Agriculture is notorious for lack of good implementation of programs –Finance Minister
SIERRA LEONE, Freetown: “Ministry of Agriculture is becoming notorious for lack of good implementation of programs, it has to stop” warns Dennis Vandi, Minister of Finance as he responds to the non-performance of projects under the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The AfDB Country Manager, Halima Yussuf Hashi during the 2021 Annual Country Portfolio Performance Review (CPPR) Workshop, highlighted the issue of slow disbursement, taking the case of Sierra Leone Agribusiness and Rice Value Chain Support Project (SLARiS) which was approved in July 2019 and the disbursement rate is 9.6%. This SLARIS project has been flagged for slow procurement.
In addition, the Bank also flagged the Post EBOLA Recovery Social Investment Fund (PERSIF) project approved in 2015 (redesigned in 2019) has only disbursed 4.9% due to inadequate understanding of Bank procedures by project staff, slow turnaround times in granting feedback to procurement requests and difficulties in mobilizing co-financing which directly affect the implementation progress.
Minister Vandi said that, SLARiS has a problem of capacity and recruitment issues, whilst noting that there are many things attached to it since the inception of the project. The problem with the design he says follows it through to the implementation stage but he is confident that there is always a way to review it.
“Sometimes they do not have the capacity, but they are in these positions and they find it difficult to understand what they should be doing. The recruitment had lots of problems from the start. Designing of projects has to be considered from a very important context, SLARiS has a design problem and that continues up to today” he said.
On the side of PERSIF, he disclosed that from 2015, a project that was not properly managed they will be paying back ineligible expenditures from that time, “I don’t think that is a very good idea from a country that wants to benefit from donors. They give us funds to manage programs for our own development, so we should be able to manage it diligently, but that is not the case” he peeved.
Minister Vandi said that this situation is not only the case at Agriculture but also the Ministry of Health as they have paid money for ineligible expenditure recently for the Health, “we cannot continue like that, so instead of really waiting as Governor of the funds, I have to be on the back of project implementation units to ensure that they do the right things” he said.
He further urged Permanent Secretaries who were at the workshop to pay keen attention to implementation as it is their utmost responsibility to keep a close eye on those projects and to ensure that they are properly managed.
“It is disheartening to note that when we struggle to look for grants, seek loans which is not free and put in the hands of people to implement they find it difficult to do so. The issues raised are simple as some people do not want these projects to end because they want to stay in job, as far as I am concerned those in charge should move away from that notion” Minister Vandi said.
Minister Vandi stressed that there is not going to be a delay in implementation just to remain in job at the detriment of the cost to the nation, “it will not be tolerated”, adding that, most times he sees many letters asking for extension and being in contact with Donor Country Managers he has been given a reasonable fair idea of what is going on in these projects and the reason why they are not being implemented.
Going forward, as of 2022, he said that he will be in charge of looking at these projects if not on a monthly basis but quarterly, “I know, what the President goes through during high level meetings, when we get the funds for the benefit of the country some people do things otherwise.”
Procurement, he said is one of the animals responsible for a lot of problems in the implementation of these projects as there is always confusion between Procurement Officers and heads of the implementing Agencies.
“They take it like theirs, instead of realising that that there are process and structures that have to be maintained; some delay procurement unnecessarily, procurement is a key problem in the management of these projects. We have an obligation to manage it well, if we don’t, development partners will not be interested in giving us more support” he concluded. ZIJ/24/11/2021