Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2018:
President Julius Maada Bio said yesterday that corruption in Sierra Leone is at a level that can destroy the nation “if we do not fight and win”.
He said this in response to yesterday’s launch of the Governance Transition Team Report at State House, which reveals massive levels of corruption by ministers and officials in the former government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma.
Chief Minister and Chair of the Governance Transition Team (GTT), Professor David John Francis, presented the report to the President before it was officially released.
The President had mandated the 13-man team that comprises of academics, experienced former civil servants and professionals from different backgrounds, two days after being sworn into office on April 4, to interface with the outgoing All Peoples Congress (APC) government, conduct an immediate assessment of the country’s state of affairs and to submit a report on its findings.
Addressing the audience of journalists, government officials, former government functionaries and members of the consular and diplomatic corps, the GTT chairman drawing from the executive summary of the report, said they have uncovered evidence of egregious infractions by the former government.
“An astonishing level of fiscal indiscipline and rampant corruption by the former APC Government of President Ernest Koroma had led to the near-collapse of Sierra Leone’s economy by the time the Government of President Julius Maada Bio was sworn into office,” he said.
He noted that apart from the fact that 14.4% of the country’s GDP was wasted, external debt at he time APC were booted out of office was $1.6 billion, domestic debt was at US$658 million, partly caused by bloated salaries and other compensation for government employees amounting to US $263 million.
“Besides, the State’s liabilities as at 30 March 2018 amounted to US $3.7 billion. Inflation as at March 2018 was 17.2% while on the whole economic growth dropped from 6% in 2016 to 3.7% in 2017,” he lamented.
He disclosed that as a consequence, the APC government was unable to close the fiscal gap and adhere to agreed actions under the Extended Credit Facility, leading to the suspension of disbursement of both budgetary and balance of payment support by the IMF to Sierra Leone in 2017.
The report, in addition to making specific recommendations as to how governance can be improved across all ministries, departments and agencies, also specifically asked that the Auditor General undertakes special audit of all MDAs to look at how public assets and funds were utilised by the former APC Government. (Photo: Former president Koroma presided over grotesque levels of corruption in his government).
Key suggestions were that the government should immediately institute a Judge-led special commission of inquiry with a limited timeframe and mandated to recover all stolen wealth, inappropriate conversion of state funds and other assets by officials of the APC Government.
It added that the said Commission should recommend for prosecution and seek explanations from former officials under Section 26 of the Anti-Corruption Act dealing with ‘unexplained wealth’, if it determines them to have accumulated such wealth during their time in public office.
Responding to the publication of the report yesterday, the opposition APC accuses the SLPP government of witch hunt. It says that it will be studying the report closely with a view to publishing its full response soon.
But in the meantime, questions are being asked by the people of Sierra Leone about how Billions of Dollars can be stolen and mismanaged by elected politicians and public servants to enrich themselves, their families and friends, in a country where poverty and poor health kills two out of every five children, before their fifth birthday.
It is estimated that the government of Sierra Leone loses over One Billion Dollars in revenue through corruption every year, and has to rely on foreign aid for over 40% of its annual spending budget.
Many in Sierra Leone are calling for long custodial sentences – imprisonment of all those found guilty of corruption.
You can read the Transition Report here: