Sierra Leone Telegraph: 29 January 2015
Once in every ten years, the government of Sierra Leone is required to carry out a head count of the entire population. And in three months time – April 2015, every village, town and city in the country, will have its population counted and characterised in accordance with a wide range of social and economic indicators.
But, what should be a straight forward and simple exercise is now fast turning into a political farce.
The government is being accused by various stakeholders, including civil society groups, of gross political interference and impropriety.
The ruling party, critics say, is not only politicising the census process, but is seriously undermining its integrity, simply to gain an unfair advantage at the forthcoming elections which are due in 2017.
Today, the former presidential candidate of the country’s main opposition SLPP party – Julius Maada Bio, has issued a strong statement, condemning president Koroma. This is what Bio says to president Koroma:
Sheriff Mahmud Ismail
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 January 2015
In April 2010, the government of Sierra Leone introduced the free healthcare initiative, abolishing user fees for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children less than five years of age in public health facilities. It also banned Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) from assisting deliveries.
The removal of user fees resulted in significant increases in hospital attendances and overstretched the under-equipped, under-staffed and poorly remunerated health sector in responding to the surge.
Besides, for most people in the hard-to-reach and medically under-served communities, the services of TBAs – in spite of the challenges with lack of formal training, are a lifeline to women in labour.
These two situations therefore threatened the improvements in maternal and child mortality, which the free healthcare initiative was expected to bring about.
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 January 2015
The latest figures released by the ministry of health in Sierra Leone suggests that daily average recorded number of new cases has dropped from about 60 in late December to about 10 in the last two weeks.
This is a remarkable drop of more than 80% in new cases, recorded on average every day, across the country.
But some medical experts in Freetown are disputing the ministry’s figures published since the end of December, 2014, when president Koroma took on a new determination to achieve zero new cases by March 2015.
It now seems the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) and officials at the ministry of health are working on all cylinders – massaging the figures, in order to achieve the president’s ambition – by all means necessary.
And this over-zealousness is being pursued, with the alarming under-reporting of the number of new cases, rates of transmission and deaths from Ebola.
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 January 2015
When the annals of the Koroma presidency are written after the 2017 elections, what will be remembered most, is the president’s lack of leadership skills and inability to make good and timely decisions.
Yet, few will question his loyalty to his foot soldiers and political allies that have stayed true to his cause.
Last Friday, with one mighty swoop of his pen, he was able at long last to find the courage to sack the country’s Chief Justice – Umu Tejan Jalloh, after months of public outcry and calls by the Anti-Corruption Commission for the Chief Justice to step down from office, having gone well past the retirement age.
Will she now be asked to refund every single penny she has collected from poor tax payers by way of salaries and other benefits, to which she clearly was not entitled? Will she be prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Commission for any possible allegation of fraud?
But the most shocking decision by the president last Friday, however, was his appointment of two of his foot soldiers, who are suspected to have been responsible for covering the truth about the scale of the Ebola crisis in the northern district of Koinadugu – Momoh Konteh and Mohamed N’fah-Alie Conteh.
Sheriff Mahmud Ismail
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 January 2015
Successive reports of the Auditor- General (AG) – (photo), have consistently identified non-compliance of procurement procedures as a serious challenge in the country’s public financial management system.
In the executive summary of the 2011 report, the AG stated that; “We encountered many instances of breaches in procurement procedures. Several significant lapses were observed … resulting in incomplete transactions and hence unsatisfactory service delivery.”
The 2012 report was even more critical. It says that “failure to comply with procurement laws and regulations remains endemic and is a bigger problem to tackle successfully”.
The report went on to relate those procurement failures to loss of revenue: “Our audit work on the Public Accounts and in MDAs suggests procurement deviations from laws and regulations amounting to Le24, 225,042,005.”
With those gloomy findings, one would expect that the 2013 report should have shown some improvement; rather, it makes for grim reading.
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 January 2015
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are warning that Ebola may be retreating, but hundreds of thousands of people are now facing hunger in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
According to a report published a month ago by WFP and FAO, the number of people facing food insecurity due to the Ebola epidemic in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone could top one million by March 2015.
Access to food must drastically be improved, and measures put in place to safeguard crop and livestock production in order to avert another disaster in those three countries, the report warns.
Border closures, quarantines, hunting bans and other restrictions are seriously hindering people’s access to food – threatening their livelihoods, disrupting food markets and processing chains, and exacerbating shortages stemming from crop losses in areas with the highest Ebola infection rates.
The loss of productivity and household income due to Ebola-related deaths and illness, as well as people staying away from work for fear of contagion, is compounding an economic slowdown in the three countries.