Sierra Leone children’s affairs minister Sylvia Blyden denies allegation of corruption
Sierra Leone Telegraph: 6 February 2017
After surviving weeks of verbal insults and death threats, Sierra Leone’s minister of children’s affairs is now being accused by a local newspaper of failing to account to parliament for Seven Hundred and Seven Million Leones, she allegedly received to run her ministry. (Photo: Minister Blyden in public engagement at her office today).
Despite strongly denying these allegations and parliament’s lack of interest in the story, it seems the knife is still out for the minster who many in Sierra Leone regard as one of the hardest working public officials in the country.
A senior public official working for the country’s legal aid board – Ibrahim Kallon, was last week arrested by police and charged to court for issuing death threats against minister Blyden as well as other serious offences. He has been granted bail, awaiting court appearance.
Minister Blyden is not taking these allegations of embezzling Le707 million lightly. She is speaking out. This is what she told the Sierra Leone Telegraph today.
“My attention has been drawn to yet another attempt to defame me by those who are scared of my growing popularity in Sierra Leone. However, our people are not fools. They know what’s happening.
“Now, when they read a new ‘scandal’ on BLYDEN, they just shake their heads, smile and cheer me on to continue doing my noble work. But as Obama has warned politicians, all social media propaganda must be debunked.
“So let me address the Monday 6 February 2017 edition of Andrew Keili’s SALONE TIMES newspaper, which has a very stupid article with the title “BLYDEN EXPOSED IN PARLIAMENT”. The entire text of the article is not in any way in tune with the sensational headline.
“Factually, I have requested to be invited by Parliament but I have not been invited by Parliament, so how can I get to be “exposed in Parliament”?
“Furthermore, there is absolutely nowhere in the entire text of that article where it says Parliament has demanded that Honourable Blyden has to account for Le707 million. There is in fact nowhere in the article published in Andrew Keili’s paper, wherein Blyden has been “exposed” for anything.
“The article is like the Shakespearean ‘tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.
“Let me again make it very clear that I do not know anything about the disbursement of the said sum of Le707 million which was requested prior to my taking office.
“However, I have investigated upon learning of this said Le 707 million.
I now know that prior to my arrival as Minister, a verbal arrangement with UNICEF for this 707 million was made in late February 2016, following which a formal request in writing was made on 11th March 2016, and then, according to UNICEF, they paid it to the Ministry on 2nd April 2016.
“I took up office on 7th April 2016, and no-one ever told me anything about a sum of Le707 million requested or disbursed.
“Just like Honourable Kombor Kamara who is quoted in the article, I am as well very eager to know more about how this 707 million Leones was expended.
“Let me also state that I inherited a tremendous amount of corruption in management and transfers of funds between UNICEF and my Ministry.
“I have put strong systems in place to stem this; much to the dislike of certain corrupt persons like the ones who criminally misled UNICEF to give them Le107 million for an illegitimate, unauthorized and faked-up anti-Bondo activities and religious workshop in Tonkolili.
“I have since blocked that hole they have been using to loot cash from UNICEF in the name of my Ministry.
Appearing in Parliament
“For several months now, since July 2016, I have been personally requesting to be summoned by the said Social Welfare Oversight Committee of Parliament, so I can make some startling revelations to the people of this country through our noble Parliament.
“Unfortunately, the Honourable Committee has not yet been able to invite me. I respect the distinguished chairman of the committee Honourable Hassan Sesay (Photo) and his entire honourable members.
“So despite the fact that they have not yet invited me for several months now that I have been vocally requesting to be invited, I am patiently waiting on them.
“I do know that I will one day be summoned and I am sure the House of Parliament will be jam-packed on that day of my appearance.
“I will certainly not let down those whom have reposed such high confidence in me as the Honourable Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, which includes the entire Honourable Parliamentarians and especially His Excellency the President.
“I am very eager to be invited and publicly account for my ten months stewardship of this sacred assignment as a Cabinet Minister. I can barely wait. I have so much to say to the people of this our great country through our noble Parliament.
“The bottom-line is that, I know nothing about how the 707 million Leones was spent. It was requested before my arrival and to all intents and purposes, it was all expended (CHOPPED FINISHED!!) before I even took up office.
“I am respectfully waiting for the Parliamentary Committee to invite me. I eagerly want to publicly speak about corruption in my Ministry. I want to speak to the people of Sierra Leone through their representatives in Parliament.”