Bio-Meter Report Satisfactory – Says IGR Director

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Director of Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) Andrew Lavalie, has intimated that the Bio-Meter Report is satisfactory and urged the president and the government to maintain the tempo. He was speaking at the report’s launch last Friday 12th April, 2019 at Institute for Government Reform, (IGR), Wilkinson Road in Freetown, is commonly referred to as the Bio-Meter, and it is a citizen’s scorecard on the state of implementation of the various campaign promises made by President Bio during the run-up to the March 2018 elections.
The report provides a detailed account on progress or lack thereof on the 556 official proclamations stated in the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) manifesto – the New Direction; the speech delivered by HE the President in his first state opening of parliament; and executive orders issued by State House in the last one year. It is an appraisal of President Bio’s first year in office.
The Bio-Meter is funded by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) as part of a wider effort in West Africa to create platforms for constructive state-citizen dialogue that will enhance the responsiveness of government to meet the needs of people they vow to serve.
This iteration of the Bio-Meter builds on a previous assessment of the administration’s first 100 days in July 2018. It employs a more rigorous methodology to gauge progress made after a year in office.
Mindful of the nature of politics and the polarisation in the country, four layers of scrutiny were applied to ensure objectivity and validity of the results and wider national ownership of the Bio-Meter initiative. The report presents triangulated data incorporating these four trusted sources.
First, a sample of 1,920 ordinary citizens (50% male and 50% female) was randomly selected nationwide and asked 19 questions that covered their experiences and perceptions of the last one year. To ensure a representative sample, respondents were selected from across all parliamentary constituencies in each of the five regions in the country.
Second, we selected 85 experts with deep knowledge of the 28 sectors represented in the promises, with three to five experts assigned to each sector. To ensure that experts applied objective standards in their assessment, a uniform criterion was used to guide their decisions, and every expert was asked to provide justification and means of verification for their rating of every promise. Among the means of verification include official publications that detail progress or lack thereof, media announcements and the experts’ own authority/experience in the sector. These means of verification were vetted by the Bio-Meter Committee.
Third, officials in government ministries, departments and agencies completed self- assessment questionnaires which served as a shadow score for each sector. Spearheaded by the Ministry of Political and Public Affairs, over 70 percent of MDAs conducted the self-assessment. The self-assessment data was not included in the scoring, but was useful as it provided official validation of some of the justifications and means of verification presented by the experts. The committee noted a number of variances between the expert score and MDA self-ratings.
Fourth, a committee of 13 persons was convened to serve as a watchdog body over the process. Members of this Bio-Meter Committee were drawn from civil society, women and youth organisations, media, academia, parliament and a religious body. The primary role of the committee was to ensure integrity of the process and to solve problems as they arose. Tasks included helping to agree on the list of eminent experts as well as reviewing scores and means of verification provided for each sector. Weekly meetings were held by the committee from the initial-design stage of the Bio-Meter, to data collection and compilation, to the publication of final results.
President Bio came to office with a slim margin (3.6%) of victory, giving his administration a small reserve of political capital and legitimacy to effectively control the state. The fact that the opposition has the parliamentary majority, and that Bio inherited a historically divided society with an economy in austerity, suggests that a main preoccupation of the administration over this past one year has been to establish its authority, and expand its political legitimacy beyond this narrow election margin. Coming to power after 10 years in opposition, officials of the new government believed that the public service, justice and security sectors were dominated by appointees perceived to be loyal to the past administration, which is now in opposition. To increase support for its agenda, it would appear that the administration is pursuing two principal strategies of legitimation: a) building a more administratively-oriented state that focuses on delivery and outputs; and b) repeating the co-optation and compulsion strategies of their predecessors: for example, the petitioning of over a dozen opposition party MPs, the controversial election of a speaker of parliament without a clear majority and the concomitant effects on parliamentary votes and proceedings. The latter strategy generated tension among political parties in some cases making governance still appear to be a zero-sum game, even a year after election.
The Bio-Meter shows that the government has made significant progress on a number of fronts over the past one year, but challenges remain. The Bio-Meter Committee fully understands the difficulty the administration is going through to restore the economy, create jobs and improve livelihoods. However, it would be unrealistic to raise expectations to the degree that citizens believe that Sierra Leone’s development challenges can be solved in the life of one administration. This belief has put successive administrations under extreme pressure to employ domination and cooperation to consolidate power as opposed to gaining legitimacy through the delivery of results and consensus building. The citizens consulted on this report across Sierra Leone want to see a real shift in the character of the state in seeking solutions to our age-old problems; starting with having genuine conversations about what can be achieved now, what can be done later and how these timescales are framed and communicated. We draw from this Bio-Meter data to offer some advice on how we think improvements can be made, specifically focusing on national cohesion, fighting corruption, and revamping the economy. Government should take deliberate steps to address national cohesion. This starts with the administration building a performance-driven nation grounded in open and fair recruitment processes, and publicised performance contracts for public servants with expected and verifiable outputs/results known to all. Recruitment and dismissals of public servants should be based on objective criteria of competence and performance. Relatedly, government should work towards ending impunity and ensuring that justice is fairly administered to all. The phenomenon of “this is our turn” should come to an end. Government should take steps to help the public understand that electing a party to power should not mean that benefits only flow to supporters of that party, but rather that public goods should be provided to all citizens, including opposition supporters.
It added that the progress in anti-corruption and public financial management reforms seen over the last seven months should be sustained right through the tenure of the administration.

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