(REV. GIBRILLA KARGBO)
The Northern Region Bureau of the National Commission for Democracy headed by Commission Bai John Conteh has on Thursday, June 19, 2014 hosted a day’s workshop on the promotion of democratic good governance for civil servants and the forces in the regional capital of Makeni. Chaired by the Chairman of the Commission, Dr. Abubakar H. Kargbo and moderated by the Executive Assistant to the Chairman, Mr. Kallie Sillah, the well attended workshop saw the presentation of a lead paper by the Principal of the Makeni University, Prof. Joe Turay.
The lead paper titled “Promoting Democratic Good Governance” is divided into two sub-headings for a free flow of the presentation. The sub-headings include the following:
- What others have said:
Five Principles of Good Governance
Human Rights Principles and Good Governance
- What do we say: Context, Opportunities and Challenges
The chief facilitator of the workshop, Prof. Joe Turay of the University of Makeni under the first sub-heading made his audience to understand that the notion of governance has been in existence for quite some time now, but stated that good governance and democratic governance are relatively new ideals that have gained widespread recognition especially in academia and policy circles by way of quoting UNDP and Weiss. In strengthening his argument on the issues, he quoted a significant portion of the current government Agenda for Prosperity as follows: “Good Governance, access to justice, peace and security and effective capacity in the public sector, are all pre-requisites for sustainable growth, job creation, and poverty reduction. The strategic objective of this pillar is to continue to promote good governance and build the capacity of all public sector and governance institutions and functionaries to deliver quality and timely public services”. In quoting the former UN Secretary General, Kofi Anan, he noted “good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”. He also noted that governance is not only restricted to government, but includes other institutions and also covering non-state actors like Civil Society Organizations. In tracing the root of governance, he spoke about the progress that has been made in moving from governance to good governance and democratic good governance with the third category being very holistic and comprehensive in bringing about sustainable development. He further attempted a definition of the key concepts from the point of view of others including the position of the UNDP as a leading development agency that has employed criteria relating to democratic good governance in dealing with nations of the world by way of promoting meaningful development.
In providing depth for the UNDP’s position on good governance, he noted five key principles of good governance inclusive of the following:
- Legitimacy and Voice focusing on participation and consensus orientation
- Direction with every nation having a strategic vision
- Performance in relation to being responsive with a focus on effectiveness and efficiency
- Accountability in all walks of life especially to promote transparency in all spheres
- Fairness with emphasis on equity and the rule of law
Additionally, he noted the key aspects of Human Rights Principles and Good Governance to include the following:
- In relation to Legitimacy and Voice as good governance principles, he juxtaposed them with the UNDP principles of participation and consensus in line with Articles 19, 20, 21, 29 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- In line with Fairness as a good governance principle, he matched it with the UNDP principles of equity and rule of law in relation to the Preamble, Articles 1, 2, 5, 7, 10, and 17 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
He, however, noted that with lessons learnt from the ten year civil war in relation to the culture of consultative forums, civil society coalitions, the nation is making the right kind of progress in terms of democratic good governance that should exercise the minds of every Sierra Leonean.
Under the sub-heading of “What do we say”, the workshop facilitator, Prof. Joe Turay examined the Sierra Leonean context in terms of good governance, stating the challenges and the opportunities that are available to the nation in the promotion of democratic good governance. This segment of the presentation was prefaced with guiding questions as follows: to what extent have our institutions been able to adhere to these principles? How can we promote service delivery, accountability, transparency, good citizenship and ethics? He blamed the problem of the nation on bad governance and patrimonial politics characterized by patron-client networks with a longstanding niche in the history of the country also noting that even external funding is subjected to misuse on account of this patrimonial logic. He noted that the governance history of the nation was bedeviled by lack of public accountability, with rights and equality not institutionalized and thus defeating the very purpose of citizenship. In jogging our painful memory, he noted that the ten year rebel war was as a result of this patrimonial logic. Looking that the current scenario, Prof. Joe Turay asked whether there is a move from the patron-client relationship to one of democratic good governance where the rules of the game are established by all. He was of the view that good governance is improving and he provided supporting evidence from observation documented by the NCD Chairman, Dr. Abubakar H. Kargbo noting that the state has started making reforms including the introduction of political and administrative decentralization; the establishment of participatory political institutions, the strengthening of the judicial and quasi-judicial institutions, strengthening of infrastructure for social research, and improving working conditions and incentive systems in the government.
In talking about its practicability, he mentioned several challenges that have plagued governance in the nation to include the following:
- An absence of legitimized norms governing state-society relationships
- The notion of the public and private; the notion of the individual and the communities
- The use of patronage and populism
- Partnership between government and civic groups
- Social conditions of equality and access to resources
He, however, noted that with lessons learnt from the ten year civil war in relation to the culture of consultative forums, civil society coalitions, the nation is making the right kind of progress in terms of democratic good governance that should exercise the minds of every Sierra Leonean. He posited that civil society is becoming vibrant with the commencement of a process on state institutionalization in addition to a new world order for the promotion of democratic good governance. He drew attention to the emerging economic growth in the continent with the need for the redistribution of wealth and the existing good will in the fight against corruption.
His presentation widely acclaimed by workshop participants was subjected to a question and answer session with participants examining the content of the paper and analyzing the mandate of NCD as host institution for the workshop. Upon exhausting the questions posed by workshop participants, the workshop broke up into three groups to examine the issues that were raised in relation to the paper presented by Prof. Joe Turay.
The three groups deliberated on issues relating to public procurement, administrative decentralization and local councils. The groups came up with varying analyses of the context in their operational mandate in order to enhance the process of good governance in the country. The security sector emphasized the importance of decentralization with far-reaching implication for their activities in the six regions as per their operations to include two regions in the Western Region, two in the Northern Region, with one in the Eastern Region and one in the Southern Region. The group presenter for the security sector, LUC of Makeni, Gibril Turay, mentioned some of their achievements and noted their key challenges to include resource constraints, interference and too much bureaucracy in communication. Furthermore, he explained that in recent times, there is plenty of civilian oversight of the forces with implications for their interactions. As part of his recommendations, he came up with the following to make room for direct self-accounting, civilians working in the interest of the forces, monitoring authorities ensuring transparency and accountability, less interference in their operations and the devolution of procurement practices in the regions.
When it was the turn of the MDAs, the group presenter, Augustine Foday Ngobie of the ACC, took the plenary through the procurement process including needs analysis, technical evaluation, the procurement itself and the disposal of the items involved. He highlighted a few challenges to include donor procurement process being different from national regulations on procurement, procurement collusion, late disbursement of funds affecting the procurement process, devolution process incomplete with limited capacity of procurement officers. He then recommended that donor policies should match those of the state to avoid sub-standard procurement, procurement should be made public, the timely disbursement and liquidation of funds, the full devolution of staff after the review of the Local Government Act, council procurement decentralized and refresher training for procurement committee member.
With the local councils, their presentation focused initially on the importance of decentralization to include increase employment at the local level, government closer to the people with councils being able to monitor certain activities. Their challenges were also presented with recommendations not too different from the other groups. On the whole, the discussions were passionately undertaken with frankness characterizing the atmosphere.