Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 May 2018:
If you thought you have witnessed the tribalisation of public services in Sierra Leone, then possibly, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
The innocuous looking request of the Secretary to the Cabinet for submission of CVs by all top civil servants, dated 4th May 2018, must not be underestimated. It should be a cause for concern about the direction of travel of the Bio government.
On the face of it, the request appears to be reasonable. But is its intended purpose something more sinister than to verify the educational qualifications of public servants who are Grade 7 and above, with the view to deploying these officers to Ministries / Departments / Agencies (MDAs) where they would add considerable value, and in the process, maximise the efficiency of those institutions?
The order affects all public servants from Grade 7, who are engaged in non-professional and administrative work and providing assistance to higher grade staff in the management of MDAs, through to Grade 16 and 17 staff, who fulfil the role of Chief Advisers and Principal Advisers.
Under President Ernest Koroma, the public service became bloated and politicised, with APC party supporters and cheerleaders being rewarded with plum jobs.
On the face of it, it is reasonable for a new administration to redress the issue and to deal with those public servants who are incapable of discharging their offices effectively.
Depoliticising the public service is a good thing. However, the risk is that the Bio administration may use this audit to operate a revolving door, with APC acolytes replaced with SLPP ones.
Doing so, would only entrench the party politics in these institutions and would reinforce the view that the modus operandi of the SLPP administration is “our turn”.
President Bio must resist this urge, if he is to be successful in delivering his New Direction agenda and win over those who continue to doubt his intentions.
What the Bio administration must urgently clarify the following: How would the audit be conducted, i.e. would this be led by political appointees or by an independent third party?
Would the public be made aware of the outcome of the audit findings, i.e. the number of affected staff who, following the audit would be moved from their current roles to new roles – and specifically, whether the redeployment leads to promotion, demotion or side-ways move within and between institutions?
Where job losses result from this exercise, will vacant posts be publicly advertised so that future appointments are made on merit, rather than jobs being given to party members and acolytes of the new SLPP regime?
In addition to formal qualifications, a public service ethos is non-existent and must be defined and should be incorporated in the training provided to public servants.
Public servants see themselves as masters, rather than servants of the public. If properly conducted and devoid of party politics, this audit could present a significant opportunity for reform of our public service, and to make it responsive to the needs of the public.
A performance culture must be introduced. It is not sufficient for staff to arrive at work on time. For example, one of the promises in the APC’s Agenda for Change manifesto, was to ensure that goods are cleared at the ports within one week.
There is no reason why a performance target of clearing 95% of goods at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay within a day, cannot be achieved, other than because of the burden imposed on importers to pay bribe at every workstation before goods are released.
The Immigration and Passport Office had previously made great strides in the past to work to clearly defined timescales for the provision of specific services, with the applicable fees displayed in full public view of all customers. Yes, customers – now that’s a word that is not familiar to our public servants.
President Bio should also consider tasking the Cabinet Secretary to review the size and number of staff employed in these grades, with a view to making the top echelons of the public service leaner and more agile, which would make them more responsive to the needs of the public whom they should be serving.
Anything less would reinforce the view that the motive for the audit is to further politicise, not depoliticise the MDAs.
President Bio must rise above the temptation to use this audit process to reward party members and supporters with public office.
He should call upon all Sierra Leonean talents available in and out of the country – irrespective of political persuasion, if he is indeed serious about maximising the efficiency and effectiveness of public institutions.
His priority must be to ensure that the economy is put on a solid foundation, if he is to fulfil the aspirations of the youths, the poor and vulnerable, whose hopes were so brutally crushed under the APC.
Sierra Leone Civil Service Grades:
Grade 17: This is the highest executive management post in the Sierra Leone Public/Civil Service. Officers in this grade are responsible for supervising, directing, coordinating and accounting for the affairs of the Public/Civil Service. They also serve as Principal Advisers to Government on all matters relating to the Public/Civil Service.
Grade 16: Officers in this grade perform the highest level of management work in the administrative and professional sectors for the Government of Sierra Leone. Officers in these positions also serve as Chief Advisers on sectoral policies within their purview.
Grade 15: Post holders in this grade perform high level professional/ managerial work in both administrative and professional spheres. They also formulate, direct, implement and evaluate policies, programmes and activities of critical importance to the achievement of the goals of their Ministries/Departments/ Agencies.
Grade 14: Officers in this grade perform administrative/professional work which involves organizing and coordinating national services/ programmes as well as providing general direction and control of national programmes and activities. They also contribute towards the formulation of ministerial/departmental policies as well as the implementation of same.
Grade 13: Officers in this grade perform professional/administrative and managerial work including coordinating the operation of MDAs or large professional and technical programmes. Post holders in this grade also direct, control and manage organizations of major national importance. They also exercise oversight responsibilities of subordinate managers. In the professional field, such as engineering, education, or accounting, they are responsible for directing and implementing all professional services and programmes.
Grade 12: Officers in this grade are responsible for administrative/ professional work in supervising and coordinating the activities of divisional units. Their work includes planning, administering and directing programmes and services in the divisions and units. Officers in this grade may also include deputies or higher level executives/professional managers.
Grade 11: Post holders in this grade provide executive or professional direction for programmes for the Ministries/Departments/Agencies. Officers in this grade also manage aspects of significant projects and programmes, including making administrative and technical decisions, determining the quality of services provided, establishing the internal policy and procedures, and utilizing subordinate officers effectively.
Grade 10: Post holders in this grade assist in directing and managing important programmes and projects under the supervision of higher-level administrative or professional executives. Work in this grade involves the coordination and supervision of subordinate staff. Officers in this grade are held accountable for achieving important work assignments effectively and with the most economic use of financial and human resources.
Post holders in this grade are responsible for the performance of senior supervisory, executive and professional work with the use of independent judgement where appropriate. Such post holders supervise subordinate administrative, professional and technical staff in the execution of programmes and projects in the Ministries/Departments/Agencies.
Grade 8: This is the normal entry grade for university graduates in both the administrative and professional cadres of the Service. Officers in this grade work under close supervision and assume personal or supervisory responsibility for providing management or professional services during probational period. Officers in this grade may also be responsible for the management of a distinct segment of work or for a particular area of professional services. They may be required to exercise supervision over a small number of staff.
Grade 7: Post holders in this grade perform sub-professional and administrative work. Officers in this grade assist higher level officers in the management of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies. They work within standard rules and procedures, often under supervision. The post holders may also supervise subordinate staff.
Grade 6: Officers in this grade work under general supervision with some degree of independence in performing support tasks in the organization. They also perform administrative, professional or technical work that fall within their competencies. These officers may also supervise subordinate staff.
Grade 5: Work at this level is administrative, sub-professional or technical in nature, involving a specific aspect of work. Officers in this group work under general supervision and require both theoretical and practical knowledge regarding procedures and operations. They also require training and/or experience to enhance their effectiveness.
Grade 4: Work at this level is not complex. It entails clerical, sub-professional or technical work that is performed under close supervision. The work in this grade requires training, knowledge of rules and procedures.
Grade 3: Work at this level is routine, which entails clerical, technical or trade work, that is carried out regularly within laid down rules and procedures to ensure that standards are maintained. Some training is required to enhance the competencies of the workers that are expected to work under the supervision of superiors.
Grade 2: Work at this level is simple, requiring the performance of a variety of clearly understood tasks to assist or support higher level technical or trade personnel in the discharge of their duties. Specific instructions are provided by the supervisor when new tasks are assigned. The knowledge and skills required to perform the tasks can be acquired in a short period. Work of officers in this grade may also involve significant physical exertion
Grade 1: Work at this level is repetitive in nature, and does not require technical skills. The tasks to be performed are closely related to each other and are easily mastered. Little education, training or previous experience is required.