Public Projects: A Case Study | "On-the-ground realities faced by project managers in the field"

Sierra Leonean small farmers and people who depend on agriculture rely on the nation's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security. The ministry's political appointees and career civil servants have the responsibility of transforming agriculture in Sierra Leone through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) process.

With CAADP, African nations have developed and are still developing agriculture strategies and sector investment programs and have pledged to devote 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper’s Comment is free column four years ago this September, Joseph Sam Sesay, Sierra Leone’s minister of agriculture, forestry and food security (in photo), said that between 2007 and 2009, the nation’s agricultural sector has gone from 1.6 percent of the budget to 9.9 percent in 2010.

“In Sierra Leone, the fund is helping small-scale farmers move from subsistence to commercial farming, including investing in the necessary infrastructure to facilitate the processing, packaging, storage and marketing of agricultural surpluses triggered by commercialization, wrote Sesay. 

Sam Sesay doesn’t do it alone.

Sometime in 2008, Peter M. Kaindaneh was employed as project coordinator of the Rural and Private Sector Development Project for the World Bank funded West Africa Agricultural Productivity Program, in partnership with Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Ministry of Trade and Industry. This week, Kaindaneh announced that he had resigned from his position because his [performance] contract was not signed for 2014. He also said that, on his behalf, the World Bank made several requests in meetings and in aide-mémoires to Minister Sesay to sign and authorize the contract renewal.

An aide-mémoire is a proposed agreement or negotiating text circulated informally in delegations for discussion without committing the originating delegation's country to the contents.

In response, Minister Sesay posted a number of rebuttals on the listserv where news first broke of the impasse. Sesay said that the project, which ends in November 2015, is “95 percent complete,” adding that all key procurements have been carried out and funds committed by Kaindaneh in contracts.

“What is outstanding now is a follow up on the implementation of the contracts,” Sesay noted.  

He went further to explain that on June 30, 2014, he launched a contract signing ceremony for the ministry’s divisional directors and projects, including Kaindaneh as manager of the Rural and Private Sector Development Project of the World Bank in Sierra Leone.

“I left for a call at State House and did not witness the signing. The contract of Mr. Kaindaneh was signed by the Permanent Secretary[Edward M. Kargbo] and professional head of our Ministry [Chief Agriculture Officer Francis A. R. Sankoh] after review and approval by him. He [Kaindaneh] informed me last week that he was going to submit a resignation and gave my personal assistant and the professional head two reasons for doing so: his health and wanting to go private by setting up a consultancy. I’m quite aware that he has been going abroad frequently unhindered for medical attention and so, I was quite empathetic and quick to accept that reason,” Sesay wrote.

The minister’s critics remain unconvinced. Below are quotes from various observers who feel that the minister was economical with the truth.

“The contract ended in 2013 and Sam Sesay refused to sign the 2014 contract even though Pete worked for 8 months without pay. Sam Sesay may have been scared to tell WB (World Bank) that he was not going to renew Pete's contract even though WB explicitly told him to do so…” –MM

“The World Bank does allow them to work whilst they try to convince the ministry to sign the contract...sometimes they give them some sort of consent to continue working and be paid...but that can only go on for a while after which it must either be a contract or resignation.”- RM

“The minister told us like he knew nothing about it—admin responsibility; donor agreement he told us. Knowing how the civil service works in Salone (Sierra Leone) I told him that cannot be true—no admin would handle without clearance; donors would do their best to put in place somebody who the govt. says they can work with. Sam Sesay would gladly shift (the) blame to civil servants. Pete now confirms all I deduced from Sam Sesay's statements with the only addition being Pete's confirmation that in fact the World Bank had made representations to Sam Sesay to sign the contract which he evidently failed to do. SZ [asks], who in Salone is going to just walk away from a good World Bank consultancy? Pete did not walk away but did like you say you would have done for your integrity— resign before they tell you, you are sacked!”--ST

"What is beyond dispute is that the Minister was required to approve this contract and he refused; just look at the missing signature against his name. The rest of his denials and actions are bizarre, to say the least. ...donors do not always take these kinds of actions lightly." -SK

“I don't know why, and may never know, but if knowledge of our political culture is anything to go by, I will not be surprised if your consultancy is being taken away from you. Watch that space and see who occupies it next. It is difficult to have confidence in a system that privileges connectocracy over competence; the personal over the national.”--SUK

Responding to his critics, Sesay said:

“Unlike the political card that some of you are peddling, I knew that Mr. Kaindaneh is SLPP but also knew that he had something to offer to Sierra Leone under the said project. He had absolute free hand to manage the project, including contracts for goods, works and services, recruitments. Salaries of the project staff, including his, have been paid regularly without any hindrance!
“As a matter of government policy, the Ministries of Finance, Agriculture, Health, Transport, and  Education should merge our plethora of projects (12 to 13 in our Ministry) into a single Project Implementation Unit. Our Ministry is the only one remaining to implement the policy. A letter has been written urging us to implement the policy.
“Honestly, if someone told me that he was going to bid me farewell as he has done now, I’d have out rightly denied that! I still wish him well in his next endeavors!”

Kaindaneh is a contributor to "Why Projects Fail in the Public Sector" by Martins I. Imudia, which was published in paperback last March.

Case studies drawn from the authors’ decades of development experience illustrate the on-the-ground realities faced by project managers in the field. In the quest to achieve sustainable development, countries worldwide have invested billions in public projects, trusting development practitioners to achieve their goals. This handbook will help new entrants into the development field as well as experienced professionals to deliver efficient, effective, and sustainable project results.


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