Liberia urgently needs top cadre of civil servants to rebuild – UN

After more than a dozen years of bloody conflict, the Liberian Government’s ability to rebuild the nation is seriously hampered by a lack of properly trained and motivated public servants, according to a report commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Released today in Monrovia, the report says the West African nation’s daily operations are paralysed by unreliable electricity and water, a shortage of basic work supplies and a massive brain drain that has led to employment shortages at all levels. Facing with rising prices and unpaid wages, the Liberian workers still toiling at their jobs suffer from deteriorating morale. The National Human Development Report 2006, Mobilizing Capacity for Reconstruction and Development, is the first report of its type released by Liberia since the election of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last year. Written by independent consultants, it gauges the toll of violent conflict on human development and offers practical solutions on ways the new Government can meet the country’s immediate and long-term development needs. The flight of qualified staff has left Liberia’s civil service virtually an empty shell that is poorly equipped to deliver essential services and unable to negotiate crucial reforms, the report says. The Government agrees that the country urgently needs a new cadre of top public servants who are properly trained, well motivated and adequately compensated. But the report states that this goal cannot be reached within the existing civil service structure. In response, innovative measures, such as transitional salary supplements, are being offered to key officials in crucial slots that affect the delivery of services and wider government reform efforts. Part of the Liberia Emergency Capacity Building Project, the initiative is meant to “help the government create powerful teams of people whose employment in high-profile positions will reinvigorate the public sector, bringing new ideas, experiences and professionalism to support the reform process,” the report notes. The document also details some bright spots, such as a Government measure called TOKTEN, or Transfer of Knowledge through Expatriate Nationals.” This program brings qualified Liberian professionals living overseas back home for short visits to share their skills. Other successful measures to boost the public sector include revising the civil service code, cleaning up the procurement process, introducing internal controls and overhauling financial management procedures, and corruption-fighting steps.

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