Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 November 2020:
The United States Ambassador to Sierra Leone – Maria Brewer, today called on President Dr Julius Maada Bio, to congratulate his government after passing thirteen out of the twenty Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) scorecard indicators for 2020.
In 2019 the Bio-led government passed eleven of the twenty indicators, still a long way to achieving the performance of other African countries that are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in MCC funding support.
Addressing President Bio, Maria Brewer said: “Thank you, Mr President, for seeing us this morning and I have the honour and privilege to formally hand over to you the scorecard and to congratulate the government and people of Sierra Leone for passing not just the scorecard but actually passing 13 of the indicators.
“By passing two additional indicators from last year as well as increasing your control of corruption score to 81% from 79% last year, you do us proud. So, congratulations Mr President,” she said.
This is the best performance Sierra Leone has ever scored on the MCC scorecard since it was created sixteen years ago.
Vice President Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who supervises the activities of the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit in the country, said the MCC team have worked very hard in the last twelve months to achieve this performance.
Receiving the scorecard, President Bio thanked the American Ambassador and the MCC for what he called a more objective evaluation of his government’s performance.
“As a country, we are happy for this progress, especially as it relates to energy and water, which are very important components. The threshold programme of the MCC has been of great help and we hope that the foundation laid by this programme will actually help us in those two sectors,” President Bio said.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent US foreign assistance agency established in 2004 to work towards alleviating poverty. Its core principles include: competitive selection, country led solutions, country led implementation and a focus on results.
Since 2016, Sierra Leone has been implementing a $44.4 million Threshold Programme to improve the financial viability of the electricity and water sectors in Sierra Leone. The programme will conclude on 31st March 2021.
Understanding the MCC Scorecard
The scorecard is made up of 20 indicators in 3 broad categories: economic freedom, investing in people and ruling justly. The scorecard is compiled annually using data from third party assessing institutions such as UNESCO, World Bank, Freedom House, WHO and Heritage Foundation. The Government does not submit any information directly to MCC that affects the outcome of the scorecard.
In the case of indicators like Control of Corruption, Rule of Law, and Government Effectiveness, these are based on aggregated data compiled by the World Bank- World Governance Indicators (WGI) which includes a combination of household surveys, desk reviews and perception surveys. For instance to use an example we are familiar with in Sierra Leone, in the Afrobarometer Report (a sub-source for the World Bank World Governance Indicators) there is a survey question titled “trust in the presidency,” this is an input for the Control of Corruption indicator following a rationalization of the response to ensure comparability.
Not every question asked in the survey is considered by WGI, including questions like the overall perception of corruption in the country. The point is, there are many parameters, many sub sources that are used to calculate an indicator like control of corruption. In the case of Sierra Leone, there are about 12 sub sources used with over 50 questions considered.
The year when the data is collected is reflected in the scorecard for each indicator. For a country to pass the scorecard, they must meet the following minimum criteria:
Pass at least half of the indicators (10); pass the hard hurdle of control of corruption; pass the hard hurdle of democratic rights (must pass either civil liberties or political rights); pass at least one indicator in each category.
To pass most indicators, a country should perform above the median, which is established within their income category. In the case of Sierra Leone, the income category is Lower Income category. To pass an indicator, you have to perform above the median.
There are other indicators like inflation that have a maximum score. A country must perform below that maximum score of 15% in this case in order to pass the inflation indicator.
Essentially, this suggests that performance on the scorecard is relative, depending on how other countries score, the median may go up or down from year to year. This also implies that the median moves from year to year, so it is incumbent on the Government to set targets that ensure that they will comparatively continue to perform better than other countries.
Analysis on the FY2021 scorecard
The scorecard that will be released on 9th November 2020 is entitled “FY 2021” scorecard. This year, Sierra Leone passed an additional two indicators, passing a total of 13 indicators on the scorecard. The two new additions include immunization rates and inflation. 13 passed indicators is the highest Sierra Leone has ever scored on the MCC scorecard since the scorecard was created.
This is also the first time that Sierra Leone has passed the scorecard for two years in a row. Further, in the Mano River Union, Sierra Leone is the second best performer, with Cote d’Ivoire passing only one more indicator than Sierra Leone has.
In the case of Control of Corruption, Sierra Leone has not only passed this indicator for the past three years, it has also made steady progress. In 2017, Sierra Leone was at the 49th percentile (failing the indicator), then started to pass; 71st percentile in 2018, 79th percentile in 2019 and 81st percentile in 2020.
Sierra Leone is amongst the top 10 performers on control of corruption in its income category.
In the area of education, Sierra Leone has made great progress on primary education expenditure from spending less than 1% in 2017. After the F&Q education initiative was launched, Sierra Leone has improved by more than 200% on this indicator, with current expenditure at 2.99% of GDP.
Sierra Leone is amongst the three highest investors in primary education in West Africa. Sierra Leone has also moved from scoring about 80-84% on immunization rates over the last five years to reaching 94% immunization rates this year for measles and DPT 3 (Diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus).
Based on performance on the scorecard, a country can either be selected for a threshold program or compact program. Sierra Leone is currently implementing a Threshold program. Even though a country passes the scorecard, it does not necessarily mean that they will be selected for a compact. Other factors such as performance on previous programs with MCC, available funds and the pool of other countries that pass the scorecard all impact MCC’s selection process. Further, selection is made by the MCC Board which is chaired by the US Secretary of State. MCC is a member of the Board.