By Foday Moriba Conteh
In the early morning of Wednesday 30th August, 2023, the Chief Minister, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh was sported on a direct assessment of the sign-in registers across Ministries at Youyi Building in Freetown. This initiative, according to him, underscores the Government’s commitment to realizing its ‘Big Five’ agenda and is a cornerstone of fostering public sector reforms and reshaping the mindsets of public officials regarding punctuality and commitment.
During his engagement, he urged all public servants to consistently log in their attendance and departure times in the weekly staff attendance book, emphasizing that individuals arriving for duty after the stipulated Government time would be subjected to a query letter.
He stated that a series of query letters for repeated lateness or unexplained departures will ultimately lead to the suspension of the offending individual, accompanied by a halt in salary disbursement. Additionally, Dr. Sengeh underscored the importance of transparency by requiring that both the respective Minister and himself be copied on all query letters.
Dr. Sengeh articulated the motivation behind this rigorous approach, highlighting the nexus between public responsibility, accountability, and national development. He underscored the significance of streamlining Government service delivery, encapsulated by punctuality, preparedness and diligent commitment.
Citing the pressing need for public sector reform and efficiency, Dr. Sengeh initiated this comprehensive assessment to bridge gaps between perception and reality. He revealed plans to introduce a digitized query system utilizing individualized pin codes for each public servant. This real-time approach will enable immediate query issuance when an individual is absent from work. By doing so, the Government aims to eliminate delays in query issuance and address concerns of selectivity or inconsistency.
The Chief Minister affirmed that this move aims to underscore the fundamental commitment made by public officials to uphold punctuality. This paradigm shift places the onus on public servants to adhere to their contractual responsibilities, emphasizing the critical role each individual plays in shaping a responsive and accountable public sector.
This approach by the Chief Minister resonates with President Julius Maada Bio’s earlier efforts after his electoral victory in 2018.President Julius Maada Bio’s ambitious bid in 2018 to foster discipline and instil strong work ethics across the country’s public sector experienced a significant setback. The key promise, made during his initial week as Head of State, aimed to enhance accountability and punctuality, particularly in attendance within Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The President’s commitment was reflected in his spot checks on Ministries at Youyi Building in Freetown. Regrettably, over the years, the laudable initiative faltered due to the non-continuation of the spot checks, resulting in an unfulfilled pledge to cultivate discipline.
President Bio’s endeavour to bring discipline and robust work ethics to the public sector was marked by a proactive step of conducting on the spot checks on MDAs. This initiative, initiated during his first year in office, aimed to cultivate a culture of accountability, punctuality, and diligence among public servants. However, the absence of consistent follow-up undermined the progress initially achieved.
Despite the President’s earnest attempt to drive change, the inability to sustain the practice of spot checks proved to be a significant impediment. As the years passed, the momentum waned, raising concerns about the enduring commitment to the important objective of strengthening work ethics and attendance.
The discontinuation of the spot checks meant that the momentum gained was short-lived, resulting in a gap between intention and action. The lack of sustained monitoring deprived the initiative of the opportunity to embed lasting change in the public sector’s work culture.
The unfulfilled promise to instil discipline in MDAs and promote consistent work ethics, particularly in the realm of attendance, underscores the importance of continuity and steadfast commitment. While the initial steps were commendable, the failure to carry them forward showcased the challenges of instituting long-lasting transformation.
This setback serves as a lesson in the necessity of consistent follow-through to transform intentions into tangible results. The unfulfilled pledge to establish discipline within MDAs reminds us that creating lasting change requires more than initial efforts as it demands an enduring dedication to realizing the intended outcomes.
As Sierra Leone continues its journey towards progress and development, the need for accountability, punctuality, and strong work ethics remains undiminished. With the President Julius Maada Bio failure to foster discipline and instil strong work ethics across the country’s public sector, can the Chief Minister, Dr. David Moinina Sengeh succeed?