NCP Chairman Scores High Marks

Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization (NCP) Umaru Napoleon Koroma under President Bio’s New Direction Government has the daunting task of shedding loss making state owned enterprises that have been an albatross on the neck of the country’s limited finances; as well as reforming those on the margins to become profitable efficient goods and services providers for the nation; whilst at the same time helping to boost employment and revenue intake.

One can easily imagine Napoleon Koroma, a professional lawyer and a consummate politician that has had active interface with the private sector for nearly a decade, and someone used to succeeding against very odds, doing an impressive job in fulfilling his mandate.

At an inaugural meeting with staff of the Commission, Mr. Koroma expressed his desire to lead a productive and committed workforce in realizing the objectives set out in the New Direction agenda. He impressed on them the high premium he places on cordial human relationships for which he pledged to ensure a healthy working relationship with anyone associated with the Commission.

“As a lawyer by profession, I would be carefully looking at the legal frameworks of these enterprises…  I will review all those processes that have served as bottlenecks with a collaborative approach especially with the key players in the process.  Clarifying key roles to avoid role conflicts will among other things, be a major focus of my stewardship at the Commission,” he told NCP staff.

Napoleon Koroma came to the job on May 30th 2018. Hitting the ground sprinting, in the first one hundreds he achieved a raft of successes that would be the envy of any other corporate head in the public sector.

Transport Sector – SLAA, SLRTC, SLPA

First thing he did was to target the Sierra Leone Airport Authority which operates the country’s only international airport. Undertaking a needs assessment/familiarization visit to the Lungi International Airport on 13 June, 2018, Mr. Koroma identified key operational constraints, such as the need for reliable and sustainable power supply and a modern fire engine to keep it in line with international aviation standards.

Breaking bureaucratic barriers, he swiftly got approval for procurement of a brand new one-megawatt standby generator for the Airport. Since that time, the airport has not only got a new fire engine but also benefitted quite recently from training for the airport’s fire fighters.

SLRTC

On 28th June 2018 he in another needs assessment paid an unannounced visit to the Sierra Leone Road Transport Corporation and discovered the need for it to be revitalised by a complete overhaul of management and operations. With a new leadership put in place, the NCP initiated moves to attract viable private capital investment into the SLRTC. In late August, the NCP Chairman was part of a high-powered delegation, including the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kallon, and officials from relevant institutions that left Sierra Leone to hold exploratory discussions for investment into the transport sector to procure 200 buses from RDC Company Limited in order to ease the acute transport problem in the country. The agreement which includes a fully-equipped vehicle workshop and spare parts is still in the pipeline but sure to be actualized sooner than later.

SLPA

On 19th June 2018, Chairman Koroma, presided over a meeting between the Sierra Leone Ports Authority Staff Union and Management over the payment of redundancy benefits. The Union claimed that their members (SLPA employees) were sacked in 2015 and their terminal benefits paid under side arrangements without recourse to the country’s labour laws, following the privatisation of some operations of the ports to the private sector.

The NCP Chairman, in collaboration with the leadership of the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, SLPA and Ministry of Labour, pledged to negotiate an amicable resolution of the matter.

Timber Export

In July 2018, following the lifting of the ban on timber exports by the government, a large amount of timber containers stored at the Freetown Terminal Limited at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay had accrued huge sums of money in storage fees. Tough negotiations, led by the NCP, resulted to granting of a Le14 billion waiver in storage charges by Freetown Terminal Limited.

On 17th August 2018, Government appointed Leadway Company as sole agent for export of harvested timber in congruence with government’s drive to generate much needed revenue to finance development programmes under the New Direction administration.

The export was, however, fraught with bureaucratic bottlenecks that slowed down the export process. The issue was brought to the attention of the NCP by Leadway and Chairman Koroma quickly summoned a meeting of key stakeholders to work out modality for an expedient timber export within the ambit of the law and specifically to address key hurdles articulated by Leadway.  The outcome was very successful.

Banking Sector

By end of July last year, workers at the two government-owned banks – Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank – downed tools following the approval of a government Supplementary Budget by Parliament which pegged leave allowance for staff at State-Owned Enterprises, including the banks, at one month’s salary.

Workers at both banks who felt aggrieved by this new policy staged a strike action in protest. The intervention of the NCP Chairman and other stakeholders including the Financial Secretary, Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Minister of Labour led to an amicable resolution that did not prejudice the governmental policy, yet left the aggrieved workers reasonably satisfied and highly hopeful for better conditions of service.

Other Parastatals

In mid-August, the NCP Chairman also engaged the management of government parastatals (using the same model used to address the bank workers concerns) to discuss the leave allowance policy at other State-Owned Enterprises, and arrived at an amicable resolution:

  1. a) That the provisions in the supplementary budget as regards leave allowance are to be upheld; b) Staff yet to go on leave will be paid one month of their gross salary and the difference between the old and new leave allowance be paid to staff as other allowance while the tax element is paid by the parastatal; c) Bonuses will be paid based on the achievement of a targeted profit level.

The main thrust of the policy is to ensure employees are not made worse off or dependent on their leave allowance alone, but their basic salaries and end-of-service benefits, which are set to be reviewed.

Guma

Cognizant of the perennial water crisis in Freetown, occasioned by unfavorable weather conditions, encroachment on water catchment and reservoir areas by citizens and an aged water infrastructure, Chairman Koroma carried out a detailed assessment of the Guma Valley Water Company through visits and technical engagement with key stakeholders in the water sector on 27th June. This has incredibly enhanced progress to overhaul Guma’s infrastructure as the Millennium Challenge Corporation Unit, recruited a consultant to support NCP in Guma activities.

SIERRATEL

In line with the New Direction’s strategic policy on ICT, the NCP Chairman adopted a new strategy to ensure SIERRATEL, the state-owned telecoms company, becomes attractive to private capital investment. A first step to ensuring this was the facilitation of a smooth transfer of leadership of Sierratel. Sierratel’s new Managing Director has been given a tougher mandate to ensure the company competes with other operators in Sierra Leone and the sub-region.

NCP 2017 Report Card

At a brief ceremony held at State House on Tuesday, 13th November 2018, the NCP Chairman presented the NCP Annual 2017 Report to President Bio. He told President Koroma that the 33 page document provided an overview of the Commission’s activities relating to the reform and divestiture of Public Enterprises in Sierra Leone over the years. Proposed activities encapsulated under the Transport, Telecommunications, Financial, General and Commercial sectors, according to the NCP Chairman were also highlighted in the report.

“Under the supervision of your office, the Commission has developed a strategic plan that invariably seeks to address the short, medium and long term goals of attracting private capital to drive economic growth.

“When I assumed office in June this year, the NCP Secretariat was putting together a privatization strategy of some key parastatals. I called for a review of this strategy to include a sectoral approach for investment to maximize returns and thankfully, we are pretty much on track. The strategy itself has been realigned with government’s development policies and adapted to the New Direction’s framework for efficient service delivery in the public sector.”

President Bio thanked the NCP Chairman and his team and entreated them to work harder in fulfilling the mandate of the Commission. On the divestiture process, the President said it is important to retain government interest in some parastals. “I believe that some of them need to go and some need to stay…” and affirmed his government’s commitment to depoliticize state institutions to enhance efficient service delivery.

NCP’s Future Outlook

In terms of its future outlook, NCP under Chairman Napoleon Koroma will continue to work with Ministries, Departments and Agencies in the implementation of its mandate of introducing Private Sector Participation in the management and operation of parastatals.

The Commission’s on-going strategy will focus, among other matters, on the following issues affecting the efficiency and profitability of Public Enterprises:

Sound Financial Management –

NCP has scaled up its performance monitoring activities and will continue to provide guidance to Boards of Public Enterprises so that all realistic targets are accomplished and the PEs revert to profitability;

Reduction of the fiscal burden on the Government –

NCP has directed that all PEs under its mandate open separate end-of-service benefits escrow account to enable PEs settle workers’ benefits on retirement, rather than looking up to Government;

Corporate Governance Workshops –

This will enhance good corporate governance practices in the management of Public Enterprises.