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Sierra Leone adopts electronic public financial management system – no more lost PETS forms!

Ministry of Finance adopts a new Electronic Expenditure Management System developed by DSTI Sierra Leone

In a memo sent to all government institutions on 6 January, Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance announced it had replaced its heavily paper-based public financial management system, Public Expense Tracking Survey (PETS) and the Payment Voucher and Commitment Control Forms with a new Electronic Expenditure Management System (EEMS) developed by technologists at the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI). 

The Directorate is developing Sierra Leone’s first national financial data architecture with embedded automated financial tools to be deployed within all MDAs and government-funded institutions. The goal is to consolidate all government spending into one seamless, transparent digital system. The current roll out features implementation in all government ministries. DSTI is working with the Ministry of Finance to roll out EEMS to all departments and agencies by 1st April 2020.

PETS were initially put in place to improve accountability and service delivery; however, the previous paper-based system was inefficient. The EEMS will improve the Ministry of Finance’s drive to strengthen and improve Public Financial Management (PFM). Although initially commissioned to digitize only the PETS system, DSTI’s approach to delivery: ideation, design, prototyping, testing, and evaluation – expanded the scope of the work to include other related components such as Vouchers and Commitments and Control Forms at the Accountant General’s Department. 

The words ”financial management” appear in 2018 and 2017 Auditor General Reports a total of 76 times, underscoring its importance to government operations. In the last eight years, Sierra Leone’s Auditor General Reports said that the government’s PFM was ”weak.” Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) rarely adhered to the recommendations made in the annual audit. Each year they made the same mistakes, further eroding public and donor trust in state institutions.

According to the Audit Service, Sierra Leone will improve its PFM when it makes “value-for-money” investments, and implements “sound systems and processes for internal control, and asset management.”

Furthermore, donor partners place a high premium on PFM for effective and sustainable economic management and public service delivery.

Before the adoption of EEMS, the Ministry of Finance and DSTI trained all ICT and finance personnel from across all of the government on the use of the EEMS tool, all the budget officers, senior budget officers and budget directors, all the Permanent Secretaries, all the Ministers, and the Deputy Ministers.  Additionally, the DSTI team developed a User Manual, Instruction Video, and a Standard Operating Procedure with the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Justice.

“The system allows for tracking, which is the one major constraint public servants at MDAs face when making budget requests, ” said Bineta Diop, Business Analyst, DSTI Sierra Leone.

”The EEMS that we have developed in partnership with the Ministry of Finance tracks where the PETS forms are at every stage of the approval process. We will know when a budget request has been reviewed and where the form is at any given time in the approval system.” 

The EEMS which automates the generation, submission, and processing of PETS forms, Vouchers and Commitment and Control forms is one part of the National Financial Data Architecture project  at DSTI. 

“In the past, MDAs have made PETS requests that disappeared. This means that critical project funds could not be allocated in time, ” said Anthony Maada Sallieu, Budget Officer, Budget Bureau, Ministry of Finance.  

”With this new electronically generated form, there will be no more lost PETS. It will be easy to keep track of them, and we will save time. This system also creates more accountability.”

The electronic payment and expense systems were developed in partnership with the Ministry of Finance Finance, National Telecommunications Commission, Ministry of Works (including the Sierra Leone Roads Authority), Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, Accountant General’s Department and the Ministry of Information and Communication. 

Blog

Sierra Leone to launch bold new digitization strategy

Dr. Moinina David Sengeh has announced that Sierra Leone will launch a National Innovation and Digital Strategy (NIDS) at Bintumani Conference Centre at Aberdeen on Thursday, 31 October 2019. 

The  Chief Innovation Officer shared this news with stakeholders from various Ministries Department and Agencies, private sector partners, Academic Institutions, NGOs, and donor partners who met to review and make contributions to the NIDS document at State House yesterday. 

When the National Innovation and Digital Strategy is launched next week, it will provide the framework, plan, and policy recommendations for the adoption of digital technology for national development. NIDS was developed over the past 18 months by the citizens and the Government of Sierra Leone in collaboration with relevant policy, technology, and research institutions in the public and private sectors. 

Acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Njala University Joseph Sherman Kamara, said the NIDS would uplift Sierra Leone’s development and help institutions like Njala tap into the benefits of digitization for education.

“For our institution, the strategy means that we now have a national framework document that guides our work to prepare students for the emerging job market,” said Dr. Kamara.

Also present at the meeting were representatives from private financial institutions and telecommunications providers. The General Secretary at Orange Sierra Leone, Haffie Haffner, said the NIDS aligns with the telecommunications industry’s drive to improve connectivity. 

“We launched the digital revolution because we believed right back then that digitization is the way forward to the development of the country,” said Ms. Haffner.

DSTI held the meeting to gain from the knowledge and experience of key partners in the innovation technology ecosystem. The success of NIDS depends mainly on collaboration and inclusiveness. In preparation for the development of NIDS, DSTI and several GoSL leaders traveled to Estonia to learn from the Estonia Governance Academy; DSTI staff went to all 16 districts in Sierra Leone with the National Commission for Children engaging with children on topics of robotics and innovation; and worked with international partners in developing leading-edge policies like Child Rights and AI Ethics with UNICEF

“We want everyone here to take ownership of NIDS, it is only then that we can use technology to deliver on Sierra Leone’s national development plan,” said Dr. Sengeh.


Blog

Sierra Leone takes serious steps towards e-Governance and Digitization

When the Government of Sierra Leone launched the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI) last year, it started its journey to transform Sierra Leone into a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. DSTI has since developed credible partnerships with global leaders in academia, advanced research organizations, and international government entities towards that vision. In February 2019, DSTI signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with eGovernment Academy to establish technical collaboration on e-governance for public service delivery and administration.

This week (May 6-10th, 2019), a team of senior officials from the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has completed a week-long study tour at the e-Governance Academy (eGA) of Estonia to learn best practices that will inform and shape Sierra Leone’s e-governance and digitization strategy.  Estonia began its journey to digital transformation over two decades ago and are today a world leader for e-governance, e-democracy, and national cybersecurity. It is where government decision-makers go to experience “smart, sustainable, and effective” governance programmes at work.

The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz led Sierra Leone’s delegation to the eGA along with Dr. Moinina David Sengeh, Chief Innovation Officer, Office of the President. Also on the study tour was the Head of ICT Committee of the Sierra Leone Parliament; Deputy Commissioner General, National Revenue Authority; Deputy Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone, and senior representatives from the Ministry of Information and Communication, National Telecommunications Commission, and the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Senior Members of Sierra Leone’s delegation to Estonia’s eGA

The officials from Sierra Leone met their counterparts in Estonia to see digitization and e-governance first-hand and successfully implemented to scale. Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Sengeh engaged with the Minister of Justice and Estonia’s Chief Information Officer respectively. The study tour also included working sessions at the Office of the Prime Minister, the Parliament of Estonia, the Tax and Customs bureau and a visit to the Tallinn Technical University. These interactive engagements showed how laws, policies and technological infrastructure lay the framework for effective e-Governance.

A year ago President Julius Maada Bio established DSTI to harness science, technology, and innovation to effectively and efficiently deliver on its national development plan. This visit demonstrates GoSL’s commitment to harnessing technology for effective and efficient service delivery to its citizens.

Some key e-governance activities so far at DSTI include;  a National Financial Data Architecture with Ministry of Finance, and an integrated geographic information system that maps government services and infrastructure. DSTI has also created an interactive visualization tool to support decision makers in exploring the Annual School Survey data in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and UNICEF.

This study tour will enhance the ongoing partnership between various Ministries, Departments, Agencies, Academic Institutions, private sector, donors and bilateral partners.

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