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PM defuses internal row over chief of staff appointment – Djokovic or Usuramo, new post created

By Alfred Sasako

PRIME Minister Ricky Hou has used his management skills in defusing an internal row which has the potential to tear his new government apart, sources close to the government have revealed.

The row is over who to fill the position of Chief of Staff (COS), occupied by Robson Djokovich during Hon Manasseh Sogavare’s three-year tenure as prime minister. Mr Djokovich is Mr Sogavare’s nephew.

Sources told Island Sun yesterday on one hand, diehard DCC members are pushing for Djokovich to remain in the post. On the other, Prime Minister Hou has put forward the name of the President of DAP, John Teddie Usuramo, to fill the position.

“It’s a rather explosive situation which has the potential to tear the new government apart,” one source said.

“Fortunately, Prime Minister Hou has used his management skills in defusing the situation by suggesting a new position be created. The position will carry the title of Coordinator, Policy Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Unit (PIMEU) in the Prime Minister’s Office. This Unit drives the implementation of the government’s policy and priorities,” the source said.

“The Chief of Staff position will remain but will be relegated to the Prime Minister’s Private Political Office. The Coordinator will be required to report to the Prime Minister through the Office of the Chief of Staff.”

The proposed change is still subject to formal approval, which could be given as early as later this week.

An announcement of the new appointees to fill the two positions is due to be made following endorsement by Caucus.

It is unclear whether Djokovic would be offered the job of Coordinator.

Meanwhile the new government is set to start shedding Political Appointee (PAs) positions soon as a cost-cutting and clean-up measure.

Many in the government are convinced the PAs should go, given that the national general election is just around the corner.

Up to 45 PAs could lose their jobs in the shake-up being foreshadowed.

It is understood the next level for the axe to fall on would be Permanent Secretary positions.

“The priority focus for the Prime Minister is to clean up the mess and to weed out non-performing individuals in the public sector, starting with the Office of the Prime Minister,” one source told Island Sun yesterday.

It is not clear how soon these measures would be undertaken, with observers warning time is against the Prime Minister’s programme of action.

“What I want Prime Minister Hou to put at the back of his mind is that he has no time to do what he’s announced he would do,” businessman and West Are’are community chief, Charles Karaori, told Island Sun yesterday.

“My message to the Prime Minister is that some of the people around him are not there to help him. These people are there to frustrate the process so that nothing moves forward,” Mr Karaori said.

“Prime Minister Hou must be aware of this and the people I am talking about. If it means removing these people, the Prime Minister must do so, before he is overtaken by events,” he said.

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