Legalizing State corruption in Sierra Leone – Op-ed

Chernoh Alpha M. Bah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 November 2020:

Few weeks ago, we reported in the Africanist Press how Leadway Trading Company used containers rather than cubic meters as a unit of measurement thereby violating Section 3 of the Finance (Amendment) Act of 2018, leading to a deliberate undervaluation of revenues from timber exports by US$5.5 billion.

Of course, Leadway Trading, operated by Babadi Kamara, was issued a timber export monopoly license by President Julius Maada Bio in 2018 few months after he assumed office. Supporters of the Bio administration denied that Leadway Trading had actually violated the finance laws of the country by using containers instead of cubic meters to value timber exports, and that the company’s action cheated the country of much needed financial revenues.

Propagandists of the regime defended not only the corrupt monopoly contract awarded without tender and a bidding process by the presidency to Leadway Trading, a company run by an agent of the president, but they went as far as arguing that the container valuation process was legal.

Today, leading officials of the regime, having realized that they have robbed the country of its much needed revenues and acted without regard to its finance laws, are now seeking to legalize the undervaluing of timber exports by proposing to amend Section 3 of 2018 Finance Act, the very law they already violated. They have inserted a new provision in the 2021 Finance Act that now seeks to value timber exports at US$2500 per container instead of cubic meters as provided in the previous law.

The 2021 Finance Act that was taken to Parliament on Thursday November 12, 2020 by the Finance Ministry is asking parliamentarians to vote into law a provision that will devalue the country’s timber exports. What this means is that leading political actors, who actually benefit from the operations of Leadway Trading, are now giving a free pass to a company run by one of their party members to undervalue the country’s exports.

This is an open state robbery orchestrated by corporate gangsters in alliance with rogue politicians.

I have attached pages of the relevant sections of both the 2018 Finance Act, which they already violated in 2019, and the new Finance Act 2021 that is before parliament and which they are now planning to use to legitimize the previous violation, whilst simultaneously undervaluing future exports.

In our subsequent publication, we will trace and highlight how this timber monopoly arrangement and its financial operations are directly linked to the president and other senior officials of the Bio administration.

For now though, it is our responsibility as citizens to call on our respective parliamentarians to reject the new provisions of the 2021 Finance Act, and to equally call for a review of the monopoly export license granted to Leadway Trading by the president.

Most importantly, our parliamentarians must invite officials of Leadway Trading to explain why they violated the provision of the 2018 Finance Act. Finance ministry officials must also explain why they are seeking to adopt a unit of measurement that undervalues the country’s export earnings and revenues. We must all strive for real transparency and accountability.

9 Comments

  1. Its really sad to hear that things of such nature are still prevailing in Sierra Leone. The current government based their campaign on accountability and transparency. Today, the government of Sierra Leone inserted a new provision by 2021 to increase the value of exporting our timber to US $2500 per container instead of cubic meters as provided in the previous law. If a government that based their campaign on fighting corruption is behaving this way, it shows no sign of progress.

  2. Mr. Bah and Stargazer, with all due respect your op-eds are misleading, and looks political. I need you to go back and read the Auditor General’s report dated Oct 20, 2020. The report states that it was a discrepancy that occurred unintentionally. It wasn’t a deliberate act by Leadway, that’s misleading my brother. 2018 amended section 25 of the forestry Act of 1988 to replace “US$1500, cubic meters” with US$2500 20ft container respectively.

    So what happened was that the word “twenty was omitted, and also didn’t replace the words “cubic meters”, thus that brought about the discrepancy. Your op-ed is purely propaganda and misleading to the public.

  3. Dear Editor, I am concerned about assertions in the article captioned-Legalizing State corruption in Sierra Leone”. I haven’t read the whole story but to state that this Timber export company understated revenue by $5.5 billion dollars is far from the truth and not believable. I wonder you guys fact-checked the veracity of such a misleading and dangerous assertion before publication. I’ve admired your newspaper since you guys commenced publication but I’m utterly disappointed recently with some stories that have taken unprofessional and frankly partisan undertones which could create displeasure, disinformation and chaos in this current very toxic partisan environment.

    I think the author of this story while he may have been well intentioned to exposed public corruption has end up misleading the public about an amount ($5.5 billion) which is truly unbelievable. Perhaps he’s trying to undermine efforts at curbing the corruption pandemic which is as disastrous as the COVID-19 in this country. I’m sure if you guys will try to scrupulously fact-check the contents of some of your articles before publications it will go a long way to correct the fake news and chaos in the country.

  4. Confuse politician and confuse generation, why you people (APC) don’t love to attack issues but only know how to sarbortise people that are doing well in governance.

    There is no evidence of all the alergation raised on the Leadway Trading Company.

  5. And this is the same government, that is telling us that they are serious in fighting corruption. Bio and his government can’t be taken seriously in their anti corruption drive. More like he is telling the Sierra Leonean public, to close our eyes, and enjoy the Bio anti corruption drive, destination unknown. All the while our international partners are acting like his cheer leaders. The ACC was set up to act like a smoke screen, so the Sierra Leonean public will be fooled to think the Bio government is engaged in fighting corruption. Whilst at the same time engaged in the same corrupt ways they are levelling against others.

    Bio, and his Ministers are taking the meaning of corruption to a whole different level by legitimising it with an Act of Parliament. To fight corruption you need to have transparency, encourage oversight on financial transactions, enact whistle-blowing laws, clear communication of intent and goal, establish protocols that make it harder to circumvent laws against corruption, and most important of all have the political leadership and willingness to take on corrupt individuals.

    And all of the above are lacking in Bio’s mantra of fighting corruption. When you read this sort of reports, you realise as one former American diplomat commented on Sierra Leoneans “They are one of the most peaceful, tolerant, and easy to rule people, I have observed in the African continent” No one can argue with that assessment.

    • 5.5 billion dollars!!! How many containers are we talking about. The APC government that exported thousands of containers of Timber did not make billions and yet this author is erroneously stating that 5.5 billon dollars worth of timber has been misappropriated. Let us take the authors erroneous claims for argument sake, can he reveal how many containers were exported and how much each container cost?

      We all want to fight corruption but digging pits to derail that train is very suspicious.

    • Mr. Jalloh, only fools/people who are loyal to political parties and not the country can believe what you’re saying. It’s completely fabricated and far from the truth. I suggest you go back and read the auditor General’s full report on this timber matter. Either you don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’ve been told the wrong info my brother.

  6. And who is it among you voiceless millions languishing in abject poverty in our beloved country that still naively believes that these criminals now in power are not out to rob and fleece a fragile struggling nation on its knees? Undervaluing Timber exports huh? (lol) And what has the chief armed bandit residing in State House have to say about all this? You don’t need a fishmonger to tell you something quite fishy is currently going on in all areas of government in Sierra Leone. Only a brazen thief would argue that container valuation serves the same equitable purposes as the more efficient and transparent cubic meters method – that’s a big fat lie.

    This President as his henchmen are hell-bent on milking the system dry before they are kicked out of office in 2023.There have been red flags signalling outright thefts everywhere since the notorious SLPP took over the reins of power, and it is only the SLPP that have grown protruding pot-bellies, only these men are driving expensive cars and building mansions with stolen money belonging to the poorest of the poor among us. Are they really fighting corruption? Hell no! They are fraudsters and Con-men selling our people fake dreams like used car salesmen without a conscience.

    Are they motivated about moving our already crippled, backward nation steadily forward? Nope! Their mission is to enrich themselves, their supporters and friends and then abscond like Pirates at sea with their stolen loot. What a sad mistake that will be, because we are going to track, and hunt them down relentlessly like a farmer angrily chasing down foxes that had stolen a bunch of chickens from his open domestic barn. The world is now a small place, and we now have ears and eyes everywhere – let the Criminal SLPP Cabal and their old soldier without a mission always remember that – they can run no doubt, but wont be able to hide anywhere. WORD!

    • Thanks Mr Fred, well as far I am concerned, there is so much information coming out of Sierra Leone, both from the government, and mass media, laced with facts or fiction . You don’t know who to believe. I don’t suppose you work in the Bio propaganda department of the ministry of misinformation. Now forgive me about my ignorance, but the one thing you cannot refute as fact my brother, which even if you happens to live in a different planet, the TIMBER TRADE IN SIERRA LEONE IS NOT REGULATED BY THIS GOVERNMENT OR THE PAST GOVERNMENT.

      The Timber trade despite all the environmental laws against deforestation in Sierra Leone, has been hijacked by Mafia type companies, that are running their businesses for themselves without due care of local communities concerns. And this phenomenon is repeated from one part of the country to the other. I have seen it with my own eyes, lorries full of wood being cut down by Guinean nationals in the dead of night in my area in the north. This so-called self regulation in the Timber trade is only made possible by this Bio government. And to be fair it started before he came to power. Unless there is an existence of another state called Sierra Leone, that I am not aware of, my best advice for you is to pay a surprise visit to Government Wharf and see how this illicit trade is conducted under the very noses of sleepy custom officers.

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