Following Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war and the restoration of peace in the country in 2002, the Government of Sierra Leone, supported by international donors, embarked on wide-ranging public service reform and improvement programmes. A Steering Committee on Good Governance was set up to guide and oversee these reforms and funds were provided from the UK Department for International Development to review the structure and functions of all Government Ministries and to improve human resource management and records management in the civil service.
PAI was awarded two major DFID contracts to work in support of these Government initiatives to improve efficiency, professionalise the civil service and increase its capacity for delivering services to the public.
Human resource management (HRM) systems had inevitably been neglected during the years of conflict and were badly in need of modernising. Much public information had been destroyed and the records that survived, including personnel records, were in a chaotic state.
The challenge for PAI and its partners, CoEn Consulting (Ghana) and the International Records Management Trust (UK), was to support the Government in transforming the existing Establishment Secretary’s Office into an effective, modern Human Resource Management Office capable of setting and implementing HR policies throughout the civil service.
- In terms of HR management, the Government, and we as their advisers, faced a difficult situation. For example:
- The size of the Civil Service had become bloated by excessive recruitment without due regard for the volume of work to be done
- Staff performance appraisal was not taken seriously by line managers and there was no system of performance management
- Pay levels of civil servants had steadily declined in real terms
- The level of training activity was very low
- Personnel data was incomplete and difficult to access, so undermining the HRM function
- The staff lists and payroll records did not always agree, and non-existent staff appeared on the payroll
- There were no up-to-date job descriptions setting out the responsibilities of civil servants
- There was no job inspection function to assess what civil servants were actually doing and whether the grades that they were allocated were appropriate
PAI selected an experienced team of international, regional and local consultants to work closely with the Government’s Public Sector Reform Unit over a period of three and a half years to address these problems.
Our first priority was to carry out a training needs analysis and to produce a comprehensive staff development plan. This included familiarising ourselves with the proposed new functions of the HRMO and the organisation and staffing arrangements and job descriptions required to carry out these functions. We identified skills gaps and training needs and assessed the need for recruitment of people with specialised skills. Our training and development experts also carried out a feasibility study on the scope for and costs of establishing a Civil Service Training College.
We developed a composite Civil Service Law which, among other things, set out the legal mandate and main functions of the HRMO and confirmed its relationships with other central Government Ministries and agencies. This aspect of our work included examining examples of civil service laws from other Commonwealth countries, including examples in West Africa, and harmonising the civil service law with the new local government law.
A significant amount of time was devoted to training and development of staff in the HRMO to enable them to work with the new structures, policies and systems. We also developed a new cadre of HRM specialists, both in the HRMO and in Ministries, so that they could carry forward the work on HR in the future and support ongoing reforms.
Another important aspect of our work was creating an effective job inspection function and carrying out a programme of job inspections in Ministries and agencies. Our consultants also built up capacity to undertake management and functional reviews of Ministries. In parallel with this, we helped to set up an effective Pay and Grading Division, and provided training on pay and grading systems and good practice, so that staff in this Division could implement improvements in the existing pay and grading system and salary administration.
The other important aspect of the project focussed on designing and implementing an improved personnel records system at the HRMO for about 17000 civil servants, and strengthening procedures for reconciling the staff lists with the payroll records and the social security records. The data generated by these improved HR information systems was very helpful in supporting the new, more proactive approach to HRM.
Our consultants also advised the HRMO on how to prepare for formal human resources budget hearings, which formed an integral part of the national budget process. They provided technical advice on how to link human resource functions and activities to their budgets, for inclusion in the Ministry of Finance’s budget cycle.
During the three and a half year life of the project, steady progress was made in modernising and professionalising the Human Resource Management Office and building its capacity to manage the HR function more effectively and pro-actively, to the benefit of the civil service as a whole and, ultimately, to the citizens of Sierra Leone. Specific outcomes were:
- A new, improved structure for the HRMO, with staff trained in job description writing, job inspection and analysis, human resource budgeting, performance appraisal, training of trainers, recruitment and selection, pay and grading systems, training of trainers and records/information management
- New HR policy, remuneration and management practices developed for the civil service and staff trained in their use
- Payroll controls in place and improved systems for establishing and maintaining human resources records, linked to the payroll system
- Training policy developed and key in-service training programmes developed and run for senior and middle level civil servants
- Plans for a new Civil Service College developed, including curriculum development and costings
- Staff in the HRMO and line Ministries trained in HRM, including selected staff qualified in HR practices, following undergoing training in the UK, approved by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
- A new Civil Service Law drafted to reflect the need for good management of civil servants, based on recognised international practice
- Improved records management and information systems in place and staff trained to maintain procedures. Verification exercises resulted in significant reduction in numbers of civil servants (particularly removal of “ghost workers” from the payroll and consequent savings for the Government budget
- Training and good practice manuals and guidelines developed on discipline and grievance procedures, recruitment and selection, performance appraisal, career development, HR planning and budgeting, job analysis and job evaluation, training of trainers and HR records management, for future use in the HRMO and the wider civil service.