Sierra Leone Telegraph: 8 July 2015
Calls for an investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into the violation of the country’s procurement laws by the minister of transport for the purchasing of 100 buses from China are growing, with increasing allegation of corruption and contract kickbacks.
This blatant violation of the public procurement regulations comes just months after the publication of the Auditor General’s report into the missing $14 million Ebola funds, which showed that contracts were arbitrarily awarded to contractors without due process, valued at millions of dollars.
The Ebola report also exposed massive fraud, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.
In response to accusations of corruption and impropriety, the Koroma government says that most of the $14 million had to be hurriedly spent, without keeping proper records and by-passing procurement laws because of the need to respond to the unfolding Ebola crisis.
Whilst this lame excuse is seen by many as woefully unconscionable and unacceptable, there are serious concerns now as to what the government’s excuse is this time, with regards the spending of $12 million on 100 buses, without going out to competitive tendering as required by Law.
Speaking yesterday about his role in facilitating the purchase and importation of the buses, the transport minister said: “This is what you do when you are committed to your job and to your government.”
Perhaps the minister ought to be reminded about the oath of office that he took. No minister – What you do when you are committed to your job and to your government, is to obey the law – not violate it with impunity. (Photo: Transport Minister – Balogun Koroma).
So, now that the $12 million buses have finally made their way to Freetown and commissioned by president Koroma, it is important that the government comes clean and answer the following questions:
Why was the procurement regulation not followed? Whose decision was it to set aside the procurement regulation? Was the president informed, when and by whom? Did president Koroma approve the decision not to go out to competitive tender?
The minister of transport must make public, by publishing all relevant documents pertaining to the awarding of the contract to the preferred supplier, in accordance with the Freedom of Information legislation.
Readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph are calling upon the Anti-Corruption Commissioner (Photo) to conduct an investigation into the procurement of the 100 buses; in particular to hold those responsible for violating the country’s procurement regulations accountable in court.
The ACC must bring criminal charges against those suspected of abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds relating to the purchasing of the 100 buses, including bribery and corruption.
Readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph are further calling upon the office of the Auditor General to conduct full and comprehensive audit into the purchasing of the 100 buses. In particular, to determine whether value for money was the primary factor for the government in deciding on the preferred supply.
Also, Readers are calling upon the Auditor General to satisfy herself and the public that best value has been achieved by the tax payer, and that the decision to purchase and add an additional 100 buses to the already congested traffic is the best solution to solving the capital’s chronic traffic congestion and transportation problems.
The Auditor General needs to be satisfied that the government could not have made concerted effort and take appropriate spatial measures to eradicate congestion in the capital.
(Photo: Are these the same buses the public were told to expect? See photo below).
Readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph are also expecting the Auditor General to satisfy herself and the public, that the decision by the government to spend $12 million on 100 buses, is a prudent economic policy, rather than creating the necessary economic conditions and enablers for private sector operators to invest in new buses.
Clearly, the commissioning of the 100 buses was a politically divisive affair, suggesting that the government is more interested in boosting the electoral capital of the ruling APC party, rather than addressing the genuine needs of the country.
According to local media: “Some of the buses are painted in the national colours of green, white and blue, but many people have criticised the painting of some of the buses in red. There was jubilation among many government officers and onlookers, with the singing of the APC party song when the buses were offloaded.”
This cannot be good for the promotion of peace and political stability in Sierra Leone. Is Sierra Leone going communist?