The Sierra Leone Web




Mr. Chairman,
Honourable speaker of Parliament
My Lord Chief Justice
Ministers of Government
Members of the PSC
Diplomatic Corps
Paramount Chiefs and Elders
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Today marks an important milestone in the journey towards restoring the efficiency and effectiveness of the civil service and increasing its capacity for delivery of services. At independence, the Sierra Leone Civil Service was acclaimed as a beacon of excellence and a shinning example of an institution that provided firm and dependable support to the government. Indeed, our civil service provided technical assistance and support to some sister states within the West African sub-region and instances abound in which Sierra Leoneans ascended to positions of prominence land authority in those states. In fact, Sierra Leoneans in other parts of the world have excelled in positions of authority. Post-independence Sierra Leone witnessed some sustenance of our public sector management capacity, and the civil service demonstrated commitment to the realisation of the polity objectives of government. In the seventies, what started as a gradual decline in standards later deteriorated within the last two decades into a situation in which the civil service became ineffective and inefficient, saddled with cumbersome and outdated procedures and regulations, which were ignored. In addition, nepotism, favouritism and influence peddling accelerated the decline. This deterioration of the civil service resulted in frustration for many and the experienced and better-trained civil servants left for greener pastures. Today, I wish to address some of the critical aspects relating to an enhanced level of performance and efficiency, on the part of the workers in the public sector of our nation. I begin by providing a background on the situation we inherited and how we dealt with the problems, and will then address the direction we believe we should take as we work on improving performance and standards in the public service sector.

On assumption of office in March 1996, my Government inherited an untenable situation and identified the compelling need for a comprehensive reform in the public service. Later that year, Government secured donor support through which a three-man team of local consultants prepared a National Strategy for Good Governance and Public Service Reform. The study came up with recommendations for public service reform, and government established, a broad based Steering Committee under the chairmanship of the Minister for Presidential Affairs to oversee the entire Good Governance Programme. Government also established three sub-committees with broad representation, charged with specific responsibilities for Public Service Reform, Local Government and Decentralisation and Democratic Reform, which reported to the Steering Committee. Despite the negative impact of a brutal civil war that had plagued the country since March 1991. My government vigorously pursued the country since March 1991, my Government vigorously pursued its reform programme until it was severely disrupted by the events of May 25, 1997 and the subsequent hiatus of nine months.

With the restoration of the democratically elected government in March 1998, we have been implementing a reform programme designed among other things to create a lean, efficient effective and performance-oriented civil service. The Minister of Presidential Affairs has already highlighted the main components of that programme. It is pertinent to mention that the revitalisation of the Public Service Commission triggered off a chain of events that culminated in the appointment of our cadet Administrative Officers for whom this orientation workshop has been organised.

The selection process was transparent, just and fair devoid of the political patronage that had created an unnecessarily bloated civil service through indiscriminate employment of untrained and unqualified staff. Government intends to maintain an inflow of properly qualified and dedicated officers into the civil service and by selecting the best, the service will be assured of a reservoir of competence and increased output.

In the past, failure to maintain a transparent selection process intensified the unproductive policy of employing friends and associates without reference to their qualifications for the job. This has in turn damaged morale land productivity of the few qualified people, and has equally undermined the basic fabric of the civil service. We are committed, therefore to work towards a change of the overall approach, so as to create opportunities elsewhere for service, and by this way reduce wastage in government funds and the misuse of manpower. Indeed there are countries in the world in which only 2% of the population is employed by their civil service. The rest of the workforce is employed by the private and non-profit sectors. It is important, therefore that Government should do everything to create and enabling environment for the private sector to thrive in Sierra Leone since this will create employment opportunities for Sierra Leoneans.

As far as the public sector is concerned, I am pleased to inform you that government has devised an innovative method of attaching the newly recruited Administrative Officers to Ministries and Departments on rotational basis for a period of 6 months at the end of which their posting will be effected.

Let me take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear that the outmoded promotion system based on seniority rather than performance is now a thing of the past. Government is now putting in place a performance evaluation system, an open process in which subordinates and superior will have the opportunity of reviewing performance rating with justice and fairness. The system will provide for complete objectivity and openness that will eliminate favouritism and the existence of square pegs in round holes. Attention will be focused on fixing individual and departmental targets, agreeing on work performance actions and how to measure performance and procedures for undertaking annual reviews. Let me therefore admonish our new Administrative Officers as well as all civil servants, to approach their work with seriousness, dedication and a high sense of patriotism as they are assured of reward for hard work.

As we forge ahead with the Herculean task of strengthening public sector performance, it is disappointing to note that some civil servants continue to be lethargic and nonchalant in their attitude towards work. Among some of them, there is a lot of laxity in the observance of official working hours and indifference on the part of superiors to scrupulously apply the rules, resulting in slackness and indiscipline and a high degree of wastage. Wastage also exists through the indiscriminate use of official facilities like telephones and vehicles for personal use. This should terminate forthwith as we can no longer afford to meet such unwarranted expenditure from our meagre financial resources. Steps are therefore being taken to monitor these activities with the view of weeding them out.

Another area of concern is that of ethics and accountability in the public service. Ethics in administration and management refers to the determination of what is right, proper and just in the decisions that affect other people, and accountability involves being answerable for the actions of our subordinates. In looking at causes of ethical degeneration, it has been argued that public servants are constrained by low remuneration and erosion of purchasing power, and thus resort to other means of supplementing their incomes to make ends meet. While we recognize that the remuneration package is inadequate, it is by no means a license for endemic corruption that is eating into the very fabric of our society. We must not lose sight of the need for basic integrity, which implies being honest, trustworthy, morally upright and avoiding all behaviour that will bring discredit to the service.

Government is aware of the problems surrounding remuneration and institutions have been given for a comprehensive review of all salaries in an effort to ensure that civil service personnel are adequately paid and that when they retire they are not doomed to poverty. With the appropriate training, a good working environment, and a realistic pension, the temptation for people to resort to unacceptable practices will hopefully disappear. A code of ethics for public officials with sanctions for violations therefore, will soon be drawn up and strictly enforced.

As civil servants, there should exist a spirit of loyalty between you and government, and a healthy esprit-de-corps among your colleagues. You are required to remain politically neutral, impartial and competent in the discharge of your function. Your loyalty is to the State as represented by the "Government of the day." You should be courteous and respectful to colleagues, serve as role models and maintain your respect in society. On our side, I guarantee full support for action taken in good faith on behalf of Government.

With the enactment of the National Social Security and Insurance Trust Act 2001, the civil servants who have not attained the age of 55 years prior to 31st August 2001, the date of commencement of the Act, will continue in the service until they attain the new statutory retirement age of 60 years. However, those who have reached age 55 but are on leave prior to retirement have the option to remain in the civil service until they reach the age 60. A review will be made to identify young, bright and dedicated officers to fast track their career development, and they therefore ought not to be concerned or worried about the retention of competent officers above age 55, who have relevant work experience and can contribute meaningfully towards the work of government. Such an approach will help to retain officers who are in the prime of their performance capability and poised to provide mature and experienced leadership in the service. The Act has succeeded in harmonizing the retirement age in the public and private sectors and establishing a single retiring age for contributors to the scheme. This contributory scheme will no doubt confer attractive benefits to civil servants and enable them to earn living pensions.

You should strive towards the goal of having a professional public service not only in its structure and system but also in its attitude, skills, knowledge and behaviour, which could be substantially developed through training. Government recognizes that public sector productivity can be enhanced through the development of human resources, and that training can play a significant role in the process. Government has now deemed it necessary to resuscitate the Civil Service Training College and financial allocation has been made for rehabilitation of the building that will house the college. It will promote staff development and training for civil servants through systematic and coordinated training activities embodied in a Training policy. I have no doubt in my mind that such in-country training will be cost effective and relevant to our local environment.

In closing, let me be frank with you. I have carried out some discrete evaluation of the civil service. I believe that the majority of civil servants are competent, dedicated and patriotic Sierra Leoneans, and that the shortcomings that I have identified in this speech may be due partly to the poor conditions of service, and the absence of logistical support to enable them to perform their duties. In addition, there was indeed a lack of purpose and direction from politicians of the past, needed to motivate civil servants to the extent that they will be proud to part of the development process leading towards a cohesive and healthy Sierra Leone. We are determined to make sure that there is a difference.

I, therefore take this opportunity to welcome the newly recruited Administrative Officers into the Sierra Leone Civil Service. Your ability to work with others land to secure their support for the implementation of goals should be of paramount importance to you. Always maintain respect, show concern for others, capitalize on your strength and minimize your weakness. These were my guiding principles when I joined the Administrative Service in 1959.

On that note it is now my pleasure to formally declare this orientation workshop open and to wish you success in all its deliberations.