The role of Chief Minister in Sierra Leone comes under further scrutiny

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 October 2019:

The British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone – Mr. Simon Mustard and the Head of DfID Serra Leone – Ms  Kobi Bentley, on Monday, 14th October, held talks with Sierra Leone’s Government Chief Minister – Professor David Francis at Statehouse in Freetown, where they discussed the role and office of the chief minister, which many in Sierra Lone believe is superfluous to requirements and a waste of public funds.

British High Commissioner – Mr. Simon Mustard, said that the purpose of the talks was to discuss and exchange ideas on how to achieve the objectives of the Office of the Chief Minister and the New Direction Government.

Since the creation of the Office of Chief Minister last year by president Bio, there are accusations of policy and role ambiguity, confusion and duplication of efforts, especially when set against the office and functions of the vice president. (Photo: Chief Minister – Professor David Francis).

If there is confusion among many Sierra Leoneans about the roles and functions of these two senior government officials, there is little surprise therefore that the international community and development partners are unclear about the work of the Office of Chief Minister, which is costing the country hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain, against other key priorities of the government, such as healthcare and education.

British High Commissioner – Mr. Simon Mustard, said that he and the Head of DfID are in Sierra Leone to work with the government and people of the country to help promote and support the delivery of effective governance.

Head of DfID – Kobi Bentley acknowledged the government’s efforts in addressing the economic challenges facing the country, and said that the British government is committed to continuing its support for Sierra Leone.

Speaking about the government’s priorities, the Chief Minister said that the President has compressed his thirty two manifesto promises into eight key priority areas, ranging from education, health, agriculture, and corruption.

He said that the President’s vision is to transform Sierra Leone through human capital development, and that the government will continue to work with development partners to achieve this vision.

Speaking about the massive $2.5 Billion government debt, which is growing alarmingly to over 60% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Chief Minister said that the government is currently spending 85%  of its revenue on servicing the country’s debt. Why is the government set on continuing to take on more debt?

Addressing the British High Commissioner (Photo) and Head of DfID, the Chief Minister said that his Office is a delivery unit that deals with strategic planning and policy leadership, adding further to the current ambiguity, confusion and duplication that many in Sierra Leone are seriously concerned about.

He said that his office is positioned in a way that supports both the Presidency and the ministries.

“My role as the Chief Minister is an ensurer role, and I am also supervised by the Honourable Vice President,” he said.

But ironically, many of his roles and functions are in conflict with those of the vice president.

The costs of running the Office of Chief Minister in Sierra Leone is costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. And a key question that must be answered by the president is this: What added value is the Office of Chief Minister bringing to his government and the running of the country, over and above that which the Office of the Vice President is achieving?

The recently published government ministerial performance report did not include the Office of Chief Minister, even though it is led by a cabinet minister and a major vote controller of the public purse.

Is the Office of Chief Minister above public scrutiny and accountability?

7 Comments

  1. I personally will like to see a communique from the British High Commissioner and head of DFID that they are in the office of the Chief Minister to question his role in the government. Based on the above picture it seems that they are having a friendly and fruitful discussion. Keep up the good work Mr. Chief Minister, Chief Of Staff, Adviser to the President or whatever the president wants to call your official and productive leadership roles you have played within 18 months.

  2. One thing for sure about the chief minister is that even during the days of Pa Kabbah’s leadership of the SLPP, David Francis played a big role in helping the SLPP government establish the department of peace studies at FBC. He was responsiblie for mentoring even the likes of the current minister of tourism – Memunata Pratt to get to where she is today.

    Then ofcourse we all know the role he played in helping president Maada Bio through his PhD studies at the university in the UK where he was lecturer in peace studies and head of department. Professor Francis played a big role in helping Bio win the SLPP leadeeship election in 2012 as adviser. In effect he is very much the architect of Bio’s political landscape, hence we should not be surprised that he is the closest confidant of the president today – richly rewarded for his loyalty.

    But what is shocking is his recent naked dispaly of tribalism and corruption when in a closed meeting in Kenema with SLPP party stalwarts. he informed party bosses that the government has secured funding that will directly benefit party cronies across the southern districts. Rather than tell his SLPP party cronies that corruption is very bad and will not be condoned, he said that stealing one percent of public funds is ok.

    The man is as political as it gets. It is understood he has told Bio: “After you nar me” – “after you step down it will be my turn to take over.” His ambition is to succeed Bio, mark my word. But in doing this he is playing a very dangerous game of politickiing in the SLPP party, that could explode the party – divide and rule.

    • When did Dr. Francis utter that the government has secured funds that would benefit only the southern districts? By Southern District are you referring to districts within the Southern and Eastern Provinces of Sierra Leone? If yes, then it is half the size of Sierra Leone with seven Districts. Did he say the funds that the government of President Bio will get on behalf of Sierra Leone would not benefit any other district if such a district is not part of the seven districts of Bo, Moyamba, Bonthe and Pujehun district in the South, and Kenema, Kailahun and Kono districts in the East? What you are attributing to Dr. Francis is in reality contrary to what is unfolding currently in the country.

      I am from Kenema district, the same district that Dr. Francis hails from. I am resident in Kenema city. I am yet to see the benefit that you are quoting Dr. Francis to have said we would get. Like the rest of the country, Kenema is suffering because of the economic situation in the country. The problem for Kenema is compounded by the fact even when the country had some economic fortunes few years ago under president Koroma, Kenema was left out of any development plan. I wish Dr. Francis would help take a fraction of what President Koroma took to Bombali district to Kenema district.

      Unfortunately, we know the economic situation then and now. So we can only dream. Further, Dr. Francis is not the President. Therefore it does not matter what his intention if any he, has for Kenema, the decision as to hat where is left with the executive president of the country. One thing I cannot tell you is that Kenema remains in the same quagmire that President Koroma left it in. Having said that, I want to say a bit about what you said in this line…….”Rather than tell his SLPP party cronies that corruption is very bad and will not be condoned, he said that stealing one percent of public funds is ok.”….”!

      The recording of that statement by Dr. Francis was on this very noble online news (The Sierra Telegraph). Unless we have different senses of hearing or comprehension, what I remember from that clip was Dr. Francis telling a crowd (and it was not in an SLPP party office but at the local Court Barry in the centre of Kenema town) and that gathering was open to everyone be you an slpp supporter or not. He said that their government would pursue people who when given contracts instead of using 99% of the contract money to finish project and keep the 1% as their fee, would rather as in the past use 1% on the project and keep 99% for themselves. He said that their government would go after a person who does that.

  3. That is really what we want to hear and see happening in our country. We know that the British High Commissioner is working for his country and he stands for the right thing to be done. As it is said by Abdul, that the president did that to compensate professor Francis for the role he performed when the president was writing his PHD thesis.

  4. Simon,l am really glad you are doing a great job by sticking up for Sierra Leone. Good governance is the key to a successful Government. Thanks for your commitment in doing your job and pointing out what you seeing is wrong, and saying it in the best interest of the country. Things can only get better in Sierra when things are done the right way.

  5. It’s a given fact that the office of the chief minister is at most about citizens, hence costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Going forward,citizens have not realized any gains since its establishment. The so called policy intervention put forward by this new direction with the intention to enhance growth and development which shows his handwork have not yielded a better results, while his office continues to take in home hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Very recently, Law makers in Liberia consented to have their salaries downsized to meet with government expenditure of 2020 financial year. Is it going to happen here? So if his function is synonymous to that of the Vice president, then we do not need it.

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