will be passed into law in 2021.
Establishment and operationalization of the Human Capital Development (HCD) Secretariat
Human Capital Development is a key Flagship Programme of His Excellency, the President. In this regard, the Office of the Chief Minister led in the full-scale operationalization of the HCD Directorate.
The HCD operates on three key portfolios: Education, Health and Agriculture. President Bio’s HCD initiative is now a model for implementation within the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
Inter-Ministerial/Agency on the Road Sector
His Excellency the President mandated the Chief Minister to lead on the Inter-Ministerial Agency on the Road Sector. All Ministries and Agencies with bearings on the road sector prioritized roads and bridges that either required construction, rehabilitation, or improvement. The Plan of Action developed by the inter-ministerial agency guided the Ministry of Finance in the allocation of resources in the last Budget speech to the Houses of Parliament.
Inter-Agency Coordination of strategy on Lands and Water Catchment Areas along the Western Area Peninsula
The President directed the Chief Minister to lead on this intervention. Deforestation of water catchment areas along the Western Area poses environmental and security threats. Key outcomes of the inter-Agency meetings are:
Demarcation of green-belt zones along the foothills of the Western Area Peninsula
Additional recruitment of Forest Guards to protect the forest reserves
Joint deployment of Police and Military Personnel to patrol the western Area Peninsula
Protection of the Guma Valley Water Dam.
Finally, in conclusion, the Chief Minister confirmed to the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that the New Direction Government led by President Bio remains committed to the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. And he said that he wants “journalists to come to my office to clarify any information that is doubtful to them instead of misinforming the public.”