3 July 2012
When the World Bank and the European Union, just weeks ago, gave funding to the government of Sierra Leone, amounting to $23 million to help boost the country’s public sector, there was overwhelming suspicion that the money will only end up in the pockets of a few sacred cash cows.
That suspicion cannot be too far from the truth. President Koroma’s cash for votes saga continues.
In the last two months, president Koroma has awarded huge salary increases for a handful of top public officials that are key to guaranteeing his electoral victory in November.
According to the World Bank, announcing the approval of funding last week in Washington – USA; “the $17 million is meant to execute a program of activities that will further the implementation of Sierra Leone’s Medium-Term Public Sector Reform (MTPSR) program of activities consisting Pay Reform, Recruitment and Staffing and Performance Management.”
But with general and presidential elections just four months away, a major political row is now brewing, as the country’s main opposition party – the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP) call into question the rationale and judgement of president Koroma, in making such huge pay awards – so close to elections.
There are compelling suspicions that World Bank, the EU and other international donor funds are now being used to help president Koroma bankroll his election campaign.
Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in the world and cannot feed itself. Children are dying of common illnesses, which with the availability of medicines and adequate care, such needless loss of life would not occur.
Low paid public sector workers, such as; refuse collectors, nurses, teachers, junior police and army officers, are being told they cannot get their salaries on time, because government has no money.
Yet, our report last week, shows that; two months ago, the president awarded the speaker of the country’s parliament a massive pay rise, which brought his salary to that of the president and equivalent to what David Cameron earns as the British prime minister.
Yesterday, we are told that the head of the country’s electoral commission too, has received a massive pay increase, bringing her salary to Le30 million.
The president’s basic salary, excluding allowances is Le28 million, plus an additional monthly housing cash benefit of $10,000.
But these reckless, unscheduled and profligate budgetary spending, do go beyond being bad for an economy that is on life support, and has to rely on donor funds to survive.
These salary increases are about buying political favours, ahead of the polls in November.
Dr. Sama Banya – an opposition SLPP senior politician, told the Sierra Leone Telegraph, that; “Christiana Thorpe should only have been rewarded after the November presidential, parliamentary and local government elections. If she comes clean, I would be the first among those who would recommend her – not only for a rise, but also for a bonus.”
This is what Dr. Banya said, as the political row takes momentum:
“In the Monday, 2 July, 2012, edition of the Global Times newspaper, the publisher and managing editor referred to the almost persistent critical reference to the chief electoral commissioner – Christiana Thorpe by the leadership of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).
With the best intentions Sorie Fofana, whom I never address by any other name than ‘Manjoroka’, admonishes us. Aren’t I the number one offender?
Yes, he admonishes us to let off on Christiana Thorpe, with particular reference to our objection to her proposed salary raise to some THIRTY MILLION LEONES a month.
My editor without implying it to be a subtle threat, reminds us that we are in an election year, which elections will be conducted under the overall supervision of Ms. Thorpe, with recently acquired authority that she didn’t have before.
Manjoroka is aware of the very high esteem in which I hold him and his colleague editors who are the guardians of my “Puawui” column.
But with regard to his reference to doctor Christiana Thorpe, I have to say that with the utmost respect I disagree with him.
She should only have been rewarded, after the conduct and RESULTS of the November Presidential, Parliamentary and local government elections.
If she comes clean, I would be the first among those who would recommend her, not only for a rise, but also for a bonus.
But for now, she really doesn’t deserve any commendation, let alone a rise in personal emolument.
In fact, in other countries where moral principles are taken into consideration in such matters, she should NOT have either been reappointed or, she should of her own free will, have politely turned down his Excellency’s offer.
It was the former President Tejan-Kabbah who appointed Ms. Thorpe to the position; she would be the first to admit that during our tenure at state house, not once did we attempt to influence the former nun, or persuade her to do anything she thought was wrong.
And yet, in broad daylight she robbed us of the result of the Presidential runoff election in 2007.
She and her Italian computer wizard – Carlos Valenzuela, cooked the results, after she and her cabal – Algassimu Jah and Daphne Olu Williams, had illegally invalidated the results of 477 polling stations – mostly in our SLPP stronghold of the east and parts of the south.
And the final results she hastily put together did not tally either.
Yet, she still went ahead and declared the then opposition candidate as the winner.
Apart from robbing our party of victory, her action brought in the most divisive regime that this country has had.
The government was and remains one sided, in favour of a particular region and even ethnic group.
There was rampant sacking of SLPP appointees, some of whose conditions of service did not warrant their being discarded like used pieces of clothes.
What was most immoral was the sacking of two electoral commissioners, who had refused to participate in Ms. Thorpe’s unholy scheme.
They had NOT served under the incoming President, for him to have sacked them without any ceremony and to withhold their benefits.
Later, her two conspirators were forced to quit. His Excellency saw nothing wrong in all of that.
The president instead went ahead to reappoint Christiana Thorpe, despite the objections of the main opposition. And she on her part accepted the nomination.
Even as Manjoroka is pleading on her behalf, there are discrepancies with the current voter registration results.
There is the report that over 31,000 finger print cards are missing; that ward 385 voter cards have found their way to Pujehun, and that there are 41 BVR centres with no data.
These may be mechanical problems, but does an English proverb not say: “once bitten, twice shy?”
Or as we would say in my village; “If you have been the victim of a snake bite before, at the sight of even a round worm, you either pick up a stick with which to smash it’s head or you advise yourself to run away.”
Therefore when my editor asks; “Is this the way to treat Christiana Thorpe?” My answer is an unequivocal ‘YES’.”