“Albert what is your background?
After leaving school in June 1986 I started working in the Sierra Leone Public Archives in January 1987 as an Assistant Archivist in-Training. From September 1989 to June 1993 I embarked on a Bachelor of Arts Degree at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, majoring in History and Political Science. My dissertation topics were:
(1) The Role of Archives in National Development: Sierra Leone Public Archives a Case Study, (Department of Modern History, F.B.C., June 1993).
(2) Boundary Disputes: a Case Study on Sierra Leone – Liberian Relations, (Department of Political Science, F.B.C., June 1993).
How did you involve yourself in Archives and Records Management?
Whilst glancing through the pages of a newspaper in September 1986, I came across an advertisement for the post of Assistant Archivist-in-Training. I applied and I was successful and started working on the 2nd January, 1987.
What is the specific context in your country which makes your job a special one?
The specific context in my country which makes my job a special one is that record keeping and management has gradually been recognised as a strategic resource that will contribute to enhancing good governance in the Country. With regards to the Archival aspect soon the Freedom of Information Law will be enacted. Therefore the archival duties of supervising and co-ordinating the selection for preservation of public records; maintaining these records in the Public Archive and making them available for public inspection are very crucial for the application of the Freedom of Information Law.
In the area of Records Management our input has helped the government in enhancing the accountability and integrity of the civil service and teachers’ payroll.
Tell us about your recent achievements and your projects.
In recent years the National Archives staff have worked with the International Records Management Trust on pilot records work in the civil service. A Record Management Improvement programme supported by DFID and the EU rebuilt and funded records keeping systems in four ministries. A particular focus has been on civil service payroll and personnel records. The project has introduced a new methodology for rebuilding paper-based personnel records system and linking them to the Human Capital Accountability Module of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS). A civil service payroll verification exercise was conducted between July and November, 2008. The verified data on each civil servant provide an accurate and reliable basis for conducting right-sizing. Scanning of key documents of civil servants was also undertaken.
Currently in support of payroll verification and more effective and accountable management of human resources, staff of the National Archives working with IRMT, Human resource Management Office (HRMO) and Ministry of Education are creating a file for each teacher on the teacher’s payroll (over 35,000) developing as complete a file as possible for each teacher on the payroll and set up good practice systems and procedures. The backlog of inactive teacher record cards will be listed and accessioned in the National Archives.
In 2009 at the National Archives Repository, the United States Embassy in Sierra Leone assisted us to preserve selected historical materials bearing on Sierra Leone – American Relations. The digitization was done to enable a wider audience to access them, ensuring their continued usefulness and vibrancy.
In 2010 staff of the National Archives supported some international researchers from Canada and UK in a pilot project under the Endangered Archives Programme. A survey of vulnerable archival material was undertaken and sample copies made.
You are working with partners from other countries? What does this experience bring to you?
Indeed, I am working with partners from other countries. This experience has widened my ability to discharge my duties in confident and professional manner. Most of these partners are experienced professionals with over 30 to 35 years in the profession. Their varied background and work experience had been strong pillar of support in training and moulding the Records Management Team of which I am the leader.
What future do you imagine for archives in your country?
I am very much looking forward to the passing into Law of a proposed National Records and Archives Act to establish a separate Department for the management of records and archives. The Sierra Leone Public Archives Act No. 44 of 1965 is outdated and has far outlived its usefulness.
I am also looking forward to the implementation of the proposed Scheme of Service for Records Management Cadre. Furthermore, I am looking forward to our national archives having its own building to house a National Archives and Records Centre.
Moreover, I look forward for the actualization of our government’s desire for an improved Records Management as a core component of its new Public Sector Reform Programme, 2009-2013.
From your point of view, what is a good professional in your region? Do you think there is a difference with professionals in other parts of the world?
I think a good professional is one who continues with his profession in good or bad times. I don’t think there is much difference with professionals in other parts of the world.
Amongst the few difference – professionals in the developed countries for example with be better paid or well-equipped with relevant tools than professionals in my region.
What would be your message to new and young professionals in your country?
My message to new and young professionals in my country is that “patience is a bitter tree, but it will eventually yield sweet fruits”. Also my advice is that the Records and Archives profession is a very noble profession with “dignity and Service to all” are pivotal. Further, the need to uphold the confidentiality of our client should be paramount.”
ICA, A colleague