I have conducted a number of topical interviews with few ministers in the current government, trying to know what they have done so far since they were appointed to office. Some have spoken well, with convincing reasons as to why they should be allowed to continue in office regardless of the President Ernest Bai Koroma having made known his intension to reshuffle the cabinet.
Specifically, I have met with the Trade, Tourism, Agriculture and Deputy Local Government and Information Ministers. And from all indications, they seemed to be performing well, in my estimation, and honestly though, there is still room for improvement, since they are less than a year in office.
When these and other ministers were appointed it was done with the intension that they should help in the daily dispensation of the country’s affairs, since the president cannot do all that is expected in the running of a government, and in fact no surprise that he appointed some former SLPP MP’s into various governments departments and parastatals.
But, in my estimation, there are issues which in actual sense need the attention of people especially relatives of ministers and heads of government departments. And one such has to do with the perception of family members of minister and other government officials. From the view point of Africans, when once an individual is appointed to a position of trust, that should be the time to render help, even if that help is at the detriment of national development
Some family members may be led into believing that, when once a brother, cousin or uncle, as the case may be, is made a minister or a government official, that should bring changes to the life of not only the minister, but his immediate relatives and in most case, friends.
Recently, I was at the Trade Ministry for an interview with the Minister, after weeks of trying to get him grant an interview to Awoko, especially as I am trying to learn from him, like all those I had interviewed, what has been done so far, and what should people expect from the ministry in the next 24 months.
My arrival at the ministry was greeted by a very large crowd of family members of the minister, most of them, I learnt, had gone to the ministry not on appointment, but just because, the minister comes from the same district or hometown as theirs. They thought, it was prudent to see him that day, today or any other day and so, even when I introduced myself to the Secretary that I had an anointment with the Minster, it took time for her to be convinced, thinking, perhaps, I was just another family member who had gone, unofficially, to see the minister.
The point is, people must try their best in ensuring that, government ministers or even heads of departments are allowed to work, to the expectation of each and every Sierra Leonean. People expectations from government officials are often high just because of the name; Minister and this should change for God’s sake.
Come to look at it, there is the tendency for government officials to be corrupt due to the way they are being pressured by family members and friends alike. When one looks at the salary that a minister receives, one wonders if it can be enough to meet the demands of family members.
My plea; give them time to work, stop pesting them, the president has said, as a captain of the ship, he could be compelled to take hard decision, and if that hard decision is taken by the president, I am of the firm conviction that, those coming around ministers now would be the very ones to condemn them.
I want to believe that, people would want to see government officials working effectively and efficiently since that is a big national service to the nation. We must be proud of seeing them succeed in their ministries but only when family members allow them, can they succeed.
The government is almost a year in office and we shall begin to judge the performance of all ministers and other government officials in the not- too- distance future. We expect all such of development and performance from those appointed to serve in various government ministries but we do not, at the same time, want to allow them to work. How ridiculous that could appear! To me, hanging around the offices of ministers at Youyi building is actually unacceptable to say the least. There are better things to do, rather than always being around.
Perhaps, the ministers must also be telling their relatives the same; that in as much as they expect help from them [ministers], it should not warrant them to be hanging around all the time. One can understand the given situation in the country, especially with the difficult economic situation. But it is a reality that, the ministers cannot perform miracle just in an effort to help.
Simply put, if a minister is receiving less than 2,000 dollars a month as salary, and then he or she receives over 50 family members every day as visitors, is it possible for that minister to meet the demands of those people? Certainly not, and thus, the end result is; that particular Minister or government official would be tempted to be corrupt.
We have seen or witnessed how officials of the past government are today, being castigated by the very people they used to accommodate, and this must be a good lesson for the current government. I am not in any way suggesting that, ministers and other government officials must give their backs to their relative, but it should be noted that, time must be given to them so that, when we shall be reading out their grades of performance, we shall be done that with a clean heart.
It is only when these ministers are allowed to work; only when family members and friend realized that; they [ministers] are having a Herculean task ahead of them that, we could be able to assess the extent to which they have performed. By John Baimba Sesay