A. District Officers as the Principal Representatives of the Central Government in the District
As the principal representatives of the Central Government in the District that command authority, and are held in high esteem by the community, including other Public Servants, Paramount Chiefs and other Local Authorities, District Officers are regarded as the principal authority of the Central Government in the District and they:
1. Disseminate government policies in the District and ensure/ facilitate their implementation;
2. Coordinate central government activities in the District, particularly MDAs’ non-devolved functions, and facilitate devolution of specified functions to the Local Councils;
3. Monitor the activities of Local Councils and Ministries/Departments and Agencies in the District;
4. Play host to visiting VIPs e.g. His Excellency the President, the Honourable Vice President, Ministers, etc.;
5. Conduct administrative investigations on behalf of Government relating to allegations of gross misconduct of Paramount Chiefs, sub-chiefs and/or other serious matters that are inimical to good governance.
B. District Officers and National Security
District Officers and the Police are collectively responsible for the security and maintenance of law and order in the District. As chief custodian of security and intelligence in the District, District Officers serve as Chairmen of the District Intelligence Committees. In this regard, they are expected to:
1. Maintain good relations with local authorities, civil society, security services etc. to promote peace and tranquillity in the District;
2. Serve as Chairmen of the District Watch Committee;
3. Serve as Chairmen of the District Security Committee (DISEC). The Senior District Officer (SDO) in the Provincial District is a member of the Provincial Security Committee;
4. Provide timely information to Government (through the Minister responsible for Local Government and/or the President) on matters or persons which threaten peace and stability of the area.
C. District Officers as Superintendents of Chiefdom Administrations
Administration is a vital adjunct to the Central Administration of the country.
The duties of Chiefdom Administration Authorities are to ensure good
administration and maintenance of law and order at the grassroots level. The
broad guidelines for the execution of these duties are provided in the relevant
sections of our Laws.
The responsibility of District Officers is therefore to ensure that the laws are respected particularly with regard to the use of Government funds, properties and the safeguard of justice. District Officers are also required to supervise Chiefdom Administrations and ensure that abuse of authority is minimized in the administration of the Chiefdoms in the interest of good governance.
District Officers are the guarantors of peace and security in the chiefdom. In addition, District Officers should encourage Chiefdom Authorities to run their localities in a way that would enhance the living standards of their people. Given the conservative nature of these communities, District Officers should respect their customs and traditions.
In their interaction with Chiefdom Administration Authorities, District Officers:
5. Serve as a vital link between the Central Government, Local Councils and Chiefdom Administrations;
6. Ensure good governance practices in the chiefdoms;
7. Ensure that local authorities do not abuse their authority or carry out gross miscarriage of justice in the day-to-day administration of their chiefdoms;
8. Address complaints and petitions from Paramount Chiefs and their subjects in a timely manner;
9. Mediate in disputes between Paramount Chiefs and their people;
10. Receive and address complaints expeditiously from aggrieved persons in the community;
11. On the basis of intelligence take pre-emptive action to forestall conflicts in the locality;
12. Conduct the revision of Chiefdom Councilors’ Lists;
13. Conduct the election of Section and Town Chiefs;
14. Assist the Provincial Secretary (who is the Declaration Officer) in the election of Paramount Chiefs;
15. Mediate or settle disputes between Chiefdom Authorities, Local Councils and MDAs;
16. Ensure proper assessment and collection of Local Tax and the payment of annual rebates to Town and Section Chiefs;
17. Address boundary, bush and secret society disputes.
D. District Officers and Paramount Chiefs
Paramount Chiefs should at all times regard the District Officers as the principal administrators of the Districts. Disputes between Paramount Chiefs and their sub-chiefs are resolved by the District Officer. The relationship between District Officers and Paramount Chiefs should be characterized by mutual respect and understanding. All matters pertaining to the administration of Chiefdoms should be channelled through District Officers and on no account should Paramount Chiefs bye-pass District Officers. In specific matters like absence from the Chiefdom, holding of sub-chief elections, addressing bush/boundary disputes, secret society issues etc., the prior consultation and/or approval of the District Officers should be sought. Paramount Chiefs should at all times co-operate with District Officers by responding to official calls and carrying out lawful directives emanating from them. On no account should sub-chiefs who have been duly elected and recognised by Government and whose elections have been accordingly Gazetted, be suspended from office or relieved of their responsibilities by Paramount Chiefs without the prior approval of Government. District Officers as representatives of the Central Government will take appropriate action on representations made to them on matters of this nature.
E. District Officers and the Police
District Officers and the Police are collectively responsible for the maintenance of security and law and order in the district. Collaboration between these two key Government functionaries in the District is absolutely essential. Should any occasion arise for the arrest of a Provincial Secretary or District Officer outside of the authority the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Inspector-General of Police should be consulted who will in turn obtain the fiat of the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. If the fiat is obtained for the arrest of a District Officer, such arrest, as far as possible, should be executed outside his area of jurisdiction. Similarly, a Paramount Chief can be arrested only subject to the fiat of the Minister responsible for Local Government and the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice.
F. Public Meetings and other Local Council Activities in the District
It is advisable that all official or public meetings and other major public activities within the District are organized with the prior information of the District Officer. This is merely to ensure that, as chief custodian of security/intelligence in the District, the District Officer is able to take necessary measures in case of emergency.
G. Political Co-operation
In order to ensure the smooth running of the District, co-operation between District Officers and all authorities in the District is a necessary requirement. In this respect, it is important for all residents in the District to accord District Officers the respect that befits their position.
H. District Officers and Provincial Secretaries
It should be noted that the Provincial Secretaries are the Chief Administrative Officers in their respective Regions/Provinces which comprise a number of Districts and Chiefdoms. Itineraries of the movement of District Officers should be submitted to their Provincial Secretaries at regular intervals. Any changes should be communicated in time. Whenever District Officers have cause to leave their Districts, they must do so with the prior knowledge of their Provincial Secretaries. Before leaving their station, District Officers should delegate their responsibilities to their next in command.
I. District Officers and their Subordinates
The rule governing the relationship between District Officers and their Assistants is spelt out in Cap. 60(3) as amended as follows:- “Any Assistant District Officer of a District may perform any of the duties of the District Officer of that district, but shall only discharge such portion thereof as may, from time to time, be assigned to him by the District Officer, subject to any special instructions from the Provincial Secretary, and while performing any of the said duties he shall have the same power as the District Officer”. To ensure the smooth administration of the Districts, it is necessary for District Officers and their Assistants to have a good working relationship. There should exist mutual respect and understanding between them. The Assistant District Officer should at all times accept the District Officer as his superior officer and should carry out all legitimate instructions and duties assigned to him. Correspondence between District Officers and their Assistants should be polite in tone even where, for one reason or another, emotions have been aroused. In the case of conflict between District Officers and their Assistants, the respective Provincial Secretaries should intervene for the purpose of conflict resolution. The Civil Service Code, Rules and Regulations relating to discipline etc., are supposed to be known by subordinate officers and should understand that they cannot explain away their irregular conduct and performance simply on grounds of ignorance.
J. District Officers and Heads of Sectoral Ministries (Departments), Agencies and Local Councils
The progress of any administrative unit in a modern setting cannot be accomplished by the actions of only one set of Government agents however predominant their role. In the context of Sierra Leone, the situation has considerably changed from the days when District Officers, in addition to being responsible for the maintenance of law and order and the collection of taxes in the Districts, also served as the operational arm of other departments. The pace of economic development, particularly after independence, and the complexities of the facets of that development have been accompanied by an increasing need for specialist attention to some of the areas that were once looked after by District Officers. Hence, today, the variety of government agencies in the districts include departments such as Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Labour, Social Security and Employment, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Mineral Resources, Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Health and Sanitation, and Energy and Water Resources. The purpose of this approach is to ensure that the use of resources allocated for the development of any section within the district is maximized and the targets achieved with the best of skills. In the same vein, Government has adopted a policy of decentralization by which certain functions of the Central Government have been passed by law to Local Councils to facilitate and enhance the delivery of services to the communities. District Officers will thus be required to facilitate the activities of the Local Councils by creating the necessary enabling environment for them to discharge their duties. The record of this approach indicates that competition, rivalries and jealousies over administrative preserves have often resulted in uneasiness in the relationships between the various heads of department in the Districts. In this situation, the role of the District Officer must be limited to that of a general “keeper of the house” whose primary function is to ensure that tranquility prevails in the District to allow other government agents to carry out their various duties. His function is also that of an authoritative “drawer of attention” of Government to anything that may be going wrong with the running of those Departments, Agencies and Local Councils, since the monitoring of their activities is also part of the functions of District Officers. In the light of the foregoing, mutual respect and understanding and spirit of co-operation should govern the relationships between District Officers and Heads of Departments, Agencies and Local Councils. However, for this co-operation to be effective, it is desirable for Heads of Departments, Agencies and Local Councils, to adequately brief District Officers on the activities of their Departments through monthly meetings of District Co-ordinating Committees comprising all Heads of Departments, Agencies and Local Councils in the Districts and chaired by District Officers, minutes of which should be forwarded to the Provincial Secretary, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, the Secretary to the President, the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service and the relevant ministries. This is in the interest of all concerned. Also, Heads of Departments, Agencies and Local Councils should recognize the general overall responsibility assigned to District Officers for the running of the Districts. District Officers, on the other hand, should be aware that Heads of Departments, Agencies and Local Councils within their Districts are the authorized agents of the sectoral Ministries and should therefore be allowed to execute their duties without undue interference.
K. District Officers and the Administration of Estates in the Provinces
District Officers are responsible for the administration of estates of persons who die intestate, in collaboration with the Paramount Chiefs.
District Officers and the Press
While it is generally acknowledged that modern day governance requires public servants to ensure transparency and accountability in the conduct of public affairs, given their strategic positions, in dealing with the Press, District Officers should be circumspect and guarded. Any adverse publication made against them or about their Districts should be brought to their attention. District Officers should immediately submit their comments on the publication to their Provincial Secretaries copying the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government. The latter should advise the Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Civil Service on a suitable line of action, if deemed necessary, after having received the comments of the Provincial Secretary concerned. If a prima facie case is established that the press report is malicious or defamatory or frivolous and misleading, the matter should be referred to the Ministry of Information and Communications for appropriate action. Local Police intervention to interrogate District Officers on the grounds of any press report or any other report whether oral or written reflecting adversely on their conduct must be authorized by the Provincial Secretary or the Inspector-General of Police after consultation with the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government. Such interrogation should take place in the District Officer’s office. The interpretation of District Officer includes “Assistant District Officer”. General District Officers like all other civil servants should be impartial in the discharge of their duties and must at all times serve the Government of the day and be politically neutral. District Officers are also required to observe the following ethical standards in their dealings with the public:
· Carry out his duties in a way that maintains public confidence in the integrity of his office;
· Treat the public and fellow public officers with courtesy and respect;
· Respond to the public with fairness, promptness and respect;
· Maintain an appropriate standard of dress and personal hygiene;
· Always work within the law.