By Bill McGill Jones
In 2008, the Government of Liberia (GoL) launched a civil service reform strategy, with the theme, “Smaller Government, Better Service”, designed to impact government size and improve efficiency in public service delivery. In 2009, the Civil Service Reform Strategy was approved. And this meant that going forward, the government would have to address persistent barriers by taking action to institutionalize meritocratic practices and professionalism, which included:
- Introduce establishment control of the Wage Bill and payroll
- Institute leadership in managing the process
- Introduce performance management
- Implement pay reform, and restructure and right-size ministries, agencies, and commissions (MACs) (Kiragu 2012).
Achieving the above would be an essential first step in ensuring that civil servants are held accountable for performance and service delivery and properly renumerated and managed fairly.
Establishing Control of the Wage Bill and Payroll Management in Liberia
The implementation of the reform enabled the government to establish a Wage Bill Task Force with a mandate to ensure coordination and oversight of activities. The Task Force aimed to rationalize public sector employment and compensation and ensure Wage Bill sustainability to deliver on the government's reform agenda. The objectives of the Task Force were to assess progress and develop appropriate responses that advance pay reform while ensuring fiscal sustainability. The Task Force is also overseeing the implementation of the pay reform strategy. After two years of implementing the Public Sector Modernization Project (PSMP), the results showed progress in three project development objectives (PDOs), except for the one on pay and payroll reform. Additionally, the CSA biometric processes aided cost-effectiveness efforts with cleaning, controlling, and managing the payroll to address leakages such as double-dipping, retaining dead staff (ghosts) on payroll, and others. The Task Force also mapped job grades to appropriate salary grades across all sectors, which enabled the government to hire adequately skilled employees and address pension and retirement issues.
Project Management Strategies Employed in Addressing Wage Control and Payroll Management
The stakeholder management process of managing the expectations of everyone who has an interest in a project or will be affected by it was implemented by the GoL to help achieve its salary reform goal. However, the nontraditional characteristics of this project included the lack of "political will" and the risk of obtaining buy-in from public institution stakeholders, given the removal of their discretionary power to apply for allowances. With this, GoL needed extra techniques, tools, and information from lessons learned from past regimes to achieve their objectives.
Article 3 of the 1986 Constitution provides that Liberia is a unitary sovereign state divided into counties for administrative purposes. The form of government is Republican, with three separate, coordinated branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary (Constitution of Liberia, 1986). In consideration of Article 3, stakeholder engagement and management were imperative. Therefore, the consent of key stakeholders like the judiciary and legislature and the support of international development organizations (IDOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) was a high priority. Considering the level of power of the identified stakeholders and the project's complexity, the GoL used stakeholder engagement and management techniques to gauge the buy-in of civil servants who were directly affected by the exercise. This includes MACs' executives, the Legislature, the Judiciary, CSOs, and IDOs working in Liberia to achieve the goal of the reform. In addition, stakeholder management tools and techniques such as identifying, planning, managing, and monitoring stakeholders' engagement were employed to identify stakeholders, plan appropriate strategies, manage their expectations, and monitor their level of support and engagement. (PMI, 2017).
The stakeholder engagement and management strategy helped the GoL reduce the wage bill by about 7% or $22 million (MFDP, 2020/21) in one fiscal year. However, accountability and equity in the pay system across the government remain a challenge. Nevertheless, the grading of all positions in the personnel database and applying the appropriate salaries to the approved grades, the centralization of the Wage Bill through the Civil Service, and the removal of the discretionary power from MACs executives to administer allowances were achieved. In addition, all of the results provided the GoL with an additional fiscal space of $22 million to fund other public-sector investment projects.
"The views expressed in this publication are of the author(s)' and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Government of Liberia."
The Constitution of Liberia (1986).
Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (2020-2021) National Budget.
Project Management Institute. (2017). A guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
(PMBOK guide) (6th ed.). Project Management Institute.
Kiragu, K. (2012). "Rebuilding the Liberian Civil Service: Consolidating the Reform Gains,"
Draft Consultant's Report, p. 22.
“Without the [Pay Reform] exercise, compensation cost overcrowded both administration's ability to support investment programs and service delivery”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bill McGill Jones is a project management and experienced international development professional with a strong interest in areas such as project and program management for the betterment of local communities, governance, and public sector reforms with a focus on improving systems, organization development and performance, social inclusion, advocacy, volunteerism, and community empowerment programs for continuous learning, improvement, and ownership. He has over the last eleven (11) years of professional and practical experience working in both Liberia's private and public sectors and the United States of America.
He holds a Master of Science in Environment and International Development from the University of East of Anglia in Norwich, England, the United Kingdom, and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics from Cuttington University in Suakoko, Bong County, Liberia. In addition, he is currently awaiting his Master of Science in Project Management from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, the USA, slated for May 19, 2022, plus a host of postgraduate executive certificates from Harvard Kennedy School of Governance and the Public Administration International in the United Kingdom, amongst others.
Following his graduation from undergraduate and graduate studies, he pursued a career in the public and private sectors, where he worked for the Government of Liberia (Ministries of State for Presidential Affairs and Gender, Children and Social Protection), Conservation International, Partnership for Economic Policy, and the Civil Service Agency. In addition, Bill and his professional friends established the Professional Distinct Fellows Organization in Liberia with the overarching objective of building unity, utilizing the skills and influence of its members to mentor and coach the next generation of leaders and provide aid to economically challenged communities in Liberia.