By Peter Beckley
Sadly in Salone politics today, we take it as given that those who have sustained you in hard, dry years of opposition should be rewarded with plum positions in government once you win power. So we often end up with proverbial square pegs in round holes. This means we don’t always end up with those best qualified to hold critical positions in government. Delivery suffers. And because delivery suffers, the government in power also suffers, even though its core supporters may be satisfied.
As political appointees, heads of agencies may come under undue pressure to do the ruling party’s bidding and not the bidding of the state on behalf of all citizens. Apart from harming delivery of public services, this can polarize these agencies, whose staff may be politically neutral vis-a-vis the two main parties or aligned with the other side. In other words, what we’ve done here is create a cyclical pattern that keeps repeating itself ad infinitum. This isn’t about the personalities involved. This isn’t about APC or SLPP. It’s a recurring pattern we need to change.
I am of the conviction that our politics continues to revolve around patriarchal, ethnoregional patronage that have the potential and tendency to fuel our fragility and foster the sorts of tensions that can sow future problems.
I also believe that the periodic turnover of senior staff from agencies can be destabilizing for these institutions and dissipate institutional memory. Nevertheless, for the most part, the political appointees are also professionals often capable of doing a decent job if given the space and tools to do so. Even square pegs in round holes can be supported to become high performers and strong leaders if they didn’t start out with these attributes.
I agree that critical agencies should be led and staffed by the best professionals we hire and promote on merit and not through the connectocracy we currently operate. We should draw a line under this practice and from now on, we assess current office-holders on merit. If they perform they stay, if not, they’re supported to improve, and if no improvement is forthcoming they’re replaced by professionals who can do the job.
My two cents