President Bio Delivers
October 8, 2018
President Julius Maada Bio, while campaigning as standard bearer of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, had anchored his platform on curbing leakages and wastages within the country’s financial sector. He said he was going to do so through effectively and efficiently managing state resources for the betterment of all Sierra Leoneans.
The President gave several interviews during his campaigns, where he expressed very strong commitments toward ensuring that funds accrued from economic excesses would be directed to fund his flagship education project and other development programmes without being entirely dependent on donor funding.
Six months down the line, the President has been able to take robust decisions that ensure prudent public financial management and fiscal discipline. He introduced the Treasury Single Account, stopping all waivers except those under the Vienna Convention, and giving both the National Revenue Authority (NRA) and the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) power and independence to mobilise domestic revenue and robustly curb all procurement excesses.
President Bio told an IMF delegation in Freetown, just after he took office, that he had inherited a battered economy; the worst since independence. He expressed determination to take very radical steps to get the economy back on track. Almost seven months down the line, Sierra Leone is witnessing a massive tax mobilisation and collection drive to the point that it can now confidently finance recurrent expenditure to undertake the Free and Quality Education, amongst others, without having to wait for donor funding.
The New Direction administration was also able to identify that poor procurement practices in the Public Financial Management System had generally led to delays in service delivery and waste of public funds, which has a direct relation to inefficiency and corruption.
Towards this end, the NPPA has been empowered to independently and efficiently deliver on its mandate. Now it has made sure that MDAs and other entities utilising public monies imbibe good and sound procurement practices. These entities have been urged to substantially improve on service delivery. They should also cut down on the level of public perception on corruption in public financial management and public procurement in Sierra Leone.
With just four months down the line, the President gave an unfettered authority to the NPPA to maintain a zero tolerance to granting alternative procurement methods and processes, such as sole sourcing and restricted bidding. The cardinal principle in all procurement systems and processes, moving forward, should revolve around transparency, accountability, fairness, competition, value for money, ethics and professionalism.
The strategy adopted by the Management at the NPPA is to ensure a more proactive approach by reviewing procurement procedures of procuring entities from the onset. This is with a view to eliminate bloated costs and encourage a disciplined financial and service delivery to the government. The rationale of vetting bidding documents, from the onset right through to the end, is to eliminate fraud and ensure compliance with the Public Procurement Act of 2016.
The NPPA has been able to pinpoint to MDAs and other entities through its awareness raising programmes in the media that achieving timely service delivery through efficient public expenditure is very key in the public sector. Hence, procurement stands out very integral in all of this.
The drive by the Authority has purely shifted to conducting cost effective procurement and making savings a priority for all players involved in the sector. This will undoubtedly generate needed revenue for government to finance its development programmes.
What is more crucial, in all of this, is the operational independence and political will which the Authority continues to enjoy in pushing through its reforms. Reports, to date, have indicated that the NPPA, under the watch of President Bio, has not given any procurement waiver to any government institution for either sole sourcing or restricted bidding.
Through these stringent fiscal measures, NPPA has saved the government of Sierra Leone around Le537 billion through reviews and provision of professional advice to ministries, departments and agencies.
The target is to ensure that, in the future, the Auditor-General’s Report will not be all about mis-procurement and other leakages in procurement related issues. It is evident that more and more savings will be made by the NPPA to fund other competing government priority programmes in the near future.
A civil society activist, Ibrahim Tommy, has noted that having Francis Ben Kaifala at the Anti-Corruption Commission, Laura Taylor-Pearce at the Audit Service Sierra Leone and Ibrahim Brima Swarray at the National Public Procurement Authority will definitely have a very significant impact on the new government’s effort in fighting graft.
It is the view of many Sierra Leoneans that these three institutions have enjoyed enormous autonomy to do their work under the New Direction, thereby reversing the awkward trend of wastage and recklessness inherent in the public financial management system of the country.