It is always a moment of sadness when a sudden loss of job befalls a brother or sister Sierra Leonean. We are so interconnected and interrelated that bad news for one man or woman is bad news for the “family” . Therefore, yesterday’s robust action by the Government to relieve Hon. Moijue Kai-Kai, the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs and his Deputy Mustapha Bai Attilla of their jobs was a sad event that tore at the hearts of their colleagues in the Government, their families and some members of the public . But did Government have an option ?
President Ernest Koroma, who well understands these family dynamics that run through the entire citizenry , does not delight in taking bread off the tables of public servants . As a matter of fact, President Koroma, as the Father of the nation, wants to butter the bread of his people . He wants to put more people to work than render them jobless. In fact, critics of this Government have blamed him for being overly tolerant and patient with members of his government who have the potentials to make a difference but do get overtaken by haughty tempers and abrasive behavior , which he believes these officials will eventually overcome.
The two ministers relieved of their duties were hardworking, especially Mr. KaiKai, who was loved by grassroots APC supporters. Both have won lots of respect among their fans for their commitment and abilities to do government work.
The ministers relieved of their posts : Hons. Kaikai and Atilla
However, the government was hard put to it to act robustly at last . The public brawl between them was too gross and vulgar. Ministers from whom so much was expected were found behaving in a manner unbecoming of public servants, especially those directly dealing with the destinies of children, women and other segments of society and the matter was made worse by accusations that it was the minister himself who recorded the affray and provided the audio to the media or public. COCORIOKO sought an interview with the minister to verify the facts but one was not forthcoming from him . If true, the minister should have known that he was putting the government’s respect and credibility to disrepute, just like his Deputy who went berserk with foul language in public and shocking disorderly conduct unbecoming of a minister.
This latest brawl between officials of government showed that indiscipline, lack of self-respect, disrespect for one another and unprofessionalism among public officials were getting out of hand and threatening to put a dent not only on the moral fiber of the Government but its ability to maintain an atmosphere of decorum and decent behavior among officials of government.
If the Government had not acted, the very Sierra Leoneans accusing the president of selective justice today would have blamed the government for not caring about maintaining and protecting the professional and moral ethos of its Ministries, departments and agencies ( MDAs). Before the ministers were fired, these very Sierra Leoneans had already started blaming the government for failure to crack down on its ministers whom they accused of turning work places into Sawpit Wharf or brothels with their public brawls, obscenities and uncontrollable emotions. The Government had to act to set an example and to send a strong message that it cares for public decorum, professionalism in the work place and civility from its officials–Virtues that are necessary to maintain the moral equilibrium of the society and progress in the government’s socio-economic and political endeavors.
The lesson we are all learning is that while it is not impossible for some work places to become toxic due to personality clashes , human foibles, ego, highhanded conduct by certain bosses , the mania to take advantage of subordinates, insubordination by some lower officers and other acts redolent of human weaknesses, public officials should always seek to maintain a professional attitude and demeanor wherever they find themselves. They should respect the law . They should not forget that there are official channels in place to address their grievances . Mr. Atilla should have reported his grievance to a higher authority or even President Koroma. The President is very good at mediating between his officials. He is very proactive in assuring that officials are not denied their benefits. Ministers and officials have to learn to respect the chain of command, instead of going on the rampage as if ours’ is a society without laws .
They should also have known that they are not representing themselves , but the government and the people , who expect much more from them. They have to set better examples . When they lose their tempers, go ballistics and resort to profanities, threats and other forms of misbehavior in public , they are disrespecting the President, fellow employees and the government and the people. It also demonstrates that they are law unto themselves and do not consider themselves subject to the authority of government and the professional ethics by which they are bound.
In all fairness, most of the obscenities and ungentlemanly behavior were from the Deputy. If only the minister had not taped and distributed the altercation, as is being alleged.
Government officials, high or low, should also learn to respect one another, whatever the circumstances. People should also learn to respect presidential appointees and other public servants, whatever their stations in the work place. Above all, they must learn to love each other and seek the interests of one another and the government .
The Civil Service and government ministries, departments and agencies can help the situation by setting in place official and recognized systems of providing employees’ emoluments and benefits . Whenever public servants are employed, their appointment letters must clearly state their salaries and benefits . This will ensure that employees have documentary evidence to use to pursue these benefits through the recognized channels if a malevolent boss decides to set on them or tries to convert them to his use . Why did Mr. Atilla have to collect his benefits through his minister ? Are there no systemic structures or procedures in place for the receipts of benefits by officials ?
In neigbouring Liberia, when people are employed by government, in addition to their letters of appointment, they are provided with what is known as their PERSONNEL ACTION FORMS ( PAFs ) . The form outlines all the employees’ duties , salary and benefits. This is sent out and it goes through a chain that sees it being processed at the employee’s ministry, the Mnistry of Finance Payroll section, the Civil Service and the Budget Bureau before returning to the ministry where the employee is assigned. The form is signed by the relevant authorities in all these agencies and ministries, setting structures through which the employee receives his emoluments and thus not left at the whims of his boss or head of chancery or Director General or Deputy . When you have such structures in place, there will be no need for an employee to quarrel with anyone in his ministry over his emoluments. He knows where to go if his salary and benefits are not forthcoming. But in Sierra Leone, though the Civil Service and Human Resource Department have similar structures in place, it is not understood how bosses, heads of chancery, DGs or DDGs have such a big say in the receipt of emoluments by government workers . Where is the missing link ?
Another question that needs an answer is why there was no security to restrain and calm down Mr. Atilla during his tirade against his boss . All that one could hear in the background were animated voices of ladies trying to convince the agitated former deputy minister to refrain from his verbal attacks. Where was the security on duty ? He too must face administrative action.
Sierra Leoneans are very difficult to please. They always have an angle to twist something and blame the President or government . If the two ministers had been let off the hook, there would have been an outcry. Now that the government has acted to show that it cares for public decorum and work place professionalism and peace , people are still blaming the government , this time for selective justice ?
What else can this government ever do without getting blame from the hard-to-please public and the opposition media ?
The Government has acted to avoid future incidents of public brawls between ministers. The Government did not want it to become a pattern for ministers to take the law into their own hands when they had grievances or disagreements .
COCORIOKO believes Government must be commended, because ministers were given a chance. Unfortunately, the axe fell on Moijue and Attilla. That is how life goes. One does not question a police officer who pulls him over to give him a ticket about the other speed demons who got away.
A precedent has to be set, and it usually starts somewhere.