By Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, & Mark Feldman
In the introductory article to our investigation series on Sierra Leone, we highlighted the existing disparities in the national salary structure and how the payroll has widened since Maada Bio assumed power two years ago. We pointed out explosive increase of almost 45% in the wage bill in the last two years from less than Le170 billion when Koroma left power to a whopping Le235.2 billion today. We observed that this astronomical increase is triggered largely by the overflowing appointment of leading SLPP party loyalists into high paying administrative positions in the civil and public service workforce. Indeed, in this second article, we show that expenditures related to salaries of partisan compensation jobs, when aggregated across all sectors, accounts for the majority of the wage bill increase, despite government claims. Furthermore, we have uncovered the current government’s elaborate use of contractual appointments to pay party loyalists exorbitant salaries under the pretense of hiring consultants and advisers.
A press release issued by the Finance Ministry on March 4 blamed the wage bill increase in on new recruitments in the health sector and the teaching service and the consolidation of other salaries within a single treasury account. The ministry claims in particular that 782 health workers and 4492 new teachers have been added to the payroll between January 2019 and February 2020. Our investigation, however, reveals that even where these alleged new recruitments in the health service and the teaching profession are taken into consideration, their numerical and remunerable impacts pales in comparison to the salaries of the hundreds of new political party appointees grafted on the payroll. In this article, we illustrate how these new waves of political appointees, grafted on the public payroll and deployed across all administrative sectors of the government – from the office of the president, vice president, ministries, departments, and agencies – have not only worsened salary disparities within the civil and public service, but are also the primary driver behind the 45% wage bill increase over the last two years.
Over the course of our investigation, we discovered gross inequality between the salaries of political appointees and regular civil servants and public sector workers. Our investigation reveals that political appointees in the president’s office universally earn more than Le20 million per month. This includes the monthly salaries of the president’s nutritionist, the press secretary, the communications manager, the state house correspondent, and the head of audio visuals. Each of these individuals receive monthly uniform salaries of Le21,762,000, except for the press secretary, whose monthly salary is Le36,275,000. To illustrate the public wage disparity at work here, the monthly pay of the president’s nutritionist alone is twice as much as the annual salary of a typical secondary school teacher, and also twice the monthly pay of a senior lecturer in the University of Sierra Leone.
Indeed, despite government claims, our evidence shows that expenditures relating to the salaries of partisan compensation jobs, when aggregated across all sectors, accounts for more than a half – almost 25% – of the increases in the wage bill under the Bio regime. We also note that the current annual salaries of the most senior staff nurses in Sierra Leone are far less than the monthly salaries of political appointees installed in intermediate positions in the president’s office. Recently promoted senior staff nurses under the ministry of health and sanitation are currently paid a composite gross annual pay of Le26,290,656. This evidence, we discovered, contradicts the repeated claims by Finance Ministry officials that expenditure towards salaries of recently recruited teachers and nurses accounts for the increased wage bill.
A central component of these partisan employment compensation schemes is the rising trend of awarding renewable quarterly and annual contractual jobs to leading SLPP supporters and party loyalists as consultants, policy analysts, business advisers, and other administrative managerial positions across ministries, agencies, and departments. Individuals in these consultancy job categories can receive daily working wages between US$300 and US$500, and anywhere from Le35,676,000 to Le59,513,266 per month. Many of these contractual jobs, though signed for periods ranging from three months to a year, are often renewed to the same individuals without any evidence of an independent appraisal or audit of their performance or service. In the Office of the Vice President, for example, we discovered a pool of political appointees staffing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit. In the PPP Unit, the monthly salary of the director Abu Kamara (Le59,513,266), the financial adviser Abu Bakarr Sesay (Le41,632,373), the operations specialist David Sombie (Le36,000,000), and the project appraisal officer Andrew Kutubu (Le19,000,000), illuminate the political nature of these high-paying appointments and the arbitrariness of government salary structures under the Bio government.
We aggregated a sample list of these supposedly temporal or contractual political appointees recently grafted on the national payroll across ministries and departments, and discovered that even the lowest paid political appointees in these categories, regardless of qualification, experience, and pay grade, often receive higher monthly salaries than individuals in the senior lectureship and professoriate cadre of the University of Sierra Leone. For example, the monthly salaries of the lowest paid contractual political appointees in the Vice President’s PPP Unit, including the recently appointed Financial Analyst and the Information Engineer in the Vice President’s Public Private Partnership (PPP) Unit, stand at around Le17,026,429, while associate professors at the University of Sierra Leone earn Le15,104,347 and full professors earn Le18,975,526.
Quite shockingly, our investigation equally finds that despite government claims of 15% increases in the salaries of certain sectors of civil service workforce, the conditions of service, including salaries of regular civil servants and public sector workers, have remained unchanged and abysmal in the last two years. We examined, for example, the salary structure of senior economists, senior assistant secretaries, and several of the budget officers in the Finance Ministry, and observed a perennial permanence in the salaries of these category of workers on a scale of between Le1,070,204 and Le1,420,079. Out of 21 budget officers in the budget bureau division of the Finance Ministry, only one individual (Jacob Tanga Sessie) earns a salary of Le33,373,828, while the rest are paid a monthly wage of Le1,070,204. We found these perennial lower salary structures and disparities across all major departments, where people with higher qualification and those doing highly technical jobs are paid as much as ten times less than these new political appointees in the president and vice president’s offices. Indeed, the combined monthly salaries of just twenty politically appointed staff in the president and vice president’s offices totals the monthly pay of all subordinate and ancillary staff from the Ministry of Finance’s public debt management division, the multilateral project unit, the local government finance department, and those in general administration combined.
Thus, over the course of our investigation, we have found the government’s claim that the nation’s ballooning wage bill is due solely to salary increases for existing public employees and the hiring of extra nurses and teachers to be false. We also found the government’s claim that ongoing salary disparities can be attributed solely to the previous government to be without merit given the large number of new political appointees, often hired contractually and under the guise of consultancy.
We published above sample employment letters and excerpts of the Finance Ministry’s payroll to further demonstrate the evidence on which we based our analysis.