24 April 2009

Sierra Leone: Office of the Ombudsman Empowered

Concord — Minister of State Vice President's Office, Balogun Koroma Thursday launched a five-year working document as a strategy to empower the office of the Ombudsman to investigate complaints from members of the public who have suffered injustice as a result of administrative abuse in the hands of public officials.

The launching ceremony was held at the Atlantic hall of the national stadium in Freetown where members of the judiciary, diplomats and human rights activists were also in attendance.

Koroma said it was significant for Sierra Leone to have established the office of the ombudsman as it upholds democratic institutions in the country, adding that the office will create the opportunity for citizens to exercise their right against injustice.

"The operation of the office of the Ombudsman cannot be upheld without finance. Government on its part will do everything possible to ensure the smooth operation of this very important office," he said and called on other partners to provide support to the institution.

The Ombudsman of Sierra Leone, Justice Edmond Cowan praised President Ernest Bai Koroma for his enormous support, stating that the president has paid more attention to ensuring that the office operates well in the country.

He said his office is one of those institutions benefiting from the justice sector development project (JSDP), a department promoting accountability and transparency in public service.

"The five-year strategic plan is to raise awareness and accountability for the public to know the operation of the office, create efficient network with local and international organizations to promote administrative justice," he said, adding that for the short time he has been in office some of the complaints forwarded to him were outside the mandate of the office.

"JSDP has been extremely helpful in the provision of essential items like furniture and equipment to get the office underway," he concluded.

JSDP programme manager, Peter Viner assured of his organization's commitment in building democratic institutions in the country.

He said it is important that people have an avenue to channel their complaints as the office of the Ombudsman safeguards the human rights of the people.



C- Koroma approves public sector reform


President on Tuesday 21st April 2009 conveyed approval for the operationalization of a new Comprehensive Public Sector Reform Programme.

The Programme, which has been jointly developed by the Government of Sierra Leone and our Development Partners evolved out of genuine concern to create a capacitated and performance-oriented Public Service that is beneficial to both service users and service providers.

The new 4-year programme would enable government to own and coordinate PSR in a holistic manner; present a framework to implement and manage public sector reform in a holistic manner; provide a focal point at which all development partners would respond with respect to their programmes for public sector reform.

According to a press release from the public sector reform unit in the office of the president, the programme would also provide guidelines for the preparation of reform programmes in the public sector and enable the government to own, implement and manage civil service reform in a holistic manner so as to eliminate duplicity and wastage.

"The programme will ensure that reform initiatives are driven by assessed needs and not supply-driven and develop structures, systems and processes in the civil service which respond to the aspiration of the people of Sierra Leone," it said.

The statement added that it would further capacitate public servants and the public service for increased service delivery while it enables PSRU to mobilize resources for PSR.

The new programme presents a public sector reform framework that provides for managing reform in all the identified environments, namely: Civil Service, Local Government, Justice Sector, Parliamentary Service, Security Sector and sub-vented Agencies/Departments.

The framework is holistic, covering among others, the following thematic areas: strategic and structural alignment; staff pay and incentives; improvements in systems and tools; capacity building; gender; anti-corruption.

It has been observed that the programme was a response to the poor performance of the civil service over the years and therefore gives a comprehensive detail of the essential requirements for a modern civil service, which are vital to meet developmental goals.

Such goals: "Enhances efficiency and effectiveness in Service Delivery by right-sizing the Civil Service, by recruiting on merit, by skills development and motivation, and having satisfactory management systems including good record keeping and information technology systems.

"Enhances Transparency & Accountability by having open and verifiable systems and processes; enhances Public-Private Partnership by supporting and working with the private sector in attaining the broad objectives of the government."

Further, the programme takes cognizance of recent restructuring, including the resuscitation of local government institutions, and provides for the human as well as the infrastructural capacity to support the reform initiatives.

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