Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23rd August 2021:
Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commissioner has lost any shred of credibility left. All pretence of independence and adhering to the rule of law has been put aside. These days, Ben Kaifala is not usually seen with his bounty hunters, the so called ‘Scorpion Unit.’ His sights are now firmly on the Freetown Municipality, which is crucial to the SLPP’s efforts towards a second term in office.
President Bio’s ineptitude and abuse of office are evident to all Sierra Leoneans, even to those who were willing to given him a chance, believing that he had experienced a Damascus Road conversion at some point in his twenty-two years in the political wilderness and unemployment.
His government’s decision through the Bank of Sierra Leone to redenominate the Leone, is yet another farcical attempt to hoodwink voters that under his leadership, hyperinflation will be brought under control. This is simply another evidence of his ineptitude on economic issues.
President Bio’s incompetence puts undue pressure on those running MDAs like the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone and the Anti-Corruption Commissioner, to direct all state resources towards securing election success. Thus, Mayor Aki-Sawyer has become the primary focus of Ben Kaifala’s attention.
Instead of investigating allegations by Chernor Bah of the Africanist Press, about hundreds of millions of Leones, allegedly withdrawn from the Bank of Sierra Leone by the Office of the First Lady, Ben Kaifala’s priority has been on payments of Le200 million made in relation to costs of official travel of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit Team Lead, and highlighted in the 2019 Audit Report.
The Audit Report noted on Page 91 that – ‘During 2019, the Council made total payments of Le200,942,333 for air tickets and per diems to individuals that are not staff of the Council. Additionally, back to office reports and evidence of the transfer of knowledge to Council staff regarding the travels undertaken were not submitted for audit inspection.
Mayor Aki-Sawyer was summoned to answer questions by the ACC on 15th July 2021, a day before she left Freetown for the UK. The timing of the ACC summons appears to have given the impression that the mayor had done a runner and will not be returning to her job.
Unfortunately, Ben Kaifala’s efforts was futile, as Mayor Aki-Sawyer has continued to do her job, by highlighting the impact of heavy rains which damaged property on Owen Street, tree planting measures and street cleaning campaigns in Freetown, as well as commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Regent mudslide, which the government did not acknowledge.
Mayor Aki-Sawyer also met with the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, which shows that despite Ben Kaifala’s muck raking, her reputation for integrity and good governance remains undiminished.
Sierra Leoneans will want to understand why Ben Kaifala continues to waste public resources by pursuing Mayor Aki-Sawyer, when she has already clarified that the Consultant who heads the Mayor’s Delivery Unit is funded by Irish Aid and is tasked with the responsibility of mobilising donor funds for FCC.
In that capacity, the consultant is entitled to have her travel costs funded by the FCC, as was one Mr Paul Massaquoi, who worked in the Office of the First Lady as highlighted in the 2019 Audit Report.
The Auditor General noted in page 434, that a Daily Subsistence Allowance (i.e., per diem) of US$2,160 was paid to a Mr Paul Massaquoi as part of the delegation of the Office of the First Lady during a visit to Niamey, Niger to attend the 23rd Oaflad Ordinary General Assembly.
The Secretary to the President’s response to the Auditor General’s query on this matter was that, Mr Massaquoi was offering technical advice to the Office of the First Lady. He was not on the regular payroll; and that it was deemed appropriate to give him financial support.
It therefore begs the question, if Mr Massaquoi’s travel at the public’s expense for zero tangible benefit to the lives of ordinary Sierra Leonean is justified, why is the ACC hell bent on pursuing the payment and per diem to the Mayor’s Delivery Unit’s Team Lead, who is working her socks off, to help transform Freetown?
Ben Kaifala needs to explain what he is doing to pursue the Le177 billion in Cash Losses reported in the 2019 Audit Report, as well as funds managed by NaCOVERC, which the Auditor-General’s Report for March to June 2020, highlighted the following anomalies:
- Procurement of 30 Motorbikes for the ONS, for Le651 Million
- Misuse of Public Funds by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation of Le5,216,400
- Procurement of 100 Bikes and 30 Vehicles by the MTA of Le20 billion
- Procurement of 60 Motorbikes for RSLAF costing Le1.3 billion
- Procurement of Goods and Services by the Finance Team of IHPAU of Le143,950,000
- Procurement of 40 Motorbikes for the SLP worth Le868 million
- Payments without Adequate Supporting Documents of Le3.1 billion
- Suppliers Payment of Le124.7 million made through a Staff Member,
- NaCOVERC paid Le6.2 billion as allowances without even a Basic Human Resource system in place.
Ben Kaifala should understand that the Mayor of Freetown is not like the schoolteachers who he paraded in handcuffs carrying placards, admitting their guilt, without any due process. So much for his credentials as a human rights lawyer.
Freetonians elected the mayor resoundingly in 2021 and they applaud her efforts and her unflinching commitment to accountability and transparency. Freetonians are conscious of the fact that the municipality is the second largest electoral constituency, after the Presidency, and they will not allow the ACC to orchestrate a campaign to malign the mayor for political gain. Paopa get ihn limit.