By Siraju Bah :
When His Excellency, the President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma was launching his Presidential campaign as far back as 2007, he told the entire nation that he will be running the country using a ‘’business’’ approach if the people elect him into the highly coveted office of President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, Grand Commander of the Republic, Fountain of Honour and Commander of the Armed Force.
Many people at that time interpreted the his words in the most literal sense of the word business; buying and selling, and could not think beyond that to figure out the message he was actually trying to convey. You can buy and sell and make a loss in the process. In that case you are still doing business but not a profitable and therefore a sustainable one. This is not the type of business that the President was talking about. He was talking about a sustainable business model that will bring about positive change in the lives of his countrymen.
The Service Level Agreement (SLA) launched by His Excellency the President on the 3rd July 2015, strongly supported by the Office of the Chief of Staff, and jointly implemented by the Ministries of Health and Local Government is an example of the business model of governance that the President was talking about and continues to champion as Head of State. As with any transformative initiative, it was not easy for the President’s initiative to be embraced. Some saw it as a way for the government to police the Implementing Partners (IPs) commonly known as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), while others saw the initiative as an attack on their usual way of doing things and hence their livelihoods. So they did everything under the sun to discourage the initiative from ‘’holding water’’.
But His Excellency the President, convinced that the initiative is in the best interest of his people, with the strong determination and support of his Chief of staff and the ever ready to implement executive orders Ministers of Health and Local Government, ignored all the noise, rumblings, and distractions around the SLA and went ahead to launch the initiative on the 3rd of July 2015. That launching marks the turning point for the initiative. It also ushered in a new era in the relationship between the government and the health implementing partners (NGOs).
As a result of the SLA, today Sierra Leoneans are able to know in a transparent way how much money came to the health sector on their behalf and through whom (which Implementing Partners) the resources were handed over to. Citizens know how much went into indirect costs commonly referred to as overheads, and how much went directly to the beneficiaries-the people of Sierra Leone. We know which IP implemented which activity and in which district. The SLA approach also allowed the government to ensure that IPs activities are aligned with the government priorities, avoided duplications, and brought about efficiencies throughout implementation. Monitoring was possible due to the monitoring and evaluation framework embedded in the SLA document. In effect, the SLA ushered in a new era in our relationship with the donors and IPs.
The independent assessment report of the President’s Early Post Ebola Recovery Period, commissioned by the Chief of Staff cited the SLA as a major contributory factor to the success of the President’s Early Post Ebola Recovery Period priorities of restoring essential health services and maintaining a resilient zero. With the lessons learnt from the Early Post Ebola Recovery Period, it is envisaged that the second phase of the Post Ebola Recovery Period will be even more successful. ‘’I wish this initiative had been thought of earlier, nevertheless I wish it will be extended to all MDAs to address the chronic issues of non-performance’’ retorted one Pa Sana Thoronka, a resident of Wara Wara Yagala Chiefdom, Koinadugu District, Northern Province during an SLA verification exercise.