ON INFORMATION ATTACHES, THE RULES OF PROCEDURE AND ROLES
The Information arm of the government of Sierra Leone has been with governments for quite a long time - this being because of the need to have a specialised arm of governance/government charged with information gathering, management and dissemination. The ministry is divided into a number of sections manned by trained personnel whose duty it is to make government policy and action known to the population/the governed.
Thus this arm of government machinery was for a long time known as the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to bring in the new channels of communication found in the air waves with messages propagated by broadcasters - mainly radio and television.
It is a known fact though that candidates for ministers of government, keen to make a fortune on illegal deals have often shied away and prayed that whoever is the Head of State would spare them the ordeal of running this vital arm of governance.
It was generally believed that deals were hard to come by where "its all paper and more paper but nothing of real value for the pocket" and so when ministers are moved from say any other ministry to that of Information and Broadcasting, it is generally considered a demotion.
However, the present holder of the ministry, I B Kargbo would have none of that and Ernest Bai Koroma in his "infinite wisdom" perhaps with some pressure from the Makeni cabal now heads the new Ministry of Information and Communications thereby bringing in control of telecommunication matters like the emerging mobile phone markets and organisations like Sierratel under his wings. Hitherto Sierratel and these mobile operators, the post office and others were under the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Talk of a convenient arrangement.
This information, found on the website of the new ministry headed by I B Kargbo gives an insight into the role of the ministry as the information and public relations arms of government. Kindly note that on this website this information which aptly describes the role of the ministry
But back to the matter of Information Attaches and their role as Civil Servants.
Kindly note this from above on the role of the ministry headed by I B Kargbo
This in effect informs all and sundry that constitutionally, it is I B Kargbo's ministry that is responsible for getting Information Attaches abroad and more often than not, these are trained personnel from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (now...and Communications).
Given the fact that such positions are in the Civil Service, all those wishing to occupy those posts are supposed to compete with others through the Public Service Commission, PSC, after adverts in the government Gazette - the Supplement to the Gazette publications. These Public Service Commission adverts are also made available at all Sierra Leone missions abroad.
The best candidates are thus recommended by the PSC after which those successful are then presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which in turn arranges the appropriate induction and training courses for life in the country's diplomatic corps.
THE ROLE OF PRESS ATTACHES IN THE GOVERNMENT INFORMATION MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
Press attaches to various Sierra Leone missions abroad have a number of basic duties which among others, there are:-
1. Liaise with media houses in the country of attachment with a view to providing such media outlets with press and information materials that reflects a positive light on Sierra Leone.
2. Report on activities of the mission focusing on the work of the High Commissioner or Ambassador as well as those of visiting Sierra Leoneans and officials including the Head of State.
3. Alert the Ministry and hence the government to all reports, negative and positive, carried in media outlets of host countries.
4. Ensure that all publications within and about Sierra Leone are available within missions hence keep Sierra Leoneans abroad informed of events in the mother country.
All materials emanating from missions abroad, generated by Press Attaches must be routed through the Ministry of Information where qualified and trained personnel process the items for distribution to the various government outlets including radio, television, newsletters, the Sierra Leone News Agency and other outlets that would ensure full distribution of the press materials.
No Press Attache, a civil servant paid from the Consolidated Fund is expected to release information gleaned through his office without the say-so of the Ministry of Information.
This constitutes insubordination, according to Civil Service rules and could, if not immediately discontinued, lead to the recall of the erring Press Attache.
Good governance requires laws, rules and regulations relating to democracy that give equal right to all Sierra Leoneans wherever they may be to be scrupulously adhered to.
It was the lack of respect for these rules and regulations as laid down in the books that created a breakdown of law, order and meritocracy and ignited our troubles - the 11-year war.
The Civil Service has a vital role to play in Sierra Leone's development and most of all Sierra Leone is not a one-party state in which possession of the APC party card is a must for opportunities.