12 September 2018

Sierra Leone: NCP Chairman Umaru Napoleon Koroma Scores High in 100 Days

Umaru Napoleon Koroma Esq. NCP Chairman

The Chairman, National Commission for Privatisation (NCP), Umaru Napoleon Koroma Esq. has marked his first 100 days scoring very high marks in overall performance. The lawyer-cum-politician was appointed on 30th May, 2018 to shepard the privatisation of state parastatals into viable entities.

The NCP was established by an Act of Parliament - Act No 12 of 2002 - to reform, restructure and privatise Public Enterprises slated under the First Schedule of the NCP ACT.

Following his approval by Parliament, Chairman Koroma immersed himself into a job that requires optimal strategic coordination and foresight. With his strong intellect and avid understanding of the corporate world, he has within a short period of time demonstrated a strong appetite to move public enterprise reforms to enviable heights and in line with the New Direction benchmarks.

Accordingly, he has been able to achieve the following:

Transport Sector: Sierra Leone Airport Authority (SLAA)

Following a needs assessment/familiarization visit to the Lungi

International Airport on 13 June, 2018, the young and dynamic NCP chairman identified certain operational constraints at the sole international airport, including the need for a reliable and sustainable power supply and the need for a modern fire engine to keep it in line with international aviation standards. His subsequent intervention swiftly led to the approval for the procurement of a brand new one-megawatt standby generator for the Lungi Airport. The Chairman is also looking at a framework to secure a brand-new fire engine that meets international aviation standards.

Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation (SLRTC)

On 28th June 2018, Chairman Umaru Napoleon Koroma paid an unannounced visit to the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation during which he found out that the Corporation can be revitalised by a complete overhaul. With a new leadership now firmly in place, the NCP has initiated moves to attract viable private capital investment into the

SLRTC.

In late August, putting words into action, the NCP Chairman was part of a high-powered

Delegation, including the Hon. Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, and officials from relevant institutions that left Sierra Leone to hold exploratory discussions for a potential investment into the transport sector to procure buses from RDC Company Limited. The investment would facilitate the procurement of 200 buses to ease the acute transport problem in the country. The agreement would include a fully-equipped vehicle workshop and spare parts, according to NCP sources.

Sierra Leone Ports Authority (SLPA)

On 19th June 2018, Chairman Koroma, who also doubles as scribe of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), presided over a meeting between the SLPA Staff Union and Management over the payment of redundancy benefits. The Union claimed that their members (SLPA employees) were sacked in 2015 and their terminal benefits paid under side arrangements without recourse to the country's labour laws, following the privatisation of some operations of the ports to the private sector. The NCP Chairman, in collaboration with the leadership of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, SLPA and Ministry of Labour, has pledged to negotiate an amicable resolution of the matter.

In July 2018, following the lifting of the ban on timber exports by the government, a large amount of timber containers stored at the Freetown Terminal Limited at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay had accrued huge sums of money in storage fees. Tough negotiations, led by the NCP, resulted to the grant of a waiver amounting to Le14 billion in storage charges by Freetown Terminal Limited.

17th August 2018: The Government of Sierra Leone appointed Leadway Company as sole agent for export of harvested timber. The decision to export the aforementioned volume of timber was in congruence with government's drive to generate much needed revenue to finance development programmes under the New Direction administration.

The export was, however, fraught with beauracratic bottlenecks that potentially slowed down the export process, and it was brought to the attention of the NCP by Leadway. In response, Chairman Napoleon Koroma summoned a meeting of key stakeholders to specifically map out a

framework for an expedient timber export within the ambit of the law and more specifically to address key hurdles articulated by Leadway. The outcome was very successful as evident in the fact that the export process is being carried out without further glitches.

Financial Sector Government Owned Banks (Rokel Commercial Bank and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank)

By end of July this year, workers at the two government-owned banks - Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank - down tools following the approval of a government Supplementary Budget by Parliament which pegged leave allowance for staff at State-Owned Enterprises, including the banks, at on month's salary. Consequently, workers at both banks who felt aggrieved by this new policy staged a strike action in protest. But the intervention of the NCP Chairman and other stakeholders like the Financial Secretary, Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Minister of Labour led to an amicable resolution that does not prejudice the governmental policy, yet left the aggrieved workers reasonably satisfied and highly hopeful for better conditions of service.

In mid-August, the NCP Chairman also engaged the management of government parastatals (using the same model used to address the bank workers concerns) to discuss the leave allowance policy at other State-Owned Enterprises, and arrived at an amicable resolution:

a) That the provisions in the supplementary budget as regards leave allowance are to be upheld; b) Staff yet to go on leave will be paid one month of their gross salary and the difference between the old and new leave allowance be paid to staff as other allowance while the tax element is paid by the parastatal; c) Bonuses will be paid based on the achievement of a targeted profit level.

The main thrust of the policy is to ensure employees are not made worse off or dependent on their leave allowance alone, but their basic salaries and end-of-service benefits, which are set to be reviewed.

Commercial and General Sector Guma Valley Water Company

Cognizant of the perennial water crisis in Freetown, occasioned by unfavourable weather conditions, encroachment on water catchment and reservoir areas by citizens and an aged water infrastructure, Chairman Koroma carried out a detailed assessment of the Guma Valley Water Company through visits and technical engagement with key stakeholders in the water sector on 27th June. This has incredibly enhanced progress to overhaul Guma's infrastructure.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation Unit, recruited a consultant to support NCP in Guma activities.

Sierra Leone Telecommunications Company

In line with the New Direction's strategic policy on ICT, the NCP Chairman adopted a new strategy to ensure Seirratel, the state-owned telecoms company, becomes attractive to private capital investment. A first step to ensuring this was the facilitation of a smooth transfer of leadership of Sierratel. Sierratel's new Managing Director has been given a tougher mandate to ensure the company competes with other operators in Sierra Leone and the sub-region.

CONCLUSION

If the first 100 days achievements of Chairman Napoleon Koroma are anything to go by, then the NCP is poised to traverse the path success under his effervescent watch. Thus, Commission will continue to work with ministries, departments and agencies in the implementation of its mandate of introducing Private Sector Participation in the management and operation of parastatals.

The Commission's on-going strategy will focus, among other matters, on the following issues affecting the efficiency and profitability of PEs:

Sound Financial Management - NCP has scaled up its performance monitoring activities and will continue to provide guidance to Boards of Public Enterprises so that all realistic targets are accomplished and the PEs revert to profitability;

Reduction of the fiscal burden on the Government - NCP has directed that all PEs under its mandate open separate end-of-service benefits escrow account to enable PEs settle workers' benefits on retirement, rather than looking up to Government;

Corporate Governance Workshops - This will enhance good corporate governance practices in the management of Public Enterprises.

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