Njala, Eastern Polytechnic Embrace Performance Contracts
Following methodical supervision and consultations with one of the sub-offices in the Office of the Chief of Staff, the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU), last month held meetings with heads of tertiary institutions and the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) at State House, Freetown. Njala University (NU) and Eastern Polytechnic have finally joined the University of Sierra Leone (USL) to embrace the novel administrative policy of the signing of performance management contracts by public servants.
Performance Contract is a freely negotiated performance agreement between government as the owner of an agency and the management of the institution. Tools such as responsibilities and expectations among both parties enable them achieved their set goals.
PC therefore increases efficiency and productivity in the public sector, ensuring the highest yield to the citizen, on the tax Leones. Currently used by governments across the globe, it also ensures that performance and results link with stakeholders’ expectations and create global competitiveness for Sierra Leone.
In pursuit of this, Vice Chancellor of Njala University Alhaji Prof. Abu Sesay vowed to leave a legacy after his death by ensuring a turnaround in service delivery in the institution.
Since Performance Contracts (PC) have been signed by Cabinet ministers, directors, permanent secretaries, heads of parastatals, local councils, the Sierra Leone Police and now tertiary institutions are expected to join the train, “we must abide by it”, he said.
Alhaji Sesay last Saturday 4th February made the commitment at the university’s auditorium Mokonde, where he called on staff to put hands on deck to restore standards in Sierra Leone’s tertiary educational system. The University of Sierra Leone is now putting together a work plan that will be presented to the SPU which will be followed by the signing of their contracts.
In the ongoing nationwide orientation of staff of tertiary institutions on PC, Monday 7th February this year stopped at the Ahmed Tejan Kabbah auditorium in Kenema, where staff of the Eastern Polytechnic received lectures on PC from the savvy Director of Operations Mr. Abdul-Raman Sowa and his team of indefatigable performance coordinators of the SPU, State House.
Principal, Eastern Polytechnic Dr. Sandi Bockarie revealed that it has been an issue to President Koroma that the public sector must be ready to provide quality tertiary education services. “We know what the President is thinking about and wants for the country,” said Dr. Bockarie, and informed his staff that; “we are going to enter into contract with government and half way through the year assessments will be made, measures will be taken against those who would fail to meet the expectations”.
He said nothing is impossible if staff are ready to work hard and pledged; “I will do all I can with my staff to meet the deadline for the signing of the contract as given to us by State House as performance system should be our assessment procedure.”
In an overview of performance management, Mr. Sowa recalled that there has been no ‘system-wide’ and modern approach to management of government ministries, departments and agencies as all activities are governed by regulations and practices of the civil service.
“There were no systems before the country’s Independence that generally responded to the needs and objectives of social administration”, he recalled, adding that the annual budget is the de facto instrument for planning and reporting with implications for the process.
He similarly informed staff of the Eastern Polytechnic that the performance contract is an institutional structure set up for the supervision and coordination of government business. This can be also used for accountability, that is, public servants should be held responsible for the failure of a government programme.
Mr. Sowa said that the linkages between planning, budgeting and results, enable monitoring and measurement of performance; enhance service delivery, and that PC focuses on varying weights of finance and stewardship, service delivery, non-finance, operations, the eradication of corruption and dynamics as performance criteria.
He said the root cause of the problem has to do with poor accountability, unresponsive service delivery-culture and capacity, injudiciousness, undefined and inefficient exploitation and use of public resources sandwiched by non existence of a performance audit. “The efficiency of the university service defines and informs the other sectors and the economy” he observed, saying; “the quality of an effective university service can’t be lower than that of its clients”.
The Director of Operations further disclosed that obstacles to performance problems do not lie with comparative disadvantage in resource endowment; not even with funding deficits; but, because of the fact that civil servants and public service workers are hanging onto their old ways of doing things and of solving problems.
He said that one cannot expect different results by monotonously applying the same techniques to solve problems. Mr. Sowa therefore said that an agency requires a clear strategic direction to achieve its objectives. “If you do not know where you are going, any road will take you there”, he added.
Finance, capacity, coordination, communication, focus and ownership, as well as legal issues were among other concerns highlighted by Mr. Sowa as major challenges to the management of performance contracts.
He reassured staff of Eastern Polytechnic government’s political willingness, support of development partners, possibilities for institutionalization of the process throughout the public sector as opportunities for performance management.
He revealed that the performance system was set up to describe functions of MDAs’ involved in delivering of the policy and programmes and tie resources to expected outcomes.
The Director of Operations said the contract will also determine appropriate performance measures and a sound performance measurement strategy that allow officers/offices to track progress, measure outcomes, support subsequent evaluation work, learn and make adjustments to improve on adequate reporting outcomes.
Performance Coordinator, Reverend Moses Komba said performance system in being used in every part of the world and has taken great nations far ahead in development, and thus commended Alhaji Sesay for taking the lead in the entire process.
Concerns were raised by staff of Eastern Polytechnic and Njala University on issues ranging from mapping a way forward for a reform of tertiary education, welfare, motivation, research and projects. Meanwhile, the team is expected to engage the Northern Polytechnic in the coming days.
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