Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 April 2018:
The numbers are eye-watering – $2 billion of foreign debt, Le4.9 trillion of internal debt and Le160 billion in domestic banks overdrafts. This was followed by the disappearance of about 4,000 government vehicles, which reads like the plot for the latest in the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ film franchise.
Then we are informed that all the gold and that nice furniture that used to be in the Presidential Lodge including the Canalettoes, allegedly disappeared.
These revelations have led to growing calls for the Bio administration to commence prosecutions against former APC politicians, including Ernest Bai Koroma.
One of the key demands of citizens, expressed in the 2018 Citizens’ Manifesto, required politicians and senior public officials to publicly declare their assets, prior to being sworn into office. This demand appears to have fallen on deaf eyes. (Photo: Former minister of information – Kanu, accused of corruption on a grand scale).
Two weeks into his administration, we are yet to see any public declaration of assets from President Bio and senior members of his administration, as well as Members of Parliament, Mayors and District Chairs of municipalities and Local Councillors.
Asset declaration is critical if governance arrangements in Sierra Leone are to be improved and if the industrial scale theft of public funds, as witnessed under the Koroma regime is to be prevented and we as citizens demand that this happens now.
If President Bio’s administration is serious about investigating members of the former APC government, including undertaking a forensic review of the mining concessions, road construction and other public contracts entered into by the APC government, he must come with clean hands and a public declaration of the assets and liabilities of the President, ministers and senior public servants and a commitment to doing so, every year will assure the public of their intent.
If President Bio and his ministers and officials fail to publicly declare their assets, it would be impossible for his administration to pursue anyone from the previous regime for corrupt acts.
But perhaps, Mr Bio is not interested in bringing prosecutions against members of the former government, as both the APC and SLPP are cut from the same cloth.
Since 2012, Bio himself and other senior members of the SLPP were on the payroll of the APC.
Bio’s homecoming in 2014, which was disguised as an “Ebola Sensitisation Tour” is a classic example, of how he was in the pocket of Ernest Koroma.
So, Bio maybe concerned that the APC may have enough information on him, to bring him and his administration into disrepute.
One suspects that there is a lot more, than Samura Kamara’s allegation of Bio’s theft of $18 million in 1996, which emerged during the Presidential debates.
Sierra Leoneans do not want to have a repeat of the same problems in five years’ time, to find that billions more have been added to our country’s external or internal debt and over-draft facilities.
They do not want more questionable contracts entered into with dodgy businessmen, which destroys local communities and only benefits a few.
Sierra Leoneans now want to see public funds used to provide goods and services which benefit the people, including healthcare, education, water, sanitation, electricity and jobs.
This is the change that the people seek, and it is the change that President Bio assured them he will deliver by putting Sierra Leone first.