THE government has appointed a third female Permanent Secretary. She heads the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).
Ethel Tebengi Frances was sworn-in by the Governor General, Sir Frank Kabui at Government House on Tuesday this week.
She took up the post replacing former Permanent Secretary, Jimmy Saelea whose contract ended recently.
Ms Frances holds a Master in Business Management from the University of Queensland and a Bachelor in Accounting and Financial Management and Management and Public Administration from the University of South Pacific, and a Diploma in Business Studies from the former Solomon Islands College of High Education (SICHE).
She has started her working career as a tutor and Lecturer at the former SICHE now SINU from 1997 to 2002.
Later, she has worked on projects with many other regional and international organisations based in Honiara including the European Union (EU), World Bank, SPC, ADB, DFAT and the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Provincial Government as a consultant mostly in the area of finance.
Frances joined the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (OPMC) as a Policy Secretary in 2017. Prior to joining OPMC, she has worked with the World Bank undertaking a baseline research study into impacts of agriculture on women.
Currently she is a Trustee of Woodford International School as part of her community service. She has resigned last week as a member of the SIWA Board of Directors to take up her new post as Permanent Secretary.
Frances said she was so humbled by the trust placed on her by the Government to lead the Ministry in the capacity as a Permanent Secretary.
“It makes it more special in a way because I am a female. This demonstrates the recognition our government has on us women having the ability to contribute to our nation’s efforts for a better life for its people,” she said.
Having worked amongst many male elites during her career, Frances has observed that there is respect for women and the potential that women have.
“It is up to us to step up and prove that recognition by the way we perform and deliver what is expected of us,” she said.
Frances is keen to see the Ministry reformed to a well-run and highly productive ministry.
“I have already had discussions with my management team where I have challenged them to step up and respond to the expectation on us to lead the agriculture sector to one our economy can take comfort in.
“They have vowed to work with me which I appreciate so much. It is going to be challenging for all of us but we will start with small steps and make many steps towards our goals,” Frances said.
One of her priority tasks now is to take stock of where the Ministry’s performance is now in terms of its programme and project implementation so that her team can strategize what they have at the moment.
“I am hoping to develop a growth roadmap for the agriculture sector and that will come from a whole of sector and institutional review.”
Before joining OPMC, Frances has assisted the World Bank with a baseline study looking into the impacts of agriculture on women and that gave her a fair knowledge of the challenges women face.
“What touched my heart is their willingness to keep going despite the hard work they put into it. I wish to congratulate them for not giving up. I am not going to make promises but can only vow to do my best in my capacity to help grow them for our nation’s good,” she said.
Ms Frances is of Malaita and Rennell and Bellona descent. She is the third female to be appointed as Permanent Secretary in the current pool of permanent secretaries. The others are Ethel Sigimanu who heads the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs (MJLA) and Karen Qalokale who heads the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services (MPNSCS).