18 May 2019

Sierra Leone: What Have We Learnt from President Bio's Cabinet Reshuffle?

It seems like it's not going well; the New Direction is moving but without a strategic foresight to deliver tangible results in election promises. If it going well with team, you don't change the players within first quarter of game

Poor vetting by the government and legislators. Considerable mismatch exists between those appointed to fulfill 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 appointment without the requisite pedigree to deliver results for the country

Early Reshuffles Epidemic and impacts thereof - As in previous governments, Bio New Direction has also now embarked on an early reshuffle one year on. There are obvious advantages to make critical changes 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 is the style change with every minister having their own style/approach and the work force has to keep learning, unlearning and relearning how to work each time. 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 expect any government around the world to stick with those who supported to them in 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 reshuffle of the players to negative result. President Bio could take on a bold transformational approach to 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 run that institution.

The Powerful Demigod Minister -we are still stuck in 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/Ms Minister decision is single most important and over rides all others. The nexus of interactions between the political head and technocrats should be as organic as possible to allow for adequate alignment on critical decisions.

Civil service needs to be restructured to a productive technical workforce. Leaders appointed to public offices are as good as the 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 dry. Dae gron dry has become the singular unifying talk among Saloneans. 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 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 a 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 right fit. This May save you Mr. President another reshuffling and will ensure action items on your plate are accomplished.

Sierra Leone

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