May 8, 2015 By Amadu Femoh Sesay
Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Ernest Surrur, has said that the Cabinet as the center of government has no option but to be effective and efficient.
He was speaking at a three-day training on the implementation of the newly approved Cabinet Manual for Permanent Secretaries, Professional Heads and Cabinet Focal Persons from ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) at the Civil Service Training College, Tower Hill, Freetown.
He said the Manual represents a major reform on how government makes better decisions that can and will be implemented. He recalled that in the past, many Cabinet decisions including those in many African countries, were not implemented often because resources were not available or the proposed interventions were not based on evidence or properly thought out ideas.
Dr. Surrur maintained that a Cabinet calendar has been designed to ensure that Cabinet memoranda were distributed to members in good time and the Standing Committees of Cabinet were given enough time to consider memos before they go to Cabinet, stressing that with faster circulation of Cabinet decisions, the overall time for processing Cabinet memos would be reduced.
He stated that the new Manual requires Cabinet memoranda to provide more evidence and analysis to support proposals; replace current Cabinet conclusions with separate, short Cabinet decisions for each agenda item; introduce a systematic approach such as quarterly implementation reporting to Cabinet, with more emphasis on whether implementation of major Cabinet decisions were on track or otherwise; draft implementation plans to be attached to memoranda to ensure implementation issues as part of the check list for accepting memos to Cabinet; and ministries preparing memoranda to consult other MDAs that might be affected.
Secretary to the President, Emmanuel Osho-Coker, said Sierra Leone was witnessing the introduction of transformative procedural changes that will improve the effectiveness of Cabinet in policy making. He pointed out that it was the business of Cabinet to direct government policy and make decisions on national issues.
Mr. Osho-Coker stressed that Cabinet Secretariat, as the hub of government business, should provide the necessary advice on policy issues, be able to establish and review follow up activities and be organized in such a way as to be able to act as a breeding ground for new ideas, provide overall guidance to the leadership of the Public Service and devote time to policy analysis.
“It is pleasing to note that the new Cabinet Manual developed under the leadership of Dr. Surrur, also serving as President of the Council of African Cabinet Secretaries, embodies improvement in agenda settings, minimal preparations for policy decisions, recording of minutes and decisions, pattern of communications with MDAs and follow up monitoring of progress and problems in the implementation process,” he said.
Referring to the occasion as a watershed in the history of public administration in Sierra Leone, Mr. Osho-Coker commended Dr. Surrur for developing the Cabinet Manual that aligns with modern operations of Cabinet, and urged civil servants to adapt to the new changes in the Manual. He expressed hope that their collective efforts would help improve governance and service delivery.
Director-General, Human Resource Management Office, Abdul R. Bayoh, said the trainees needed to improve on their writing skills in order to be able to develop clear, unambiguous, straight forward, and sequential Cabinet papers.
He suggested that civil servants at the senior and middle levels should also be trained on the new Cabinet Manual to help them develop good Cabinet papers.
Mr. Bayoh pointed out that succession plan in the Civil Service was critical for its development and growth. “Transfer experience, knowledge and skills to junior staff so that we have a critical mass of experienced people to continue with the reforms,” he urged.