September 28, 2022

By Yusif Moigua

With increasing talks about Government’s uncompromising stance on fighting corruption, I often find it extremely out of place when one considers the meagre salaries of key people in the country’s financial sector who are procurement personnel in Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs).
They are the least motivated Government workers across the board, whose salaries are nothing to write home about when compared to those working as heads of MDAs such as the Managing Director of SALPOST; the Financial Secretary Sahr Lahai Jusu, and the deputy Financial Secretary in the Ministry of Finance.
A Commissioner at the Electricity Generation and Transmission Commission (EGTC), including a host of several others, go home with eye-popping salaries while Civil Servants who are the backbones of these MDAs go home with pittances. This is the unfavourable demotivating circumstances under which procurement practitioners in Sierra Leone from top to bottom are working under amidst President Bio’s much publicised anti-corruption battle.
So, one wonders as to how serious is the Bio government and his stooge in the person of the Anti-Corruption Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala in the fight against corruption. The whole anti-corruption fight could be looked at as a mere cat chasing ‘rats’ for crimes they do not commit at all, but just being targeted because of their vulnerabilities in a cat-dominated kingdom.
Procurement matters, starting with the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) which is charged with the huge task of accelerating Sierra Leone’s economic growth and enhancing sustainable national development, are not a child’s play. But since the era of the late President Alhaji Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah to former President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma unto current President Bio, the plights of procurement practitioners have remained the same. While the salaries of staff of other sectors, particularly the Finance Ministry, are regularly reviewed with motivations and promotions, those of Procurement Practitioners remained the same.
For instance even with almost the same qualifications, Auditors earn Le17,000,000 monthly, while Budget Officers earn over Le30,000,000. And at higher levels, the Financial Secretary Sahr Lahai Jusu earns Le86, 935,130, whilst the Senior Deputy Financial Secretary receives a monthly salary of Le32, 141,121. And auxiliary staff assigned to the deputy Financial Secretary earn between Le552,000 to Le1,420,079 monthly. Also, the Managing Director of the defunct SALPOST is also paid a monthly salary of well over Le 60,000,000 monthly for doing nothing at a postal service that does not even deliver stamps to people.
That is very much unfair and demotivating for people working as Procurement Officers in MDAs. If the battle against graft is anything to go by, then the Bio government needs to pay more attention to these anomalies before we can consider the ‘selective’ anti-corruption fight serious.
It is therefore worthy to note that if President Bio is that thoughtful about the fight against corruption, then his administration must address the welfare of Procurement Practitioners everywhere in government before it is too late.
What remains scary and worrisome is that the Bio government is deliberately failing to learn from the political mistakes of the last administration, forgetting that the Koroma regime got all its ‘corruption scams’ because it ignored procurement and accountability related procedures.
Is it because President Bio’s blue eye boy Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa has placed all finance related MDAs including the NPPA on his chest owing to the fact that his table is full at the Ministry of Finance? We just posed a legitimate question of concerns for which the anxious public expects immediate and appropriate answers.
Moreover, it is no secret that the functions of NPPA are now being hijacked by the Finance Minister and his ministry for whatever reasons I can’t tell. All of these have major tendencies to undermine the anti-corruption efforts of President Bio.
It could be recalled that payroll corruption was exposed by the online Africanist Press on the 5th of March this year in which huge financial inconsistencies in Government of Sierra Leone’s payroll for Civil and Public workers under the Bio regime was exposed.
President Bio, while campaigning for the presidency two years ago, vowed to limit state expenditures and instil discipline in the management of public finance. But what obtains now is the exact opposite of what he preached.