Alhaji U. N’jai: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 May 2019:
It seems like all is not going well; the New Direction is moving but without a strategic foresight to deliver tangible results in election promises. If it is going well with the team, you don’t change the players within first quarter of the game starting.
Poor vetting by the government and legislators
Considerable mismatch exists between those appointed to fulfil specific roles and their technical/leadership abilities to deliver significant results.
This can only happen from poor vetting of appointees by government and legislators in parliament.
The executive arm is simply at times too powerful to bulldoze appointment through parliament at the expense of government and national productivity.
In essence, successive governments shoot themselves in the foot by having a commingle of mediocre appointments, without the requisite pedigree to deliver results for the country.
Early cabinet reshuffle epidemic and impacts
As in previous governments, the Bio-led New Direction has also now embarked on an early reshuffle one year on. There are obvious advantages in making critical changes to the team so early on, rather than late in the game.
After all, it’s still a year in and you have time to catch up. Nonetheless, every subtle administrative change comes with big impacts on governance. For every minor change, you impact institutional memory; basically, people don’t have enough time to build on their vision and experience in the department.
Then there are the management style changes, with every minister having their own style/approach; and the work force has to keep learning, unlearning and re-learning how to work each time a new minister comes in.
In making these changes, you also impact projects, partnerships and relationships that have been built and on track. In a country like Sierra Leone, where documentation and record keeping is poor, it will simply mean starting all over again and this has impacts on progress.
For a new Direction government that has promised a lot, under-delivery can hurt badly – two years into active elections campaign.
Government is still stuck with party loyalists to deliver on the promises to the nation.
Of course, you would expect any government around the world to stick with those who supported them in election campaigns. This, however, comes with consequences to national development when the crop of people around the leader lack the requisite transformational thinking to deliver meaningful results.
Hence, there is the danger of being trapped in an unending musical chairs – reshuffling players to negative result.
What’s the way forward?
President Bio could take a bold transformational approach – look outside his base and strategically appoint individuals he may disagree with, but with the professional acumen to deliver positive results.
Legislators in parliament must also properly vet those offered appointment, to make sure they have both the technical and leadership skills to deliver results and run their institution.
The Powerful Demigod Minister
We are still stuck with the mentality of “the Minister as the God in the MDA”. All decisions rest on the wisdom of the Minister.
Rather than the collective thoughts and imagination of all, Mr/Mrs Minister’s decision is single most important and overrides all others.
The nexus of interactions between the political head and technocrats should be as organic as possible, so as to allow for adequate alignment on critical decisions.
The civil service needs to be restructured to a productive technical workforce. Leaders appointed to public offices are as good as the technocrats around them. For instance, a Permanent Secretary appointed to the Ministry of Health should as a prerequisite, have a Public Health training or have considerable experience in health-related policy matters.
The system of rotating administrators from one MDA to another, means little institutional memory is maintained. Speaking of institutional memory, we simply don’t have a body of highly competent technocrats in specific fields that form a nucleus around the minister and aid in critical decision making.
Mere cabinet reshuffle with nearly same players, may not be silver bullet for the economy. The ‘gron don dry’ has become the singular unifying talk among Sierra Leoneans today. The end result of a cabinet reshuffle should be addressing key challenges you as a government are facing.
For now, apart from bringing in Dr. Francis Kaikai from the UN, much of the changes are cosmetic reshuffling of the deck of cards.
There is still the issue of mismatch in skill sets of those appointed and the offices they are appointed to lead. We still see a government stuck on loyalty, influences, and payback rather than doing the right thing.
And that right thing may mean sacrificing party loyalty for national interest and properly vetting those appointed to make sure they are fit for purpose.
This May save you Mr President another reshuffling, and will ensure action items on your plate are accomplished.