Abuse of Office… Pres Bio: Investigate Sweetheart Employees

To appoint anyone in a public office without the appropriate credentials and experience amounts to abuse of office. The law on corruption defines abuse of office as the act of using public office for personal gain either in cash or in kind (monetary gain or otherwise).

The crime is punishable by law, and it is a case for the country’s graft agency, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone. The Anti-Corruption law prohibits any public officer to bring in an employee into the public service who does not have what it takes to the job. It is an offence under section 42 of the Anti-Corruption Act, 2008. It prescribes custodial or pecuniary punishment for perpetrators.

The law says any public officer to improperly confer an advantage on himself or any other person commits an offence. It goes on to state that upon conviction, the convict is liable to a fine not exceeding Le30M or to a term of imprisonment not less than 3 years.

The act is also almost equal to nepotism and favouritism in the public or civil service. A number of public commit this offence by appointing and retaining some female employees unfit for the jobs they occupy. The ACC apparently has not got the intelligence, and has not gone into action.

However, a cross section of Sierra Leoneans insistently calls on President Julius Maada Bio to investigate the appointment of some Female employees as public officers or civil servants.

Recent trends continue to show that some female employees recently appointed do not possess the necessary credentials to take up the jobs.

Investigation mounted by this press indicates that some female employees hold their positions to the pleasure of some influential men in society. The most embarrassing factor in such appointment, competent personnel, sometimes female employees, who formerly occupied the offices were arbitrarily removed and replaced with their female colleagues.

Most times, the necessary qualities of knowledge, experience and attitude to do the job are virtually not there.

But, the women continue to occupy such offices. A credible source has identified few government agencies and departments where female employees have been employed without the correct papers.

The source said those who are competent had been removed. She also further argued such move by highly placed officials is damaging to the country’s public or civil service. She said such move had a corrosive effect on the value of the country’s development.

As the behaviour continues, the source also calls on government to investigate those appointments to see if the employees are fit for the jobs. The behaviour is also seen as ushering the country to a syndrome placing square pegs in diagonal holes.

The act has been seen as one that can stagnate Sierra Leone’s progress. The public or civil service anywhere in the world is the bedrock for the provision of essential services to the people.

Ministers and deputies are political supervisors in their various ministries.

As political authorities, the formulation of broad policy guidelines remains the key functions of ministers and their deputies. Those policies are meant to assist those in the civil and public service cadre to effective and efficiently dispense their duties. Ministers provide the necessary political direction for the smooth running of ministries.

To a large extent, they depend on the expertise and advice of competent and experienced workers to advise them on critical management situations.

But, the political authorities are deprived of the necessary advice when those without competence are allowed to fill the ranks of public service jobs.

Recent studies embarked on by credible international organisations have shown that the appointment of incompetent and inexperienced persons in the civil and public service sector undermines development. One such study was done by a team of experts in public administration funded by the UN few years ago.

The object for the study was a form of technical support to African nations. It was borne out of the notion that the absence of competent and experienced managers was a setback to the development of countries in Africa. A striking conclusion in the study is that it is costly for government when incompetent persons are replaced with competent ones.

The report strikingly concludes that it costs government huge resources to train and retain new entrants in the public service let alone incompetent ones.

The report thus recommends to governments especially those in Africa to conduct competence tests for new entrants so that efficiency in the delivery of public service could be realised.

Sierra Leone quite recently treads on the path of the recommendations. The country’s Human Resource Management Office recently conducted tests for applicants in various public sector institutions.

It was a move that restores hope that the country was on a transparent and accountable move of recruitment.

But, the transparent move is being undermined by those who appoint some female employees outside the generally accepted standards of employment.

However, this article should not be mistaken to mean casting aspersion on female employees, but a call to ensure that the right thing is done in public sector institutions.

It springs from the belief that the people of Sierra Leone are at the wrong end when incompetent persons are allowed to occupy the seats of competent personnel.

The article also should not be misconstrued as discriminatory to women in as much as Sierra Leone is a country that places women empowerment on top of the national agenda.

Sierra Leone is a signatory to a number of international treaties and conventions that frown at the discrimination of women notably the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

As a show of respect for the CEDAW document, government has ensured that most government agencies have gender desks for the protection of women’s rights to employment.

Some government agencies take pride in equal opportunities units that place women at par with men.

Advertisements on conventional (newspaper, radio and television) almost always end with the sentence: “Women Are Encouraged To Apply.”

Sierra Leone’s Constitution, the highest law of the land prohibits discrimination of whatever form be it gender-based.

It is a great sign of respect for the CEDAW document and related treatises that recognises the rights of women.

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966 does not discriminate women.

It is true that Sierra Leone needs a critical mass of women doctors, engineers, lawyers and others to lift this country from its present state.

But, it must be done in the right way.

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