The objective of the consultative meetings was to record the views, concerns and expectations of Public/Civil Servants, in order to address the growing concerns of disparities in the Civil and Public Service salary structures, which has over the years affected productivity and effective service delivery.
The targeted participants were stakeholders representing institutions at regional and district levels including Local Government functionaries. Participants in all the regions/districts showed massive support for the establishment of the Wages and Compensation Commission, as they actively participated and were involved in all the sessions. Many people described the entire exercise as successful and interesting.
The sessions were chaired by the Provincial Secretaries in Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Portloko respectively. The welcome statements were made by the Director, PSRU, Georgiana Kamara. Also, statements were made by the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service, John Sumailah; the Director General, HRMO, Ansu Tucker; the Secretary, PSC Mohamed Jusu, Ag. Director of Budget, Ministry of Finance, Tasima Jah and Imran Sillah, Information and Media Adviser, Strategic Communications Unit, Ministry of Information and Communications. The discussion sessions were climaxed by presentation of the Inception Report on the WCC by the International Consultant, George Smith-Graham, a Management Expert from Ghana; and ended with Questions from participants and Answers from members of the High Table.
Georgiana Kamara, Director, PSRU, in all her welcome statements recounted that: Following the signing of the consultancy contract by the Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service on 5th December, 2019, inception meetings with key stakeholders to kick-start the execution of the assignment were held from 10th December, 2018 - 1st February 2019. This was followed by some documentary reviews and face to face interviews with some key informants.
‘’This comprehensive Pay Reform initiative is intended to ensure that the public sector pay and incentive system is not only able to attract and retain the requisite skills, but that it is also applied in a consistent and sustainable manner so that public sector pay fairly reflects the work that public or civil servants actually perform. Affordability and predictability of the Wage Bill is also a key consideration, which will eventually address the growing concerns of wage disparities in the public sector’’, Mrs. Kamara said.
In his keynote address, John Sumailah, the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service talked about the status of the consultancy: ‘’The Government of Sierra Leone through the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service has recruited an International Consultant with the goal to ensure that the legal framework, appropriate systems and procedures, as well as the institutional arrangements that are required for the establishment of a viable and functioning Commission in Sierra Leone are developed, agreed and adopted by the appropriate authority and Parliament for the establishment of the Wages and Compensation Commission in Sierra Leone. Technical support and coordination to the process is provided by the Human Resource Management Office, the Law Officers’ Department and the Public Sector Reform Unit’’, he said.
‘’The history of the Cabinet Secretariat (CabSec) goes back to colonial times when the Office was established to service the Executive decision-making role of the colonial administration. Since then, despite the political and administrative changes that have taken place in Sierra Leone, the centrality of the Cabinet Secretariat has not changed much. The Cabinet Secretariat continues to exist as a key part of the Office of the President supporting the decision-making function of the Executive Branch of the Government of Sierra Leone’’, he said, adding that the Cabinet Secretariat (CabSec) has a unique mandate within the Public Service governance system in that it not only supports the decision-making function of the Cabinet, but that its Head also serves as Head of the Civil Service. This role duality functions across the strategic high-level policy making cycle to day-to-day operationalization of the programmes and strategies by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Ansu Tucker, Director General, HRMO, told participants: ‘’The proposed independent body, called the Wages and Compensation Commission (WCC) is intended to ensure that the public sector pays and incentive system is not only able to attract and retain the requisite skills, but that it is also applied in a consistent and sustainable manner so that public sector pay fairly reflects the work that public or civil servants actually perform. Affordability and predictability of the Wage Bill is also a key consideration. One of the main concerns is that internal pay relativities within the pay structure are highly inequitable because the grading system in the current grade structure was not objectively nor systematically done when established”.
‘’The pay reform strategy is aimed at (i) realigning the pay and grading system to correct the existing distortions and decompressing the pay structure; (ii) rationalization of staffing in the public sector by the elimination of redundant posts, retrenchment of redundant staff and filling critical skills gaps; and (iii) gradually raising pay and compensation to competitive levels to be financed partly from savings resulting from restructuring and, partly through affordable and sustainable adjustments to the public sector personnel wage bill’’, Mr. Tucker expressed.
“The complicated problem of salary disparities justified the establishment of an independent body (to ensure objectivity) empowered by law as the sole agency (Wages and Compensation Commission) to determine pay and compensation across the Public Service” Mohamed Jusu, Secretary, PSC said.
Tasima Jah, Acting Director of Budget said: ‘’Public Service Wage Bill has increased dramatically to the level that salaries and wages constitute about 55% of Domestic revenue, leaving very little fiscal space for development activities. This “wage burden” is largely due to the increase in the number of Sub-vented Agencies and their ability to set pay and benefits without reference to other established framework’’.
George Smith-Graham, International Consultant, in his presentations clearly explained that: The work of the International Consultant is coordinated by the Public Sector Reform Unit (PSRU), with the aim of achieving the following: Harmonize public sector pay system by addressing issues related to disparity amongst the various payroll categories. Address issues related to disparity in terms and conditions of service amongst sub-vented agencies. Ensure a fair and equitable wages and compensation system that is consistent and sustainable. Ensure that public sector pay fairly reflects the actual work performed by public officers. Ensure that public sector pay is affordable and predictable. Ensure that in the medium term, pay in the public sector reflects equity, merit and effort. Streamline and harmonize the pension system in the public sector for a more sustainable pension scheme(s) to ensure income security for workers.
He informed participants that the establishment of the WCC to address disparities in pay and remuneration in the Public Sector of Sierra Leone as well as streamline the pensions system in the Public Service was highlighted in the 2019 Budget and Financial Statement of the Government of Sierra Leone.
“The WCC inception Report is the first step towards the establishment of the WCC in Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone is gradually moving from pay and pensions strategy to implementation and it has all the elements for a fair, transparent and equitable Public Sector pay and pensions regime. This is a process not an event. This is about salary rationalization not salary increase’’, Smith-Graham admonished participants in his conclusion.
The presentations were followed by lengthy Questions and Answers sessions during which Civil/Public Servants sought clarifications on various questions included the inclusion of Local Government functionaries into the new salary grading structure, salary disparity in the Civil Service, commencement of the WCC and promotions in the Civil Service. However, the issues discussed thoughtfully at the meetings included the following: Existing Legal regimes for wages, compensations and pensions; Development of a National Pay and Compensation Policy; Political Interference with pay administration; Extent of resistance to change; Resolution of labour disputes; Stages for determining salaries and other remunerations; and, how to make the WCC truly independent.
On the whole, participants underscored the timeliness of such initiative by PSRU and called for more regular engagements with Civil/Public Servants. ‘’The High table was a good chemistry, a mixture of both political and administrative Actors, that clearly manifest the political and administrative Will and Commitment that will make the establishment of the WCC process a huge success that will bring delight in the Civil/Public Servants. Thus, we are in support of the establishment of the WCC 100%’’, One Senior Public Servant in Makeni said.