By Fatmata Jenbeh
Many have been questioning the defined role of the Chief Minister since that position came to light when the SLPP Government assumed State Governance. The British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone, Mr. Simon Mustard and the Head of DfID Serra Leone, Ms Kobi Bentley, on Monday, 14th October, held talks with Sierra Leone’s Government Chief Minister – Professor David Francis at Statehouse in Freetown, where they discussed the role and office of the Chief Minister, which many in Sierra Leone believe is superfluous to requirements and a waste of public funds.
British High Commissioner, Mr. Simon Mustard, said that the purpose of the talks was to discuss and exchange ideas on how to achieve the objectives of the Office of the Chief Minister and the New Direction Government.
Since the creation of the Office of Chief Minister last year by President Bio, there are accusations of policy and role ambiguity, confusion and duplication of efforts, especially when set against the office and functions of the Vice President.
If there is confusion among many Sierra Leoneans about the roles and functions of these two senior government officials, there is little surprise therefore that the international community and development partners are unclear about the work of the Office of Chief Minister, which is costing the country hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain, against other key priorities of the Government, such as healthcare and education.
British High Commissioner, Mr. Simon Mustard, said that he and the Head of DfID are in Sierra Leone to work with the Government and people of the country to help promote and support the delivery of effective governance.
Head of DfID, Kobi Bentley acknowledged the government’s efforts in addressing the economic challenges facing the country, and said that the British Government is committed to continuing its support for Sierra Leone.
Speaking about the Government’s priorities, the Chief Minister said that the President has compressed his thirty two manifesto promises into eight key priority areas, ranging from education, health, agriculture, and corruption.
He said that the President’s vision is to transform Sierra Leone through human capital development, and that the Government will continue to work with development partners to achieve this vision.
Speaking about the massive $2.5 Billion Government debt, which is growing alarmingly to over 60% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the Chief Minister said that the Government is currently spending 85% of its revenue on servicing the country’s debt. Why is the Government set on continuing to take on more debt?
Addressing the British High Commissioner and Head of DfID, the Chief Minister said that his Office is a delivery unit that deals with strategic planning and policy leadership, adding further to the current ambiguity, confusion and duplication that many in Sierra Leone are seriously concerned about.
He said that his office is positioned in a way that supports both the Presidency and the ministries.
“My role as the Chief Minister is an ensurer role, and I am also supervised by the Honourable Vice President,” he said.
But ironically, many of his roles and functions are in conflict with those of the Vice President.
The cost of running the Office of Chief Minister in Sierra Leone is costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and a key question that must be answered by the President is this: What added value is the Office of Chief Minister bringing to his government and the running of the country, over and above that which the Office of the Vice President is achieving?
The recently published government ministerial performance report did not include the Office of Chief Minister, even though it is led by a cabinet minister and a major vote controller of the public purse.
Is the Office of Chief Minister above public scrutiny and accountability?