Civil service ‘audit’ heralds clear-out in Sierra Leone

By on 04/06/2018
The poor of Freetown will expect the new president to get the economy moving and crack down on corruption. Pic by Simon Davis/DfID

Sierra Leone’s new President, Julius Maada Bio, has launched an audit of the African country’s civil service in a bid to stamp out political patronage, corruption and waste.

The President, who was inaugurated on 4 April following a narrow victory in the run-off poll against incumbent Samura Kamara, has unveiled a range of measures – including asking all those officials at grade 7 and above to present their academic qualifications. The government says it needs the information in order to verify officials’ CVs and to inform decisions around deployment.

Bio’s office has also alleged that US$2m was paid annually to 106 employees at the office of the former Presidential Chief of Staff, of whom only five were civil servants. The remaining 101 were politically-appointed contractual employees, it says.

The office of Chief of Staff has subsequently been scrapped and replaced by the Governance Transition Team, with Chief Minister designate Professor David Francis its head.

New broom

Bio won the run-off with 51.8% of the vote, ending a decade in power for Kamara’s All People’s Congress. A former brigadier, Bio was involved in a 1992 coup and briefly held the top job before stepping aside in 1996 in favour of an elected civilian leader. He has since apologised for his role in the junta, and recast himself as a crusader against corruption and nepotism.

According to the Head of the Civil Service and Secretary to Cabinet, Dr Julius Sandy, the audit is aimed at ensuring efficiency in the public service. “We are undertaking a HR audit of public servants, with the view to deploying officers to ministries, departments and agencies where they would add considerable value, and in the process maximize the efficiency of those institutions,” he said.

As part of the new drive, all politically-appointed diplomats at the West African nation’s foreign missions, including ambassadors and information attachés, have been sacked.

Squeezing the wage bill

Chief Minister designate Professor Francis, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, said: “We have inherited a battered economy, and this new government cannot afford to maintain offices created in the previous administration based on political compensation.”

He added: “We are going to review the governance structure and every office must be fit for purpose. Our focus is to deliver on the key strategic priorities using a lean structure that is efficient and cost effective. There is no more business as usual.”

However, some media outlets have argued that the audit is driven by Bio’s desire to force Kamara’s allies out of office.

About Glen Munro

Glen Munro has worked as a journalist for a wide variety of trade and consumer titles, including the Daily Express, the Independent and the Evening Standard. Topics he has covered during his career include business issues, personal finance, travel and African and Caribbean affairs.

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