Basidia M Drammeh
The recent civil service reshuffle by the Government has sparked off a fierce public controversy in the Gambia and beyond with many people questioning the rationale behind the move and the criteria on which the changes were based if any.
A Permanent Secretary is the backbone of a ministry in the Gambia given their role in shaping and implementing policies. They are supposed to be technocrats with the requisite knowledge to man the affairs of the ministry with competence and efficiency, as opposed to a ministerial position which is largely a political appointment; hence the minister doesn’t need to have the know-how and the technical prowess to run the ministry.
In this context, questions have been raised about the decision to redeploy an economic mind in the calibre of Mohammad Manjang from SSHFC to the Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat. Since Manjang took over SSHFC, he has registered unprecedented success, in terms of increasing profits and restoring the institution’s past glory due to his relentless fight against corruption and other malpractices. As such, one can only wonder why such a successful technocrat would be moved to a semi-dormant organization!
Salimata Touray, who is a veteran diplomat, has been redeployed to the Office of the President as Deputy Secretary General, with the move being described by the Government as a promotion. Isn’t it prudent to keep her in the Foreign Ministry where her service would be much needed, particularly that the Gambia is gearing up to host the upcoming OIC Summit? She must have been deeply involved in the preparations for the Summit, considering her position and longstanding experience as a career diplomat with a solid linguistic background. Why didn’t the Government tap a veteran civil servant to take up the newly created position? Likewise, her successor Saffie Sankareh, who was in the Ministry of Health, is supposed to be in the thick of the country’s fight against Covid-19. So why move her to the Foreign Office? Again, we ask: has she previously served in the foreign service? And if she has, why was she moved to Health in the first place? Lamin, who is said to have been a veteran of the Ministry of Trade was moved to Health! Is he familiar with the major challenges facing the Ministry and does he have ready answers for them?
Ebrima Sisawo, who has been serving as Education Permanent Secretary, until his redeployment to Agriculture, is supposedly an educationist engaged in shaping and executing the country’s education policies. So why move him to Agriculture? Does he have qualifications and requisite experience to man the Agriculture Sector which is the backbone of the nation’s economy?
Though the Government’s statement affirms that the changes are consistent with “its policy of fostering growth and promoting rapid and efficient delivery of resources, I beg to differ. On the contrary, the continued and frequent changes in the civil service, particularly the permanent secretaries threaten to cripple the smooth functioning of the Government and demotivate civil servants as well as those citizens who might desire to join the service in the future.
I usually try to focus on spirituality during Ramadan but I deemed it necessary to address this issue because it is a cause for great concern.