President Dr Julius Maada Bio today delivered an opening address at the government’s first-ever Presidential Seminar for all 83 heads of commissions, parastatals, agencies and state-owned enterprises at the Bintumani Conference Centre in Aberdeen, Freetown.
The theme of the seminar is “Consolidating the Foundation for Service Delivery”, and is designed to provide participating state officials with the necessary political orientation, and to help them accelerate effective service delivery, and deepen their understanding of performance management systems.
The seminar which is a sequel to the cabinet retreat held a few weeks ago in Freetown, is organised by the Office of the Chief Minister.
In his keynote address, President Bio said that his presence at the seminar is a clear manifestation of his recognition of the important role and contributions of commissions, parastatals, agencies and state-owned enterprises to the achievement of his New Direction Agenda – to change and transform the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.
He said that he has directed the Chief Minister to convene the seminar because he wants to clearly state and outline his political and governance expectations for 2020, in terms of concrete service delivery to the people, and more importantly, to focus on strategic planning and prioritisation with clear and realistic targets.
According to State House report, the President was very clear in his keynote address. He said that 2020 is a year of delivery, and that there is no more room for excuses. He emphasised that state owned enterprises, commissions and agencies are in the front line of service delivery, and that Sierra Leoneans are now impatient to see and experience tangible outcomes impacting their lives.
“I have declared 2020 as the Year of Accelerated Service Delivery. I want and I expect delivery of results and outcomes from you this Year,” president Bio demanded.
Challenging and admonishing the participants, president Bio said: “And I expect to see tangible results by the second and third quarters of this Year. Simply, no more excuses. We are here to get a clear understanding of my political message to motivate and inspire you to focus on getting tangible results and outcomes that will impact on the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.”
But in a rather confusing, contradictory tone and message, after declaring 2020 as the year of delivery, the president praised the public officials for a job well done. “Let me commend you all for all the successes and achievements you have made in the past 22 months in governance. But this is a New Year and this is not the time to become complacent with our achievements. The people are impatient for results to impact on their daily lives. So as a government, we must improve on the way we run our institutions,” the president said.
President Bio challenged the participating institutional heads to be bold and innovative, adding that he wants to motivate them to be inspired and to leave a legacy in their institutions which he said the New Direction is all about. He encouraged them to develop the professional habit and culture of efficient political and economic management of the state.
Delivering his welcome address, chief minister professor David John Francis, said that the event is historic because it is the first time in modern Sierra Leone that a sitting President is meeting with all heads of institutions together in one room.
He said that the seminar is important because it recognises that commissions, parastatals, agencies and state-owned enterprises are an important component of state governance.
He also mentioned that all the agencies must clearly understand, remain committed and be inspired by the President’s New Direction Agenda to change and transform Sierra Leone; and more importantly, to accelerate effective service delivery.
The chief minister noted that since his election, President Bio has made consistent efforts to engage relevant stakeholders as a way of moving the country forward.
The chief minister in support of the President’s message noted that the seminar is an opportunity for Heads of Agencies and Commissions to engage with the President and to support his agenda of inclusive development, inclusive politics and inclusive governance through the Human Capital Development flagship programme.
According to State House report, the president’s message was clear: ‘All commissions, parastatals, agencies and state enterprises, must clearly understand and remain committed, and be inspired by the President’s New Direction Agenda – to change, transform and most importantly – accelerate service delivery for the people of Sierra Leone.’
President Bio is under intense pressure to downsize the public sector in order to reduce the government’s wage bill which is running at over 60% of total expenditure. There are calls for several of the state enterprises to be privatised or hived off as revenue generating businesses through public-private partnerships.
But the fact is that far too many of these state enterprises are loss making entities – a drain on the public purse; and the president will at some point soon, need to make serious political calculations leading to the downsizing of the public sector.
Today’s seminar may well signal president Bio’s warning shot at what the future holds for heads of commissions, agencies, parastatals and state enterprises.