Will Political Appointee Advisors Replace Permanent Secretaries?

The Debate Over Appointment of Selected Presidential Assistants & Advisors in the Civil and Public Service.
By Alagi Yorro Jallow
Part 1
MAMUDU: Musician Ali Cham, Killa Ace known by his stage name eloquently and brilliantly described “Political Patronage” meaning in one of his masterpiece songs in Wolof, “KU BOKA C GETA GEE NAN C MEOW MEE” literary and roughly meant “all those belong to a cattle herd deserve to drink milk. Those who do not belong to a cattle herd do not deserve to drink milk”.
Mamudu: We are a country living in such a deep state of collective trauma, and the of this trauma is beginning to surface through political patronage, tribalism, misogyny, internalized self-hate, corruption, and acceptance for mediocrity. We must name things as they are and name the impact those things have had on us and how it affects and influences our destiny.
Mamudu: Can President Adama Barrow tell Gambians why Cabinet Ministers and other senior government officials appointed have to have paid advisors and consultants helping them doing their duties? Are they not efficient and competent both academically and professionally enough to carry their respective. Undoubtedly, the appointments to senior civil and public positions are given to persons who are competent and well qualified to do the job. All this is unnecessary expenditure not only on the enormous salaries but the other perks as well given to special assistants and advisors is mind-boggling.
Maybe the Gambia government should do away with Permanent Secretaries and Cabinet Ministers and allow the President to appoint qualified people those so-called advisors to these positions with a salary only without duplication. Without a shred of doubt, patronage and indulgence have been the hallmark of political life since men began wielding power. To check the abuse of power, reasonable people are supposed to think about what is “right instead of thinking about might. What is the essence of academic and professional excellence? Furthermore, what defines excellence?
Mamudu: President Adama Barrow inner sanctum and paid advisors in his government are full of zealots, sycophants, instigators, agitators, and smart-sounding people without having or showing no moral principles, not honest serving as advisors in government departments. These political appointee advisors are people that make for terribly weak advisors.
To develop a robust and efficient public sector, we need to reduce the amount of political control in civil/public service. If fewer political “masters” are appointed, with more autonomy for technocrats to do their work, regardless of who is appointed, is this the government that promised to spend as moderately as possible? Didn’t this government swear to protect the public purse? The President must be reminded of that fact. These appointments do not send the right signals to citizens, let alone the donor community. For example, in the 2020 budget allocation to the Office of the President alone registered D31million increased allocation due, partly, to increase in staff at the Presidency. In addition to that increases in “Special Advisers” from 4 to 6, a deputy Secretary-General, and allowances alone increasing from D1,402,010 in 2019, to the tune of D14,806,855 in the budget allocation.
Mamudu: Although the President has the constitutional power to appoint as many ministers as he deems fit for the efficient running of the country, he needs to be guided by public interest and the sentiments of the citizenry. The constitution has not been amended to place an upper limit on the number of ministers a president can appoint.
The case of our political leaders amazes the silent majority of Gambians but does not surprise them anymore with the kind of leadership. A married man that seeks the counsel of unmarried men on matters of marriage has himself to fool when their advice lands him in trouble. Advisors ought to be experts, highly educated, and also experienced well known and more experienced than their boss. The boss cannot be more talented or more experienced than the advisor. Learn from President Donald Trump and his amateur advisors.
Mamudu: So, if there is ever one issue that garnered consensus in the Gambia is the appointment of advisors. They were too many and did no work at all. Advisors do not sit in Cabinet. Furthermore, when the substantive Minister is out of his station, advisors do not act in that position, but instead, another Cabinet Minister from another ministry sits in to perform ministerial duties. So, advisors sit in offices, drink tea, surfing Facebook, playing games online with friends, and read newspapers. Worse off If they have a stingy Cabinet Minister or head of a department, they suffer – as they will never even see any brief on what is happening in the department or ministry.
Mamudu: We cannot compare the work of Permanent Secretary to that of an advisor. The two are in a different category. The former is a professional civil servant hired supposedly based on his educational qualifications and experience. While the latter is a politician or a toady with mostly no known experience in the field compared to a Permanent Secretary who is well educated and more experienced than the so-called advisor, at most, that proposal of introducing advisors need to be abolished since there is no legal basis in the constitution! The people already spoke! Political patronage or spoils system jobs are used by certain politicians who, after winning an election, give government jobs within the civil service and diplomatic service, mega award contracts, and issue diplomatic and service passports to supporters, friends, and relatives as a for working toward victory and as an incentive to keep working for these politicians to retain their office.
The problem with the Gambia is that over the past fifty-five years, we built a society in which political patronage became the path to Opportunity. Meritocracy was thrown out, and those outside “power” experienced limited social progress and Opportunity. The chickens have come home to roost. One issue that garnered unanimous position is the issue of political patronage arbitrary appointment of political demagogues and toadies into the civil service and every ministry and department of state.
Mamudu: The Gambia is a society that throws away meritocracy and embraces patronage as the only route towards social progress is that its elite always conspires to silence even when they see wrong. Because they fear to lose their patronage driven privilege, the silent majority of Gambians loathed on the appointment of advisors and preferred that the office be wholly abolished, as its continued existence could not be justified.
Gambians are peculiar people. Why are folks catching feelings about some public officers in the previous regime accused in an alleged theft of public funds which aided and abetted former president Yahya Jammeh of pillage and plunder as well as extensive corruption, economic atrocities, and thievery of our national treasury? It appears the legacy of the former strongman pervades and still inspires pride in the civil service and government of President Adama Barrow. Instead of due process of the law,
Barrow offered some Yahya’s enablers to run the highest institutions from strategic, ministerial and senior government positions as advisers whom some are accused of being thieves and unscrupulous? Talk about a suspected or convicted rapist being put in charge of running a rape crisis center.
What did we all expect when we hire former dictator’s enablers to the highest public offices in the land? It is not like they were accused of stealing chicken feed. They used to be Yahya Jammeh’s most trusted enablers, economic, and political hackers. Think about it, and we would never in our life employ a housemaid or a chauffeur who has even been suspected of stealing from a previous employer or accused of violence against the previous employer and their children, notwithstanding that they were innocent until proven guilty. However, we step outside our goddamn minds and employ those accused of economic crimes to lead our country’s development agenda with governance reforms.
Mamudu: We should be aiming for good enough governance, selecting a few imperatives from a long list of possibilities that is effective, legitimate, responsive that provides countless benefits, especially when compared to the alternative: inefficient governance, cronyism, and corruption. The conclusion is clear that the development agenda and governance reforms of the new government should not be overloaded with unscrupulous bureaucrats or political hacks in government.
Mamudu: Finally, we must refuse to glorify bad governance in whatever form it manifests itself. We must remember that those in political power rely on President Barrow being broken, fragmented, being traumatized, and being completely disconnected from our humanity to help propagate our violent neoliberal agenda.

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