Improving Decision Making at the Center of Government: Liberia's Cabinet Secretariat, 2009-2012

Full Publication 
Abstract 
When Momo Rogers became director general of Liberia’s Cabinet Secretariat in June 2009, he thought the office could begin to support President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her team of ministers much more effectively than it had done previously. Cabinet offices generally aimed to improve the quality of decision making and coordination at the center of government. That function was especially important in Liberia, where President Sirleaf wanted to advance an ambitious development agenda—six years after the end of a protracted civil war—yet before Rogers stepped into his role, many Cabinet meetings were long and unfocused and often yielded few tangible results. For example, policy decisions reached in the Cabinet meetings were not often communicated to the people responsible for implementing policy. Moreover, the relevance of decisions about the government’s priorities was sometimes unclear even to those who had participated in the meetings. Recognizing those challenges, Sirleaf tasked Rogers with responsibility for making the office—and the Cabinet itself—work better. Rogers built a team at the Secretariat and introduced procedural changes like circulating agendas and policy papers in advance of Cabinet meetings. By 2012, the Cabinet was functioning more effectively: agendas circulated in advance, discussions were more focused, and the Secretariat followed up on action items agreed to in the meetings. But shortcomings remained, including a persistent need to improve the quality of policy proposals submitted to Cabinet.
 

Michael Scharff drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Monrovia, Liberia, and the United States in April and May 2012. Case published in September 2012. 

Associated Interview(s):  Momo Rogers

Keywords 
president's office
coordination
accountability
monitoring
salaries
center of government
cabinet secretariat
cabinet
policy
institution-building
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Liberia
Focus Area(s): 
Centers of Government
Critical Tasks: 
Adaptive management
Cabinet reform
Improving cabinet efficiency
Preparation of policy papers and choices
Core Challenge: 
Principal-agent problem (delegation)
Country of Reform: 
Liberia
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Michael Scharff