Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 January 2018:
World Bank Country Manager of Sierra Leone – Mr Parminder Brar is no stranger to controversy. He is fast becoming the vice president or ex-officio minister in the limping koroma government. A few days ago, he made another mockery of himself whilst delivering a political speech in Freetown in defence of the Koroma government.
Elections are due in Sierra Leone in just a few weeks, as political tension continues to rise in the country, in what has been described as the most hotly contested ballot since Sierra Leone gained independence in 1961.
But Mr Brar has shown time and again, his sheer lack of political sensitivity. And one wonders how he became qualified for such an important job at the World Bank. So how did he step the mark this time?
Speaking early this week at the opening of a new housing scheme in Freetown, alongside president Koroma, Brar warned the people of Sierra Leone not to accuse president Koroma and his government of stealing funds meant for mudslide victims. “Let no one accuse this government of stealing funds, because I know they have not,” he said, with confidence.
This man is disingenuous, dishonest, and has lost the trust of the people of Sierra Leone.
Dozens of readers of the Sierra Leone Telegraph have contacted this medium, expressing their disgust at Mr Brar’s political meddling, and naked support for a corrupt African president, who has presided over hundreds of thousands of deaths in the country, because of corruption.
When a World Bank official becomes a foot-soldier and election campaign mouthpiece for a failed and corrupt government in Africa, then one must ask questions about their role in the post-colonial development of Africa.
Take Mr. Parminder Brar – a World Bank official from the Indian subcontinent, who many in Sierra Leone believe has acquired unexplained wealth in the last few years, working in Sierra Leone. He is believed to have leveraged millions of dollars in contracts and dodgy deals for his Indian counterparts who are doing business in Sierra Leone.
Is Parminder Brar afraid of losing his gravy train after a change of government at elections that are due in a few weeks? Is he desperate to keep the Koroma government in power to protect his loot?
Mr Parminder Brar is suspected of having shares in key foreign businesses registered and operating in the country, including mining. But is that a good enough reason to risk all that the World bank has achieved in Sierra Leone, by getting involved in Sierra Leone’s politics – so close to election?
If Mr Parminder Brar thinks that protecting and putting his personal financial interests ahead of his World Bank job is a good enough reason to become president Koroma’s ex-officio minister of finance and elections spokesman, then he must resign his job at the World Bank now, or be recalled by his bosses in Washington.
He can no longer be seen as an honest and independent broker in Sierra Leone’s economic development. He cannot be a catalyst for change in Sierra Leone, now that he has become part of the problem that the people of Sierra Leone are trying to solve.
Sierra Leone’s national debt stands at over $3 Billion. And, hundreds of millions of dollars borrowed from the World Bank and other international financial institutions by the Koroma government, cannot be accounted for. What does Mr Brar have to say about that? Nothing, but dirty cover-up.
Talking about the millions of dollars donated to the Koroma government for victims of the deadly mudslide, which took place last August in Freetown, killing over one thousand people, Mr Brar – acting as Accountant General of the Koroma government said this, in response to those accusing the government of embezzling funds:
“No one must accuse this government of stealing those funds because I know they have not. The funds have been well spent and the government has appointed an independent Auditor to audit the account.”
But Mr Brar did not provide any evidence as to how the millions of dollars have been spent, nor did he point the people of Sierra Leone where such evidence can be found. And if the evidence does exist, then he has failed to publish it on his World Bank website for all to see.
A few months ago, Mr Brar was shamelessly happy to stand in sunny and sweltering Freetown, to tell the World on behalf of president Koroma, that his government has performed brilliantly in managing the economy, since coming to power in 2007.
But what he did not say, is that in ten years, hundreds of thousands of people in Sierra Leone have died needlessly because of abject poverty, including over 4,000 that died of preventable Ebola virus in 2014.
Sierra Leone is ranked as one of the poorest nations in the world, despite the World Bank and international partners pouring over $30 Billion in foreign aid and other assistance in Sierra Leone, since president Koroma took office in 2007.
Unemployment in Sierra Leone is over 70%, with fewer than three in ten young people able to find lucrative employment in the country. Pregnant women and children aged under five, are dying needlessly because of poor healthcare.
Mr Parminder Brar – acting as ex-officio Finance Minister in the Koroma government is personally presiding over one of the most corrupt and poorly governed nations in the world. Perhaps he should officially join the ruling APC party, where he will be granted a party symbol to contest the forthcoming general elections, after becoming a naturalised citizen of Sierra Leone.
Being a foreigner will not be a problem as long as he is a member of the ruling APC party, where the president will be prepared to turn a blind eye on the Constitutional requirement for contesting elections and being appointed to ministerial positions, as the president has done over the past ten years with impunity.
Should Mr Brar fail to resign his World Bank position in Sierra Leone so that he can officially work for president Koroma as his political adviser, he must be recalled by his bosses in Washington immediately.
Mr Brar’s decision to meddle in Sierra Leone’s politics, especially so close to general and presidential elections, is not only unacceptable, but dangerous. He must leave now.
In response to the mudslide disaster in Freetown which took the lives of over 1,000 people, of which the remains of over 500 were never recovered, the World Bank announced immediate grant-in-aid package for Sierra Leone of about US$13 million.
US$10 million was to support the government’s budgetary requirements, and $3 million to pay for so called existing projects, which no one knew about except president Koroma and the corrupt World Bank official – Mr. Brar.
The Koroma government has run out of cash to even pay public servants – such as teachers and nurses, let alone honour their financial obligations to private contractors.
The $13 million World Bank funding was also to help the country rebuild critical infrastructure that were damaged by the floods, especially the rehabilitation of the capital’s drinking water source – the Guma valley dam.
But today, hundreds of thousands of homes in the capital are still without adequate clean drinking water, while World bank official – Mr Brar is busy going out and about shamelessly campaigning for the re-election of president Koroma’s ruling APC party.
The World Bank says that it will be doubling its IDA funding for Sierra Leone for the next three years, which for the entire World Bank Group – IBRD, IDA, IFC, and MIGA, the total funding available for Sierra Leone will be more than US$500 million in the next three years. This is the cash Mr Barr and senior grandees of the ruling APC are hoping to get their hands on. Hence the desperation to hang on to power at any cost.
According to Mr Brar – this $500 million will include grants, loans and guarantees. The Bank team in Sierra Leone he said, will discuss priority areas for deployment with the government. These areas would include environmental protection, urban planning and improved land management. Another World Bank scam in Sierra Leone, presided over by Mr Brar to keep the people of Sierra Leone in abject poverty.
The World Bank has deployed a specialist Disaster Management Team in Freetown to work with the government, United Nations Agencies and other international and local organizations to assess the immediate, and short to medium term needs of the country.
Two World Bank Disaster Management Specialists are leading the team, yet today, hundreds of the flood disaster victims remain homeless. Many have returned to rebuild their lives at the disaster site.
Around twenty other World Bank sector specialists are working on this assignment along with experts from other agencies. The team have presented their recommendations to the Koroma government, but the report is now gathering dust at State House.
Both Mr Brar and president Koroma have set aside the effective running of the country, to focus on the re-election of the corrupt and inept ruling APC.
What happened to the $13 Million that the World Bank gave to president Koroma? Does Mr Brar know, or is he too busy campaigning for president Koroma and his cabal to remain in office? How much did Mr Brar receive from the $13 million for his efforts and for meddling in the politics of Sierra Leone?
Mr Brar must leave Sierra Leone now. He has become part of the problem in Sierra Leone, and cannot therefore be a part of the solution.
Listen to Parminder Brar speaking here: