President names new ministers amid questions of impropriety

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 February 2013

President koroma - Feb 2013President Koroma has named his last cohort of ministers, whom he says, will assist him in implementing his ‘Agenda for Prosperity’.

The dust may be settling on that list, but chins are still wagging.

Several questions are being asked, about the moral backbone of many of those he has appointed to take up public office.

Some of his ministers from his last cabinet, who themselves have questionable past, have been reappointed. This has prompted critics to once again accuse the president of failing in his duty to safeguard the public’s interest and show strong leadership.

The emotive issue of tribalism, has also, once again raised its ugly head. The president, critics argue, is continuing to demonstrate that he is incapable of breaking the yoke of ethnic bias in the country.

He is accused of cementing his policy of Northernisation at the expense of national cohesion.

But it is his decision to appoint to office, politicians whose character and record remains blemished, as questions of impropriety and criminality go answered with impunity, that is now making the news.

alpha kanu2Critics are pointing fingers at the new ‘megaphone’ Information Minister – Alhaji Alpha Kanu, who several years ago, ran a company that was responsible for the death of a pilgrim, who amongst several others, was left stranded on transit to Mecca.

His company had failed to spend the cash it had been paid to ensure the pilgrims arrived safely in Mecca. The Alhaji was not charged or indicted for the crime, because of his political connections.

He has now been appointed as the new Information Minister, to stand on a soap box and moralise on behalf of the president.

IB KARGBO - 2012The former Information Minister – Alhaji Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, now appointed as Special Adviser to the Office of the President, is being accused of failing to give account for over $20 million of World Bank’s funding.

The money was supposed to have been invested by his Ministry to upgrade the country’s information technology highway, using fibre optics.

Dr  Samura Kamara 20131The former Finance Minister – Dr. Samura Kamara, now serving as Foreign Minister, has walked away with impunity – from serious questions, raised in the Report of the National Audit Office. Millions of Dollars are missing.

The Report is littered with evidence, regarding the disappearance of the missing millions, for which no one has been held accountable.

kemoh seasyA former Minister of Transport – another Alhaji, Kemoh Sesay, whose brother was involved in the smuggling of a plane load of cocaine into the country, caused serious international embarrassment and furore.

He was then sacked from office, but has now been appointed once again by the president, to serve as Political and Public Affairs Minister. Is he beyond reproach?

His reappointment has prompted questions as to how the public’s affairs could be best served by a minister, whose role in the biggest cocaine scandal to hit the country, remains shrouded in secrecy.

richard konteh2Also, the former Minister of Trade and Industry – Mr. Richard Konteh, now appointed to the office of Chief of Staff at State House, is being accused of the abuse of office and corruption.

He unlawfully took personal possession of one of several farming tractors, bought by the government to assist farmers in the country to increase food production.

The tractor is said to have been used by the minister at his newly built Guest House in Makeni for personal use.

The National Audit Report speaks volumes of the government’s failed policy of distributing much needed farming seeds and equipment, to poor farmers in the country.

A new ministerial mansionMinister Konteh has also been accused of failing to account for the several mansions he has built in the capital Freetown, since his appointment as minister in 2007.

Despite calls by civil society groups and the local media for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate those allegations, no action has been brought by the police or the ACC.

The accusations of impropriety and impunity are not only coming from critics of the Koroma government. They are also being made by highly loyal, pro-government media journalists.

Writing in his Salone Monitor publication, Editor-in-Chief – Joseph Sherman is accusing the president of appointing people with dodgy track record to ministerial office.

JOSEPH SHERMANJoseph Sherman (Photo) is a former editor of the pro-ruling APC government newspaper – Cocorioko.

Cocorioko is owned by one of president Koroma’s appointed Ministers of Plenipotentiary – Kabbs Kanu, based in the USA.

Sherman’s toxic writings against the country’s main opposition SLPP – in 2007 and 2012 respectively, contributed immensely in president Koroma’s election victories.

But today, he has decided to break ranks and speak out. This is what he said this week in his newspaper, accusing the president:

“When we look at the appointments you have included in your government, people who have been critiques of your government and political prostitutes and those who have squandered public funds, it leaves us in the Diaspora to question what wisdom you used to appoint such individuals.”

Mr. Sherman went on to quote former vice-president in Siaka Stevens’ government – Mr.S.I.Koroma:

“When you allow a baboon to go upstairs, the first sign of gratitude it will show to those that lifted it, is its red buttocks.”

Sherman said: “This saying is reminiscence of the APC government of President Koroma, whose evil machinations and old dirty tricks of showing ingratitude to the APC chapters of the Diaspora is crystal clear.”

Sherman has now attracted the ire of senior members of the ruling party and beneficiaries of president Koroma’s foibles – ‘who sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil’.

Several critics in and out of the country have also accused the president of cementing his divisive ethnic policy of Northernisation, which he started in 2007.

In his latest cabinet appointments, he has ensured that the majority of his ministers are from his northern districts and that of the vice-president.

But answering to critics, the ‘questionable’ Information Minister – Alhaji Alpha Kanu, has gone on local radio to pour scorn at what is fast becoming a national debate: the credibility and integrity of those appointed to serve in public office.

“It is not just about the election turnout and support, but the ability and capacity of the nominee, devoid of any tribal and regional factors”, said minister Kanu. “The APC is here to deliver for everybody in the country” – he told reporters.

Speaking about his predecessor, the other Alhaji – Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, whose credibility is also being impeached, Alhaji Kanu said:

“Ibrahim Ben Kargbo was one of the best ministers we had; likewise Ambassador Dauda Kamara, who have both come with their wealth of experience to be advising the President.”

While the debate continues as to the honesty, integrity and credibility of many of those appointed by president Koroma to help deliver his much promised ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, what is certain is that few in the country trust their political leaders and those occupying public office.

What is also clear, is that this culture of public distrust, has today been nudged a few percentage points ahead, with the president’s latest appointment of his cabinet ministers, many of whom will fail a lie detector test.

Poverty in saloneWhat chance has the president got of achieving the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’, when those charged with the sacred responsibility, of presiding over public funds, cannot be trusted?

When British Prime Minister – David Cameron chaired a UN High Level meeting on poverty in Liberia a few weeks ago, he echoed the voice of the many in Africa, who see the need to fight impunity and corruption in Sub-sahara Africa.

Has President Koroma got the message?

 

 

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