Sierra Leone Telegraph: 26 August 2018:
An order for the arrest of the former head of Sierra Leone’s immigration service – Mr Kholifa Koroma, has been issued by police in Sierra Leone to INTERPOL.
The order for his arrest comes amid accusations of widespread fraud and corruption at the immigration service under his watch, including the unlawful issuing of Sierra Leone diplomatic passport to non-authorised government officials and private individuals.
An official at the Sierra Leone’s Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that the ACC has launched what he referred to as Operation “Eagle Claw” to help root out corrupt officials in various government departments.
Over a dozen people involved with producing and issuing service passports for people who are not in government service have so far been arrested.
Those arrested as part of president Julius Maada Bio’s drive to tackle corruption in Sierra Leone, include officials in the Immigration Service, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Administrator General’s office and private individuals.
In October 2014, Kholifa Koroma announced that 20,000 (Twenty thousand ) passports had arrived in the country from the United Kingdom, and will be made available to the public.
According to the ACC, an order for the arrest of Mr Kholifa Koroma was made after a government report published by the Governance Transition Team (GTT) recommended that “the issuance of Diplomatic passports be urgently reviewed and that the former Chief Immigration Officer, Kholifa Koroma, be investigated for his alleged complicity in the issuance of Diplomatic passports to hundreds of ineligible holders.
And that, “If sold to outsiders, the diplomatic passports could fetch millions of dollars. The former Chief Immigration Officer must be made to account for those passports.”
This is what the GTT report says about the illegal sale or issuing of the country’s passport:
In December 2013, the Government signed a new contract with Netpage, which purportedly represents the old British firm, Thomas de la Rue, to produce epassports for the GoSL. Thomas de la Rue has been under contract with the GoSL since February 2000 to supply machine-readable passports and their associated issuing system for Sierra Leone.
Jamel Shallop, a Lebanese businessman, owns Netpage, which purportedly provides Thomas de la Rue’s services in Sierra Leone. The new contract was for the purchase of “passport issuing and personalization” from Thomas de la Rue to enable Sierra Leone to “migrate from readable passports to ePassports, and the design of new ePassports.”
The total contract cost amounted to £2,195,360, of which the Government paid £1,680,641 upon signing the agreement. The other substantive terms of the contract are simply bizarre. All funds from the sale of the passports were to be given to Jamel Shallop and Co.
Netpage and the Government of Sierra Leone would earn only the Le 10,000 that citizens pay to obtain the passport application form.
The company, in other words, though paid for the service, benefits up to US $100 per passport fee that citizens’ pay to actually obtain a new passport, and GoSL gets only about $1.25.
The GTT strongly recommends the contract with De la Rue and its supposed service provider company Netpage, be urgently reviewed.
Moreover, a verification exercise conducted by the GTT, of the issuance of 1,179 diplomatic passports, revealed that hundreds of ineligible citizens were granted diplomatic passports and that dozens of those passports could not be accounted for.
Two official directives – a 1998 Cabinet Conclusion and a 2007 declaration by President Koroma – restricted ownership of diplomatic passports to the President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament, Chief Justice, cabinet ministers and deputy ministers, diplomatic representatives and Members of Parliament (this last category was added by President Koroma’s Directive).
However, a list of diplomatic passport holders obtained by the GTT shows such luminaries as ‘housewives’ of senior APC leaders, their business associates and sundry other categories of persons holding diplomatic passports.
The GTT recommends that the issuance of Diplomatic passports be urgently reviewed and that the former Chief Immigration Officer, Kholifa Koroma, be investigated for his alleged complicity in the issuance of Diplomatic passports to hundreds of ineligible holders.
If sold to outsiders, the diplomatic passports could fetch millions of dollars. The former Chief Immigration Officer must be made to account for those passports.
Thanks to the new administration for the great work they are doing. The Citizens of Sierra Leone deserve a better way of life like any other developed country in the world.
They must pay. Sierra Leone must be free from thieves, criminals, stealing from the poor. This new direction will catch up with all of them. We will cooperate with the Anti-corruption commission and give names of people to be investigated.
Am very happy about the new direction. I have been wishing this for over two decades, that brought me out from my lovely motherland. When I was in my country, I prayed fervently for a leader who can have the country at heart. Because too many innocent souls have suffered under people that call themselves blessed. Papa government remove us from shame. Let us know that God is for everyone. Thanks.
The former government was very corrupt. Stealing is their game. Even those in the local government positions stole all district and chiefdoms funds to better themselves. EBK can’t do nothing.
Contractors were not doing what the contracts specified. Sierra Leone’s passport is all over the world: Lebanon, Syria, Nigeria, etc. Is pathetic. They must be dealt with to set brighter example to all those criminals. Public funds meant for rehabilitating people, went into the criminals’ pockets which was then used to build their houses. Too bad.
It is about time corruption is stamped out in Sierra Leone. These corrupt officials are placed in office by the white supremacist system that govern our world. But I’m happy to hear something is being done to replace corruption with justice.
Mr. Anderson, I do appreciate you comment regarding “corruption” in Sierra Leone. It can be wiped out, if Sierra Leoneans so desire.
But to blame game the white man does not to us any good. Sierra Leone has been an independent state for 57 or 58 years, and a Republican state since 1971. We, Sierra Leoneans created the demon of corruption. It has been part and parcel of our society for decades. If you can recollect the word ” mass-mass”, “shake-hand”, or ‘brown envelope’ or ‘tell adu”. This is not done by white supremacist. It is done by ourselves, because We do not love ourselves and our country.
The blame game cannot or will not resolve corruption. My opinion is this, that we go back to the era of Brigadier Juxon Smith. He arrested a Lebanese business man, who took a “brown envelope – tell adu” to him and the money returned back to the treasury.
If President Bio and his wife could effect this, corruption will be dealt with. But if he and his wife are encouraging “brown envelope”, then corruption can never, or will never be eradicated. The fight must start from the top. When the one at the helm starts, then the rest of us will follow.
Futhermore, income inequality causes poverty, which in turn encourages corruption. Corruption is the will of those who practise it.
Finally, We Sierra Leone need to take control of our economic activities. For over 50 years, we have allowed the Lebanese man and other foreigners to control our economy. Pa Shaki used Jamil to siphon money out of the country. Where is the money today?
In order for Sierra Leone to develop, our government needs to restrict the Lebanese from our diamond and gold producing areas. Sierra Leoneans are treated as slaves in Lebanon. They steal from us and take the proceeds back to develop Lebanon.
Let us pray for President Bio and his team to do what is right and good for our people. We should also pray for Mr. Ben Kaifala – for God to keep him safe.