“Sierra Leone is a developing country located in Sub-Saharan West Africa, with a population of approximately 5 million. Poverty is widespread and endemic here, and as such the overall objective of government is poverty reduction.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper-PRSP 1 and 2 – An Agenda for Change was regarded as the framework for the actualization of a development vision for Sierra Leone. That vision has four pillars: Energy, Agriculture, Infrastructure/Transportation and Human Development.
The Human Resources department for the public service has been in existence for a long time and it used to be called the Establishment Secretaries Office. Headed by the Establishment Secretary and appointed by his Excellency the President, the Establishment Secretaries Office was responsible for recruitment of Civil Service personnel and deployment to the various government line ministries. This department is now called the Human Resources Management Office and headed by a Director General.
Civil Servants are expected to be highly qualified and competent individuals with diversified knowledge in their field of study. But over the years one of the key challenges faced by this Office has been to source the right kind of labour from the job market that will deliver public goals effectively and efficiently to help realize the development vision of the country. The Human Resources Management Office now has a Director General to oversee policy implementation for the Civil Service. The Office first and foremost should be able to provide regular and up-to-date capacity-building training for key personnel, especially the Records Management Officer to improve records management, which is one of the main challenges facing civil service as a whole. Sourcing and retrieving information takes a long time and sometimes is not available. Such statistics form the basis upon which international organizations rank our country, such as the UNDP-Human Development Index (HDI), Transparency International, to name but a few.
Files and records must be adequately maintained to document the projects and programmes which have been implemented so far and the successes gained. Their proper maintenance will also make it easier to share lessons learnt from the PRSP 2 to develop a PRSP 3 or whatever. Proper maintenance will also serve as a guide to track progress made towards the Millennium Development Goals.
Pay and benefits are vital pre-requisites for the retention of well trained staff. Grades should be revised immediately and pay match up squarely with these new grades. Sharply increase the salaries of civil servants say by 100 per cent for a start to catch up with the cost of living, this will begin to look like a decent pay package. Civil servants work diligently for long years but can ill afford a personal car, bank accounts, a decent flat, laptop and internet connection, a reliable and acceptable retirement package. Though the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) has introduced pension and retirement benefits, the funds contributed are very minimal, as this is based on the level of salary earned.
The civil service is still plagued by a large number of unskilled workers whom are technically not well equipped in their field. Most workers have been employed over 20 years now and are yet to hit the retirement age of 60 years. An ugly practice before now has been for personnel to back-date their date of birth. As a result, many are now nearing or have long passed their retirement age and cannot now pursue training with a modern curriculum. This attitude must be changed by top leaders if workers should put more into their job roles; therefore educate officers thoroughly on the contents of the new regulations, rules, and civil service code and then implement them to the fullest. Also ensure that the civil service policies on recruitment, training and developments, performance management, manpower planning and budgeting become a working document. The President recently commissioned the commencement of construction of the defunct civil service training college; this should be speedily completed. Overseas training opportunities and experience sharing and exchange programmes should be revived. In order to downsize the civil service and relieve it from a large number of ghost workers and ensure vibrant, energetic and able-bodied workers, a comprehensive list of verified, confirmed and approved personnel and payroll records must immediately be produced. This will reduce drastically the 88 per cent of old age (above 60 years) workers still working in the civil service.
Remove officers who have been absenting themselves without valid reason(s) and are receiving salaries and also those working for other organizations claiming not to have enough tasks to perform, as these measures will save public money. The same rule should apply to names appearing twice in the payroll and pensioners list, whether intentionally or through typographical errors. Provide attractive retrenchment and early retirement schemes to influence old and incapacitated workers.
The Human Resources Management Office is faced with this huge task of overseeing recruitment and selection in Sierra Leone for the public service. Recruitment and selection should be devoid from bias, sentiment and party politics, regionalism, sectionalism, physical disabilities, sex, religion, age, race, etc. Rather but to hunt for possible candidates based on their ability to perform on the job the organization has offered.
Education of the highest quality is essential for the achievement of poverty reduction. Trained and qualified teachers should be employed with timely and decent pay.
Succession Planning is one of the pre-requisites for any structured management development system. The Human Resources Office should prepare a management succession chart that will show clearly present management jobholders – post/jobholder/age/performance; possible successors- first choice and second choice and who is ready to take over.
1. Challenges in the Civil Service by Mr. Ernest Suru, Director General of Human Resources Office, Sierra Leone.
2. Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP 2) “An agenda for Change” document.” – Sylvester Thomas – Freetown, Sierra Leone