The President said even though much of the positive strikes to upgrade the country were debarred by the years of rebel war and the recent Ebola outbreak, yet there would have been a better perception, if such significant efforts were recorded, updated and marketed globally. President Koroma expressed the hope that this workshop will provide the platform for Partners to deliberate and come up with resolutions for the successful implementation of the Benchmarks. He said the Benchmarks have the potential to rebrand the image of this country which is the more reason why Sierra Leoneans must now be in charge of the situation instead of relying on NGO Officers and Civil Society Activists’ reports.
An overview of the Sierra Leone International Benchmarks System was made my Dr. Joseph Sam Sesay –one of the Special Advisers to the President who doubled as the Coordinator of the Benchmarks System. He said Benchmarks are set to guide the governance and development process of countries, and do provide for periodic assessment of the progress made by countries towards meeting such targets. He said 33 Benchmarks, 179 Themes and 1,289 Indicators out of which 17 Sustainable Developments Goals and 240 Indicators have been identified for Sierra Leone. He buttressed the version of the President in noting that these Benchmarks have not been treated with the deserved seriousness by the Institutions that are supposed to manage and report on them.
He said the Data base is either not available in these Institutions or outdated which made them unreflective of the prevailing situation in the country. This is what was attributed by one speaker after another as the key factor for the poor rating of the country over the years. The Chairman of the Port Loko District Council –Ahmid Munirr Fofana noted in his welcome address that ,Sierra Leone is often misevaluated because there are no benchmarks to refer to and is therefore the main reason for the series of misconceptions about the country. According to Caroline Thomas of the UNDP, who outlined the purpose of the Workshop, the establishment of these Benchmarks will help the world to have a correct understanding of what obtains in Sierra Loene.
The 2 day workshop was chaired by Ambassador Dauda Sulaiman Kamara who is also another Special Adviser to President Koroma. He said Port Loko was chosen as a venue for this Presidential workshop because it the Operational Headquarters of the Ruling All Peoples Congress [APC] Party. He said that was the Place they met to bring back the Party to Power and it has been the venue for all successful programmes of the Party. He said there is abundant need for the Benchmarks to be addressed despite the time their Party has spent or how much time left to be in governance. ‘We need to administer Benchmarks for society to develop’ the Senior Special Adviser reiterated.
In introducing the entourage of President Koroma which included Cabinet Ministers and Deputies, Members of Parliament, the Head of the Civil Service, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Private Sectors and representatives of the International body, the Ambassador at –large Dr. Alhaji Alpha Bakar Sidique Kanu said, President Koroma is a political theologian who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. He said this was why the President introduced the Health, Agriculture, Education and Infrastructure as his priorities when he assumed the Presidency, and set up the Anti Corruption Commission [ACC] in 2008 as part of his social contract with the People of Sierra Leone. He said President Koroma introduced the Agenda for Change, came up with the Millennium Development Goals [MGDs] and how that has led them to the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].
This was followed by a progress report on some Benchmarks and presentations on the transition of the MDGs into SDGs, the Country Policy and Institutional Assessment [CPIA], Performance Assessment Framework, African Peer Review Mechanism [APRM], the e- Government Development Initiative [GDI], Fighting Corruption, and Justice in Governance. Further presentations were made on Prioritization and Alignment of Benchmarks and their Indicators with A4P, Proposals for establishing Baselines and Assessing Progress in the Implementation of Benchmarks, Establishing and Managing the Database and MIS for SLIBS together with the Monitoring and Reporting Systems –format, periodicity, reporting channels and responsibilities.
A lot of observations were made by several Participants on the complexities of the Programme including the Minister of Works- Hon. Alhaji Ibrahim Kemoh Sesay who stressed the need for the Programme to start with the Baseline. He suggested for the use of the Local Councils which already have the structures. He suggested for another workshop to be organised so that people will have a better explanation of the Baseline and to as well have the opportunity to further know the benchmarks themselves. In his contribution, the Leader of Parliament and Government Business- Hon. Ibrahim Bundu encouraged the Locals to stop complaining and invest in the Private Sector to compete with other investors.
The head of the Civil Service –Dr. Ernest Sururr stressed the need for record keeping at the respective sectors and for Civil Servants to make use of the Government Gmail rather than using their private equipments. He however disclosed plans to introduce an e Cabinet and train staff on how to generate information. Mr. Mohamed Bangura is the Information and Communications Minister. He spoke o how his ministry is very much handicap because the required laws for effective implementations are not just there. He however promised to come up with a motion shortly to enhance the effective operations.
In conclusion, it was established that there is need for revenue mobilisation and for Committees to be formed with a mandate to International Partners. There should also be enforcement of the Contractual Obligations and for the important Benchmarks to be prioritised. It was further agreed that there should be Staff Training and Promotion on e Governance. Below are photos obtained at this maiden presidential workshop that was held at the Port Loko District Council Hall.