By Titus Boye-Thompson :
When President Ernest Bai Koroma made a commitment to promoting young people to positions of authority during the recent speech to the State opening of Parliament, no one would have guessed that he would move so swiftly to put that promise into action. The appointment of Dr Kaifala Marah came as a welcome sign that the President’s vision to line up a younger array of personnel at such high positions of authority was indeed real. The strategic import of that appointment and the other two positions announced with it must not be lost in the moment. It was inevitable that J B Dauda would not survive another term and this was evidently clear as the President takes his timer in choosing his cabinet. But act as he needed to act and swiftly, considering that a new budget was imminent, his move to replace Dr Dauda at Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation n paved the way for a new man at the helm of the Nation’s finances. The choice of Dr Marah was an astute one and the impeccable accolades that Dr Marah came with lend credence to his move from Chief of Staff to Minister of Finance and Economic Development.
Dr Marah brings a total of 18 years experience in public sector management, with exposure on local, central, parliamentary, financial and economic governance at international levels. He started his Local Government career as Deputy Town Clerk at the then Koidu/New Sembehun Town Council. He subsequently moved to the USA where he worked as Budget Analyst at the New York State Senate. In this role, he developed and advised Senate Democratic Conference response to the Governor’s Executive Budget, as well as the Public Authorities Control Board. Whilst in New York Dr Marah was appointed Graduate Fellow at the Centre for International Development to work on international development issues ranging from budget improvement in Mexico, Latin America, to assignments on Parliamentary reform in Kenya, Africa.
Dr Marah moved over to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London where he attained prominence in financial governance and economic development as part of his duties as senior advisor on public expenditure management for Commonwealth developing countries. Mr Marah was instrumental in developing Guidelines for Public Financial Management, and a Country Self Assessment Toolkit on Public Financial Management (CPFM-SAT) – all adopted by finance ministers of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Heads of Government. Dr Marah also created Commonwealth Communities of Practice on budgeting and public procurement. Instrumentally, he initiated the Commonwealth Public Procurement Network (CPPN) and Thematic Fellowship, which have since become a model delivery mechanism within the Commonwealth. His specific advice saw the transformation of internal controls and audit in Botswana and Ghana in Africa and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific; reforms of revenue management in Mauritius, budgeting in St Lucia in the Caribbean, and procurement in Nigeria and the Gambia in Africa, Sri Lanka in Asia and Papua New Guinea in the Pacific.
After he took up office as Chief of Staff to the President on secondment from the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Marah created inter-Ministerial links and led coordination of the delivery of the Agenda for Change (2008-2012). He advised the President on policy, commissioned technical research, superintended performance contracts of ministries, departments, agencies, tertiary institutions and local councils; provided oversight for the Strategy and Policy Unit (SPU) – the policy and delivery arm located at the Office of the President, State House. His tenure culminated with Sierra Leone’s pass for the first time on assessment by the US Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) 2012.
Dr Marah is honed in economic and fiscal policy issues through which he has developed professional networks with institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, Institute of Public Administration (IPAC) Canada, Commonwealth Association of Tax Administrators, Commonwealth Auditors General, etc. Dr Kaifala Marah no doubt comes with an impressive CV, a demonstrable track record and an enviable youthfulness and zeal. He is quite an unassuming person, easy to meet and engage and a keen advocate for financial probity and financial resilience. His would no doubt be a breath of fresh air at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development because he is not one who can be identified as coming from the system, unlike his predecessor, Dr Samura Kamara who has had a brilliant though interrupted career at that Ministry. While Dr Samura Kamara has been fortunate to have served that Ministry under disparate dispensations, it is well documented that he was constrained in his efforts to radically uproot established customs and ways of working because of his proximity to those whose careers would have been affected. Dr Marah on the other hand is expected to have a free hand and as a man well known for his pragmatic, firm but fair approach to public sector management, it is to be expected that his tenure will see a shift in the processes and procedures adopted at the Ministry with a focus on efficient productivity, increased revenue for Government together with a pragmatic approach to monetary and fiscal policies. A dedicated champion of the President’s vision, Dr Marah is expected to become a central plank in supporting the President’s Agenda for Prosperity, underpinning the core tenets of that strategy with robust and prudent financial regimes, clear protocols of accountability and transparency in public expenditure profiles.
It is significant the Dr Marah will be given the opportunity to digest and present the new budget to Parliament on Friday. This role has mandated that his confirmation hearing be expedited to accord for the smooth administration of Government. As the substantive Minister who will have responsibility for what that budget contains, he is work will be cut out to rapidly come to terms with the provisions of that instrument with a view to understanding fully how his proposed program of work and vision for public finance administration will be conditioned. President Koroma has therefore landed him with a firm but achievable task to engender his smooth assumption of office and responsibility. Dr Marah is up to the task, and as the saying goes, cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Dr Marah was named by the South African based African Leadership Network, a 2012 “New Generation Leader for Africa” chosen from among several thousand candidates by a selection committee. He is also a recipient of the prestigious award: Excellence in International Student Leadership from the State University of New York, USA 2003; he holds a youth-led Excellence Award and National Role Model for Youth in Sierra Leone 2012.
Dr Marah has been given a supine opportunity to deliver for his native land. His vast experience abroad will serve him well in the exercise of his duties. He is known as a prudent and astute personality, receptive to new ideas and conversant with modern techniques and toolkits for public sector management. President Ernest Bai Koroma could not have chosen a better person to step into the breeches of Dr Samura Karmara, himself a doyen of Sierra Leonean public and financial administration. The advance to prosperity is well and truly secured in the new positions announced so far and the Country waits with bated breath as the President unveils his careful but reasoned choices for his next Government. It is important that those who may become the beneficiaries of the President’s choice, would recognize their primal duty to be that of securing the legacy that he has fought so hard to build and to accord a well-deserved future for all Sierra Leoneans.