President Bio’s legacy on fiscal discipline is deeply entrenched within a solid framework of prudent management of state resources.
Fiscal discipline, by all indications, portrays a leader as a steward and not an owner of the resources at his disposal. Government derives the power and authority to manage state resources from the people whose interest government protects.
In various local and international Fora President Bio has appeared during his campaign, the promise to stop leakages in state governance was prominent. The President was of the firm conviction that the country will blossom with little aid from the donor community if government ensures a zero-tolerance strategy on extravagance.
Sierra Leone, years back, was engulfed and nearly devoured by reckless spending which resulted into an economic catastrophe. A research conducted by a South African University lecturer in 2015 indicated that the country lost 5% of the national budget owing to unnecessary spending.
At the time of the presentation of the research paper at the Ministry of Finance, grim figures were shown of how the country was losing money. No doubt that the extravagance deeply undermined the country’s standing in the provision of essential services to the people.
The huge domestic and international debt burden of 4 Trillion Leones and US$2Bn respectively stands as a glowing testament to the unregulated disposal of state resources in state governance.
President Julius Maada Bio took over state governance against the backdrop of reversing the spending spree in the public sector. No gainsaying that the President has won the admiration and respect at home and abroad including inter-governmental organisations.
Currently, Sierra Leone is benefitting from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international financial institutions, loans and grants owing to prudent fiscal management and its zero-tolerance strategy on corruption.
President Bio’s glittering legacy, despite other good scores on other governance indicators, is made possible by the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA). The agency regulates all procurement activities in Ministries, Departments and agencies of government to ensure cost effectiveness and value for money.
Head of NPPA, Ibrahim Brima Swarray has embarked on a number of reform activities and programmes to save public money since taking over leadership of the agency.
Legislative reforms through harmonisation of the Public Procurement Act of 2016 and Public Procurement Regulations of 2020, timely submission of the price norm to procurement units in MDA’s and ensuring compliance were key reforms embarked upon by the NPPA Chief.
Upon assuming office as NPPA Chief in 2018, he pursued concrete programmes and actions to lift the institution’s profile and performance.
Engagement of senior management team was also undertaken by the NPPA chief for the purpose of efficiency and effectiveness in public procurement management.
Compliance by procurement entities has been ensured by application of stringent measures to forestall errors in procurement processes that would cause misappropriation of substantial amount of government revenue.
Strategies of Zero-procurement of poor quality goods, delays and abandonment of contracts by service providers which was the norm were initiated and implemented for the benefit of the state.
Today, the NPPA strategies on public expenditure are yielding and will continue to yield dividends. The achievements are reflected in the huge sums of money NPPA has saved for the state.
Records show that in February 2019, NPPA saved the sum of Le400M for government through its strategies to block leakages. NPPA Chief Mr Swarray the said amount was saved during the third and fourth quarters of 2019 following a review of procurement processes in MDA’s.
The end-to-end reviews of various procurement contracts at the Ministries of Defence, Energy and Power, Institute of Public Administration and Management and the Bo City Council culminated into saving such amounts.
The above-mentioned MDA’s were advised to follow due processes in the award of procurement contracts to contractors.
The NPPA Chief shares the view that MDA’s, in some cases, must work hard to award contracts to the lowest bidders and prevent cost to government. The Ministry of Defence was cited as a case study as an institution that enjoyed the advice of NPPA when it was dissuaded from procuring insensitive materials. The army accepted the advice and saved government from losing the sum of Le300Bn.
Apart from the said amount, another lump sum of US$70M was also saved for the government when NPPA advised the Ministry of Energy, Bo City Council and Institute of Public Administration and Management, to delete additions they made to their original contracts.
NPPA, early last year, extended its operations to the south and east of the country to support government decentralisation process. The extension of operations was done as huge funds are devolved to various sectors including universities and local councils.
In 2020, NPPA Chief was pleased and proud to report to President Maada Bio of saving an amount of US$110M the equivalent of Le110 Billion through reviews of faulty procurement processes. Mr Swarray made the report at the Ministry of Finance during the launch of the fourth quarter of the Public Procurement Bulletin.
At the launching, the NPPA Chief entreated procurement officers to see procurement as a profession and discipline.
Mr Swarray sees procurement officers as a team of professionals that constitute a regulatory body that greatly contributes to the country’s transformation process.
The NPPA Chief’s prudent actions in saving money for the government resonates with the concept that Sierra Leone is a ‘cash economy’ and that if state resources fall into wrong hands The ‘GRON WILL BE DRY.’
The glorious achievements have not instilled complacency in the NPPA Chief as he is working out more solutions to better consolidate management of state of resources. It has been consistently argued that bloated procurement processes and contracts are the main avenue for corruption in the public sector.
The findings of the just concluded Commissions of Inquiry support the view that corruption is facilitated by procurement processes as the sum of over Le200Bn was unaccounted for by the past administration for which a government ‘White Paper’ is pending.
The NPPA Chief’s strong policies of saving money that would have been stashed away bolsters the argument that it is better to prevent corruption than to allow it to happen and later investigate.