Statement by EU Ambassador Tom Vens
Freetown, the 12th of November 2019
Today is a very important day in the cooperation between the EU and the government of Sierra Leone as we launch the long awaited Multi Annual Programme Estimate to support a key performance pillar in our relation: that of civil service reforms in Sierra Leone. I am pleased to join the Secretary to Cabinet and the Head of Civil Service at this occasion which is a culmination of a long process of consultation between the government and the EU and also between the various players in this sector within the state and government machinery. As someone who has been personally involved in the processes preceding the negotiations that have gone on between HRMO, PSC, NAO and the EU, I am proud to be standing here to launch an agreed work plan and strategies to be used in spending the 2.5 million Euros that was allocated for activities to drive the civil service reforms in this country.
Allow me to remind ourselves of what is being launched today:
It reflects an agreed consensus of priorities of the government and the HRMO and PSC to drive forward the agenda of civil service reforms that should result in a robust public service agenda for the country which will drive the human capacity investment and economic priorities of SL in the coming days.
The MAPE wants to contribute towards the mutually agreed current undesirable situation with the civil service arena to prepare the environment that will be conducive for a harmonised public service. The undesirable challenges this programme wishes to address include the following:
While the above list may look long and complex, I am pleased with the strategies chosen to address them which gives me hope that with a concerted effort, the envisaged change foreseen in the recently launched Medium Term National Development Plan (2019-2023) will be realised. The mix of working on low hanging fruits for immediate results (e.g. Individual Performance Management Systems, continued cleaning of the payroll, gender mainstreaming, records management) and mixing them with the critical legal infrastructure that will harmonise all human resource management matters for the public service through the consultations that should result in the enactment of the Public Service Act should be highlighted from the begin. I will come back to this point in due course.
The beneficiary institutions and lead implementers to realise the results of this support are the Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) and the Public Service Commission (PSC). I am happy to see all the duty bearers that will steer this implementation present here to discuss the technical details accompanying this support. I wish your deliberations success.
As per the agreement the EU has made with government through the NAO, this support is premised on the following cardinal principles which we will be monitoring closely:
The programme was designed by HRMO and PSC and should be owned and led by people from the same institutions who appreciate the context and intended results to be achieved. Your presence here is testimony to this vision; I hope it will continue during the three years of implementation.
The programme will be implemented using financial systems and codes of the government of Sierra Leone over and above the EDF rules and procedures. It is our hope that all procurements foreseen and all expenditures will comply with the high standards that reflect stewardship towards public resources and that accountability and transparency will be displayed in all transactions.
Sound planning and implementation based on the tried principles of subsidiarity and co-responsibility will guide all the processes during the implementation of this programme. HRMO and PSC, as custodians and direct beneficiaries, will communicate more and more and lead by example in showing how much can be achieved in joint planning and implantation in this sector that will benefit the whole nation. Teamwork should characterise the implementation process.
The goal of this programme’s support, like that of the government and us, is to ensure improved service delivery to the people of this country. If this programme’s resources are used efficiently, we should be able to contribute towards an effective civil and public service that supports better service delivery to all the citizens and allows for better and more participation of women and people with disabilities in the government working. This support should ensure that we arrive at a machinery that SERVES the people of this beautiful nation.
The purpose of this support is to have a robust public service legal infrastructure that brings harmony to the HR management in this country. Hence, we look forward to the immediate commencement of activities that will enhance dialogue and engagement to move towards the enactment and implementation of the Public Service Act in this country. Without this Act, more challenges will loom with an increased expenditure level for the wage bill that will leave too little for any meaningful development. We urge the PSC to lead from the front in this drive supported by all the stakeholders present here from HRMO, PRSU and others.
Allow me to close by stating that this support will not bear fruit if there is no political will from the leadership of this country. This will be demonstrated in several ways among which are the following: the presence and participation of the highest office on civil service matters is one. Another one is adherence to the stated results of the government in the NDP, namely, the enactment of the Public Service Act and review of the civil service code. Thirdly, through quick decision making that will steer forward the reform agenda; this could be at cabinet and at parliament. But most importantly, the political will would be exhibited by on-going government policies and focus that should not be going against the vision of reform. To this end, I wish to request your office to assess whether the recently announced government agenda to work towards enactment of the Wages and Remuneration Commission is consistent with this vision or whether this intention should be revisited. A closer look at its work in the context of the support of this programme needs to be harmonised.
I wish to call again on the Imprest Team that will drive the implementation of this process under the watchful eye of the NAO to remain committed to the process and results of this support. So far, good work has been done, though at times slowly. Let us all now work more closely in the planning that will follow this launch to accelerate implementation and bring forward some of the results. I am happy to note on the programme that the NAO and the Technical Assistance team will continue playing active roles in the implementation of this programme. That is the expected spirit. On our part, the EU will remain available to support all political and technical aspects that will assist this programme to achieve its intended results.
Sierra Leone is facing critical challenges and it is high time to put the interests of the country firmly first. With this programme we have a good opportunity to do so. And I invite all critical observers to oversee whether this is indeed the case. With these words, I wish you success with the implementation of the Euro 2.5 million multi annual programme estimate in support of civil service reforms in Sierra Leone.