DG-designate Identifies Reforms to Improve CSA -Suggests Automated Multi-sectoral Data of Workers

MONROVIA: Since the inception of the Unity Party government of President Joseph N. Boakai, complaints of payroll blotting and harmonized low salaries that depreciate the standard of Living in the country has overwhelmed the public sector. The situation caused low salaries as a result of which a typical Liberian family of four is accustomed to one meal instead of three decent meals per day. But how will this problem be corrected? The Director-General-designate of the Civil Service Agency (CSA) faces the Senate during his confirmation hearing and proffered reforms inclusive of a multi-sectoral civil service approach across agencies intended to improve the Liberia civil service and social service delivery; Bill Jarkloh reports.

Diagnosing that the CSA is a strategic advisor to the Government of Liberia, providing counsel on organizational structuring, staffing strategies, compensation packages, pension schemes, and broader human resource development initiatives, CSA Director-General-designate Josiah F. Jokai commits his stewardship at the agency to fostering competence, professionalism, and motivation among civil servants.

He noted that the CSA plays a pivotal role in ensuring the adeptness, proficiency, and responsiveness of the Liberia civil service to meet the government’s workforce needs while consistently delivering high-quality and efficient services to our nation, and assures that he will build upon the efforts of past administration to propel our Civil Service toward greater efficiency and effectiveness.

He however spoke of enormous challenges which he has strategized to improve upon to make the civil service viable.

Challenges    

He however enumerated the challenges facing the civil service, naming the foremost among the challenges as the bloated payroll, which he said currently sustains 67,746 employees across 103 entities, with an alarming average monthly wage bill of US$23 543 874 64.

DG-designate Joekai furthered that this financial burden strains government resources and deprives citizens of crucial social services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure, and sanitation, and pointed out that addressing this issue demands immediate and decisive action to streamline the workforce, eliminate redundancies, and optimize resource allocation to prioritize essential services for our people.

Besides, he maintained that the Liberian Civil Service lacks effective recruitment, testing, onboarding, and performance management systems, which hampers the CSA’s ability to attract and retain top talents, resulting in underqualified personnel occupying critical positions.

“To remedy this, we must overhaul our recruitment processes, implement rigorous testing mechanisms, and establish robust onboarding programs to ensure that only the most competent individuals are selected for roles within the Civil Service,” he averred.

Reforms

At the forefront of his agenda for the CSA, is the imperative need to conduct a comprehensive national payroll audit, but added that to achieve this, he will seek the approval of his Excellency, the President to spearhead the establishment of a multi-sectorial committee comprising the Civil Service Agency (CSA), the General Auditing Commission (GAC), and the Internal Audit Agency (IAA).

“Under the direction and supervision of the CSA, trained agents from the GAC and IAA, will be deployed across Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions to conduct a forensic human audit of the payroll. This collaborative effort will ensure the thorough examination of payroll data and facilitate the identification and elimination of inefficiencies and irregularities,” Mr. Joekai suggested.

He said the audit report will serve as a crucial tool in sanitizing the payroll, enabling the CSA to allocate resources more effectively and alleviate the financial burden on the government, thereby enabling essential social services to our citizens.

“In addition to payroll reform, I recognize the importance of electronically modernizing employee data management systems. My proposed reforms include establishing robust systems for storing and updating employee information, facilitating recruitment and onboarding processes, and implementing effective time and attendance tracking mechanisms to ensure each employee receives pay for time worked,” he intoned, as he further commits his stewardship to enhancing performance management practices, providing employee training and development opportunities, and streamlining payroll processing and benefits administration procedures.

Central to his vision is transforming the Civil Service Agency into a dynamic entity equipped with cutting-edge tools and technologies. He envisioned a future where all government entities can interact seamlessly with the CSA, enabling real-time data exchange and empowering agencies to manage their operations more efficiently.

Bi-weekly salary payment

By implementing user-friendly portals and automated processes, Joekai’s administration at the CSA aims to shift the focus of the agency from a data entry entity to an administrative powerhouse, granting agencies greater autonomy and control over their HR functions but yet, with the CSA in 360 degrees control.

He told the Senate that for the first time across our Civil Service and with the approval of His Excellency, the President, he will lead the full implementation of a bi-weekly payment system for all civil servants, using for example that if a teacher, police officer, or nurse makes a net monthly salary of US$300.00, he/she will receive $150.00 every two weeks on the 15th and 30th of each month.

“When this proposal is acted upon by you, our dear Senators, and endorsed by His Excellency, the President, and this vital measure will relieve our citizens of the harsh financial burden of borrowing money and paying it back at a high-interest rate,” he suggested further, stating “In short, eating their income before the month ends. Otherwise known as “dig hole, cover hole.”

He said the measure will empower families to put food on their tables, invest in small-scale businesses, and pay their children’s tuition and fees on time to keep them in school, and not on the streets.

Additionally, he believes that the measure will keep money circulating in the economy, thereby significantly addressing liquidation issues. “I am strongly convinced that you and your colleagues in the Honorable Liberian Senate will not hesitate to act on this proposal when it is put before you to benefit your constituents, most of whom are also civil servants, and the nation as a whole,” he said.

However, he said the success of this much-needed bi-weekly payment initiative is contingent upon completing the payroll audit and attaining a sizable and efficient workforce and a sustainable wage bill.

“The Executive has already issued a strong statement of support for these critical reforms, reflecting my nomination as Director General of the CSA. Now, it is your turn to kindly land your support by confirming me and subsequently acting on proposals and legislations that will come before you and the Honorable Liberian Senate,” he emphasized.

The DG-designate of the CSA strongly believes that Liberia is blessed with the requisite talents and expertise to build a vibrant and resilient workforce to address the government’s capacity and performance needs,” but added however, “…we have failed to adequately tap into such expertise over the years.”

“I will Prioritize Liberian experts”

“Under my watch, the CSA will establish a comprehensive database of Liberian professionals in various fields at home and abroad. The goal is to ensure that Liberian professionals or experts will first be considered for providing technical and professional services to various Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions,” he argued.

He maintained, “A foreign expert will be considered only if no Liberian expert exists in a particular field, which is almost impossible. This crucial initiative fulfills the “Liberian First” policy, which is a catalyst for providing more high-paying jobs for Liberians and creating a middle class in the economy.”

Mr. Joekai said it is unfortunate that we do not have a nationally functioning credential verification or audit framework as a country. “Despite the commendable efforts of individual patriotic Liberians toward this critical endeavor, this gap or lack of national framework has led to uncertainties and embarrassment for Liberians seeking public offices.”

Joekai promised to ensure that the CSA establishes a robust national credential verification framework aligned with international standards when confirmed, an initiative which, he said, is crucial for ensuring qualified people are appointed to public offices.

“Ultimately, my goal is for the CSA to empower every member of the Civil Service with the tools, skills, and resources they need to excel in their roles. By fostering a culture of accountability, transparency, innovation, and productivity, I will inspire a renewed sense of purpose and dedication among our workforce,” he envisioned.

Following his statement he was quizzed by the senators some of whom praised him for being qualified for the job. However, Senator Abraham Darius Dillon expressed reservation for the concept of bi-weekly payment of salaries to civil servants, considering the fiscal budgetary situation of the country where money has to be sought before a fiscal budget is implemented, but the DG-designate said it’s possible with sectorial arrangement especially involving the Liberia Revenue authorities and other sector-agencies.

Also making comments, was Senator Botoe Kanneh of Gbarpolu who called for decentralization of the Civil service Agency. Mr. Nominee, How can you address the situation where some of our chiefs traveled a LD10, 000 distance to come to get USD90 just to pay the same 10,000 to go back to his place of assignment?  To this concern, DG-designate Joekai said he aims at decentralizing the CSA, where agents of the agency will be assigned in every county to relate to local HR personnel across the country.

To this Senator Jonathan Sogbwe of River-Gee advised that the agents to be sent across the country should be incentivized if the decentralization of the CSA should be successful.

However, he concluded his statement earlier by saying that when confirmed, he will build a Civil Service responsive to our citizens’ needs and a beacon of excellence and integrity for generations to come.

The DG-designate extended heartfelt gratitude to the chairman and members of the Senate Committee on Public Corporation for granting me the opportunity to appear before them; he was also thankful to President Joseph Nyuma Boakai, Sr., for the honor bestowed upon me through this nomination and the confidence he imposed in me to serve our beloved country.

Further, he extolled his beloved wife, Joana D. Joekai, and their three sons, whose boundless love, unwavering support, and understanding have been the bedrock of his journey.

“Their presence sustains me through every challenge, their encouragement fuels my dedication to service, and their shared sacrifices remind me daily of the profound importance of family, faith, and community,” he said.

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