President Bio must shake up state enterprises to curb spending

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14th November 2018:

The Chairman of the National Commission for Privatisation (NCP) – Umaru Napoleon Koroma, who is also the General Secretary of the ruling SLPP party, yesterday  presented the NCP 2017 Report to president Julius Maada Bio in State House Freetown.

Presenting his 33 page report, Mr. Umaru Napoleon Koroma said the document provides an overview of the Commission’s activities with regards to the reform and divestiture of public enterprises in Sierra Leone over the years.

The report covers Transport, Telecommunications, Financial, General and Commercial sectors.

“Under the supervision of your office, the Commission has developed a strategic plan that invariably seeks to address the short, medium and long term goals of attracting private capital to drive economic growth.

“When I assumed office in June this year, the NCP Secretariat was putting together  a privatisation strategy of some key parastatals. I called for a review of this strategy to include a sectorial approach for investment to maximise returns and thankfully, we are pretty much on track.

“The strategy itself has been realigned with government’s development policies and adapted to the New Direction’s framework for efficient service delivery in the public sector,” Mr. Umaru Napoleon Koroma told president Bio.

Responding, president Bio called on the NCP Chairman and his team to work harder in fulfilling the mandate of the Commission.

On the divestiture process, the president said it is important to retain government interest in  some parastatals. “I believe that some of them need to go and some need to stay,” the president said.

President Bio reaffirmed his government’s commitment to depoliticise state institutions to enhance efficient service delivery.

But sceptics say that the government has to do more and fast if it is serious about its so called fight against leakages, waste and corruption in several of the public enterprises that have become gravy trains for many public officials.

Far too many of the country’s state enterprises are running at a massive loss to the tax payer, and are the recipient of state subsidy to keep them afloat.

President Bio has promised a New Direction under his leadership. But he is yet to shake up state enterprises to get rid of the millions of dollars being wasted and misappropriated.

Government’s finances are currently stretched as export revenue struggles to pick up, with an almost fifty-percent cut in foreign aid.

It is highly unlikely any new loan agreement signed with the IMF, will make provision for the bankrolling of state enterprises.

The president must act decisively and fast, so that loss making state enterprises can be sold off to the private sector, who has the capability and capacity to restructure and transform them into profitable and job creating businesses.

Selling off state enterprises makes good economic sense and better management of public finances, especially as the president is complaining of lack of revenue to pay for vital public services such as education, health and the provision of clean, safe drinking water.

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