April 28, 2015
Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Ernest Surrur, attended the second roundtable meeting for African Cabinet Secretaries on the theme, ‘Transparency and Accountability in Policy Formulation and Implementation’. The session was held from 13th to 17th April in Accra, Ghana.
The forum, which brought together African Cabinet Secretaries and their support teams from 13 countries, was organized by the Africa Cabinet Government Network (ACGN).
In his address as President of the Council of African Cabinet Secretaries, Dr. Surrur informed the meeting that three new members – Botswana, Rwanda and Tanzania – have joined the ACGN for the first time. He recalled that the ACGN was an initiative by a small group of Cabinet Secretaries and was borne out of the desire to share potential values of African experiences in the aspect of governance.
He said the organisation focuses on the processes of policy development and decision-making and on building capacity to support effective decision-making by African governments, noting that an effective and informed Cabinet decision-making was critical for national development.
Dr. Surrur pointed out that despite all the progress made in African governance over the last 50-60 years, the ACGN has observed that many of the decisions reached by African Cabinets have not been implemented in a timely and effective manner, stating that many proposals were submitted to Cabinets without evidences that they would work.
He observed that most times ministers would always compete with one another for financial resources and for the approval of the President or Prime Minister, stating that in effective Cabinets, they must recognise their collective interests, that, together, they are responsible for shaping and implementing the policies of their governments.
Dr. Surrur maintained that ministers, with support from their senior civil servants, needed to have the capacity to question objectively the claimed objectives and benefits of major proposals being tabled in Cabinets.
Objectively questioning proposals, according to him, needed to be on the basis of accurate information, agreed data and clearly explained objectives and outcomes. He furthered that objective questioning needed to be focused on better collective decisions and ensuring that government policies and projects work together for the mutual benefit of the sectors and interests that ministers represent in Cabinet.
Dr. Surrur informed his colleagues that Sierra Leone’s Cabinet has just approved a new Cabinet Manual that guides ministers and ministries on how to develop good Cabinet memoranda and implement Cabinet decisions for the benefit of all and sundry.
In his keynote address, the President of Ghana, who is also Chairman of ECOWAS, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, said he was happy to know that the Africa Cabinet Government Network (ACGN) has decided to begin continent-wide deliberations on how it can champion transparency and accountability in policy formulation, implementation and accountability for results of public policies and programmes.
He opined that no public policy or programme is worth the paper it is written on if it has not engaged the primary stakeholders and citizens in its formulation, implementation and tracking its performance. He therefore urged the Cabinet Secretaries to deliberate on various models of citizen engagement in policy making, implementation and oversight.
The ECOWAS Chairman stated that the theme of the roundtable meeting underscores his rendition of the experiences in Ghana, stressing that governments must ensure they draw on evidence and opinion from all relevant sources, especially affected communities, businesses and other stakeholders.
“No longer can policy proposals be developed by bureaucrats behind closed doors and then imposed by political leaders. This requires careful planning and the need to ensure that the voices of powerful interest groups do not drown out the weak or the silent majority.
President Mahama stated that Cabinet Secretaries have an important role in helping politicians decode the evidence and make balanced and fair decisions in the interests of all citizens, adding that most importantly they need to ensure that these decisions are effectively and appropriately implemented.
President Mahama commended Dr. Surrur as President of the Council of African Cabinet Secretaries and his colleagues for their initiative in setting up the ACGN.
Earlier on welcoming the delegates on behalf of the people of Ghana, the Ghanaian Cabinet Secretary, Roger Angsomwine, commended ACGN for its unique approach in fostering peer group support and the exchange of technical assistance between Cabinet officials within the African continent, as a means of encouraging knowledge sharing and development throughout the continent.
He said setting up the ACGN was the first of many steps towards building effective Cabinet systems, as vanguards in policy making in the process of Africa’s socio-economic transformation. He stated that Cabinet is central and serves as the focal point for unraveling the complex challenges that confront the various countries’ development and transformation.
Mr. Angsomwine maintained that Cabinet is the location where evidence is brought to bear on transparent policy making to foster socio-economic transformation in a sustainable manner.
Dr. Surrur was accompanied to the forum by the Director of Corporate Affairs Samuel C. Bangura, ACGN National Adviser Sonia Umu Karim, and Senior ICT Officer John Aloma Konuwa.