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Dissolving the Office of Chief Minister!

Dissolving the Office of Chief Minister!

Sierra Leone has a Presidential political system, which gives executive powers to the Head of State as Head of Government, distinct from the Westminster or Parliamentary system in which Executive powers are vested in the Prime Minister (Chief Minister).

Ironically, the country practices a Presidential system similar to the United States, instead of the Parliamentary system of Britain, the colonial power.

This fundamental constitutional change was actually introduced in the late 70s by the All Peoples Congress party (APC), constituting a major shift from the Parliamentary system practiced after independence under the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).

It was not until recently, in the country’s political history, that the office of Chief of Staff was introduced in the Office of the President at State House. The holder of the office, a cabinet rank, was mainly responsible for the supervision of staff at State House, while the Vice President directly supervised cabinet Ministers.

In the current dispensation, the office of Chief of Staff has been completely scrapped and in its place, the office of the Chief Minister (CM) established with enormous powers to supervise and coordinate cabinet Ministers. In fact, there is so much controversial debate over the functions of the CM, who they say usurps the functions of the Vice President; literally, the CM is about the second most powerful figure in Government after the President.

In his recent reshuffle of Cabinet, it pleased HE the President to relocate the initial holder of the position of CM, Professor David Francis to Foreign Affairs, and replaced him with former Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa, nick-named “bread and butter” as a provocative reminder of worsening economic hardship despite his professed promises of a bread and butter economy before and after his appointment as Finance Minister. In fact, his removal from the keg of gold he was sitting on to the rather dry ground office of CM could be interpreted as an evidence of inability to deliver.

As CM, there have been reports of Mr Saffa’s moves to obliterate the office of CM, on the grounds that there should not be an office within an office. In other words, the CM should not constitute an office within the Office of the President.

That being the case, JJ, as he fondly called, is partially justifying the school of thought that the very existence of CM is not just a waste of much-needed taxpayer’s money, but a blatant duplication of functions, which erodes the functions of the Vice President.

Besides, one would think that the qualified person to dissolve the Office of CM should be HE the President who established it in the first place, rather than an appointed official to that office.

On the whole, I hold the view that the removal of the initial holder of that office should have put the nail on its coffin.

By Abdul Kuyateh

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