Sierra Leone Telegraph: 05 December 2017
Former Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden who was recently sacked by president Koroma for standing up against corruption in Sierra Leone, has described recent reports in some local tabloids as “unfortunate”. She said that it is because of her persistence, that the ministry is under serious investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for over a year, after personally handing over significant evidence of corruption to assist the ACC in their investigations.
Speaking to Awareness Times reporter, she said it is a surprise that some people are now calling on the ACC to commence an investigation that is already ongoing.
“How can anyone make a call for the ACC to go and investigate that ministry when the ACC is already well embedded and investigating the ministry at my strong insistence for over one year now? It is just mischief and malice, behind such calls” Dr. Blyden said.
“I personally called the ACC into that Ministry. I called them in over and over again. Not once. Not twice. Not three times but so many, many, many times now over the past 18 or more months,” the former no-nonsense minister insisted.
“It is amusing, but also it is unfortunate to see how some tabloids are being used to play dirty politics. I am not afraid of any controversy in this world, but I must say that it is disgraceful to read an editor’s unsubstantiated trash published with my photo as front-page news,” Dr. Blyden expaliend.
“You look at the sensational headline and it has no link to the actual text of the article. Maybe those editors are not aware that the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has been under investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission for over one year now,” she says.
She said there is a reason why they call her the “lone czar” in fighting corruption. This is because she insists that she possibly has singlehandedly forwarded the highest number of corruption cases to the ACC than any other State official.
“So I laugh when I read some headlines planted by those who are frustrated that my sacking as minister has skyrocketed my popularity and not diminished it as they had wished” Dr. Blyden said.
She sarcastically mocked her detractors that they should prepare to write some more “because this Teflon Politician has far more popularity to unveil”.
It is understood that few days before she was sacked on November 23rd 2017, Dr. Sylvia Blyden had forwarded yet another complaint to the ACC against one of the Ministry’s Directors. This time, over a missing amount of $10,000 from Ethiopia; knowledge of which had been hidden away from her. This latest corruption in the ministry is likely to cause the State to lose even more thousands of dollars before the end of this December month.
“It is true that the ACC has received a significant number of complaints of corruption sent to us by the former Social Welfare Minister Dr. Sylvia Blyden over the past 15 months and we are working on investigating all her complaints forwarded to us. The Ministry has many Notices under the Anti Corruption Act which have been served on many of the staff already. We have constraints with resources and also staff constraints that slow investigations down but we take each complaint with seriousness. To get a case ripe for prosecution takes diligence so we are diligently investigating all the claims around that Ministry,” a source at the ACC told Awareness Times reporters last Friday.
The Deputy Minister of that ministry who was also sacked recently, had gone on a local radio 98.1 to report that six billion Leones had gone missing at the Ministry under Dr Blyden’s stewardship. She said she had evidence to substantiate her claims. The whole country has been waiting for the evidence from the deputy minister but all to no avail. It is now widely accepted that persons uncomfortable with Blyden’s natural appeal and connection with the voting public, are devising means of demonising her to kill her popularity.
Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday morning about their investigations into corruption at the ministry of social welfare, a senior official at the ACC confirmed that they are nearing completion of their investigations.
He said that: “Regarding the AFCOM corruption allegations, they have completed 98% of their investigations; the Hajj investigations into the unlawful withdrawal of thousands of dollars from the ministry’s bank account is now 99% completed; investigations into the recent Hajj case involving the alleged sale of tickets and passports by State House officials is 95% completed, with over $60,000 and Le300 million recovered.
Questioned as to why the ACC investigations were taking so long to complete, he said that the organisation is seriously struggling due to capacity – lack of resources, especially staff.
“We have about 48 investigators working across the country and this is grossly insufficient, given the massive task we are faced with.
“But we remain steadfast and confident that we will soon complete all our investigations into allegations of corruption at the ministry of social welfare and charges will be brought,” he told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.