Salone News

Measuring the Performance of Sierra Leone’s Government

9 June 2007 at 02:49 | 319 views

Commentary

By Amara Omar Kuyateh

Part (1)

Sierra Leoneans will be going to the polls in August 2007, and the electorate, yet again, has another opportunity to decide who will form the sovereign government of Sierra Leone for the next 5 years.

Thomas Hobbes in the Leviathan (1651) stated as follows:

"During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; such a war as is of every man against every man...the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary".

Hobbes went on to write:

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

Simply put, Hobbes was trying to say that people need a sovereign to rule over them otherwise there will be chaos and anarchy. What Hobbes described above is what is called "government sovereignty". Given what transpired during the 10 years civil war, when the nation-state of Sierra Leone failed, one can indeed say that the lives of Sierra Leoneans were solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and indeed held the lowest life expectancy in the world. By all accounts for the vast majority of the 90s, and early 2000, Sierra Leone failed, as a nation-state.

Most of the activities of the International community, in collaboration with the present government, have been an attempt to restore government authority, rebuild the damaged infrastructure and the economy after the end of the civil war. This present government acquired that mandate, after the electorate rejected the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), and the other parties in the polls in the 2002 elections.

There is another type of sovereignty, and that is called "popular sovereignty". Popular sovereignty means citizens hold ultimate authority through the ballot and even a sovereign government is accountable to its citizens. The importance of the elections in August 2007 cannot be underestimated. Yet again, the electorate in Sierra Leone has another opportunity to exercise popular sovereignty by re-electing or rejecting the present government, in favour of another political party.

The aim of the Sierra Leone Network (SLN) and other civil society organizations involved in this year’s voter education process is to help the electorate make an informed decision come August 2007.

The Challenges ahead - Who dares win?

It is important to note that whoever wins the next elections would still have to face the existing issues and challenges of the present day government and an analysis of the present government’s response to the existing problems. Its successes and failures will indeed be an important lesson or first step for all involved in this process.

In this article, the author aims to briefly, examine the present government’s record in establishing government’s authority throughout Sierra Leone, and its effort in developing the economy and infrastructure during its last tenure.

Establishing Government authority throughout the Country:

In the area of establishing government authority one can boldly say that, this present government was successful in that regard. With the help of our development partners, the Sierra Leone Police Force and the Military were restructured, and re-trained to some extent. These forces have been deployed in all areas of Sierra Leone, with the exception of the disputed territory of Yenga. On the issue of the Decentralization and devolution process, the government passed the 2004 Local Government Act, and there are now 19 functioning local government councils in the four administrative regions of the country.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission - Never Again!

The government’s response in addressing the causes of the war has been two-fold. The first was to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in collaboration with the United Nations. The second was the setting up of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, to put on trial, those who bear "the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law, committed within the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996".

The TRC was mandated by the Lome Peace Agreement of 7th July 1999, and it was established by an Act of Parliament on 10th February 2000. The mandate of the Commission was to create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law related to the armed conflict in Sierra Leone, from the beginning of the conflict in 1991 to the signing of the Lom Peace agreement. In addition, the TRC’s mandate was to address impunity; respond to the needs of the victims; promote healing and reconciliation and prevent a repetition of the violations and abuses suffered. Since the final report of the TRC was published almost 3 years ago, the government’s response has been in the form of a poorly written white paper. There has been no action at all in regard to establishing the commission responsible for implementing the recommendations of the TRC.

The Special Court:

The establishment of the Special Court, its monetary costs, and its results thus far, have been a very contentious issue for many Sierra Leoneans. I consider the top 5 people indicted by the special court to be: Foday Sankoh, Johnny Paul Koroma, Sam Bockarie, Hinga Norman and Charles Taylor. Of the top 5, 3 have died before judgement was passed; one presumed missing or dead, and one is in The Hague awaiting trial. Was justice served at the special court for Sierra Leone? That is a question that Sierra Leoneans will most likely debate for hundreds of years to come.

What has been the government’s record in tackling corruption, developing the economy, and the damaged and neglected infrastructure of the country?

The government responded by forming the:
Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC)
National Commission for Social Action (NACSA)
National Procurement Authority
National Revenue Authority
Institutional Reform and Capacity Building Project
Development Assistance Coordination office
National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT)
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
The Public Financial Management, reform initiative and the Public Budgeting and Accountability Act of 2005.
The Justice Sector Development Program
Amending the 1973 Act to allow Sierra Leonean born nationals to hold dual citizenship.

In a paper I published on the 11th of November 2004, titled: Modernizing Government Management and Government Financial Management", I called for the establishment of a Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA.) http://www.sierraleonenetwork.org/pdf/modernizinggovernement.pdf. In my contribution to the Sierra Leone Network’s response to the United Kingdom Department for International Development’s country strategy paper earlier this year, I again called for the establishment of the GRPA. Within the current legal and regulatory framework, there is no measurement system, for the performance of the government’s Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

A Government performance and Results Act (GPRA) would provide us with the tool with which we can measure the results of the MDAs against their published strategic objectives, and the resources expended to achieve those objectives. Also a Freedom of Information Act makes those reports available to us, the general public. With these two acts, every public official will be held accountable in a fair process. GPRA would serve as a management tool for the government and an Accountability tool for the general public. In the absence of a GPRA we would still attempt to briefly review some of the performance of the government agencies and initiatives above.

In part 2 of this article, the author will review the performance of some of these government agencies, and the success or failures of the initiatives mentioned above.

About the Author: The Author, Amara Omar Kuyateh is a Principal Consultant with Oak Solutions, LLC, a Management Consultancy he founded after working for Pricewaterhousecoopers and Deloitte and Touche in Washington DC. He has over 9 years of government financial management experience from his work in the United Kingdom and the US. He is currently the Sierra Leone Network’s Chief Operating Officer. He was a delegate at the Consultative Group’s conference on Sierra Leone in London UK in November 2005, and at the Investors Forum in Freetown, in March 2006. For more on the Sierra Leone Network please go to our website on www.sierraleonenetwork.org.

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