Media responsible for government’s failure – says minister

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 December 2013

MCC TEAM MEETS PRESIDENT 1The minister at the helm of State House – Mr. Richard Konteh, is now believed to be blaming Sierra Leone’s media for the failure of the government in securing the Millennium Challenge (MCC) Fund.

The minister who heads the team responsible for ensuring that Sierra Leone succeeds in putting forward a credible bid for the US funding – estimated at over $200 million, is now blaming everyone but himself.

The team of senior government officials and ministers had in the past eighteen months, made several trips to the USA to discuss the MCC funding criteria and progress in meeting key indicators.

But it seems the government is struggling, in making a credible claim of success in tackling high level corruption, graft, impunity and poor governance.

Yet the head of State House- Mr. Richard Konteh and the country’s information minister – Alpha Kanu are now trying to cover up the government’s mess, by blaming the country’s media for publishing reports which they said are damaging to the government’s chances of success.

What ministers Kanu and Konteh are failing to grasp and appreciate, is the sophistication of the methods used by the MCC in evaluating each country’s application for compact funding.

alpha kanu2According to State House report: “Kanu explained to great details why Sierra Leone was adjudged not to have passed the Control of Corruption Indicator of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). One of the reasons cited by the Minister was negative publicity by the irresponsible, vindictive and unpatriotic opposition press. The negative perception index was not created by the MCC, but by the people of Sierra Leone.”

Stories of corruption, abuse of power and poor governance published by the media are not taken lightly by the MCC and foreign investors.

They are thoroughly examined for veracity, and cross-referenced with independent sources and moles within the government itself.

The outcomes of several high profile corruption court cases speak for themselves. The MCC need not consult anyone on those. They are shocking and smack of blatant impunity and travesty of justice.

Ministers Konteh and Kanu ought to be much more candid in their assessment of the government’s failure to secure the MCC funding, rather than perpetuating the culture of blame that is slowly destroying the Koroma government and the country’s chances of coming out of poverty.

Meeting MCC executives at State House on Wednesday, President Koroma said his government is committed to the fight against corruption.

He assured the MCC Acting-Vice President for Compact Operations – Jonathan Bloom that “government is committed to tackling corruption not simply to qualify for the MCC, but to ensure it impacts positively on the development of the country.”

According to State House the MCC were in town to “update on the outcome of the board meeting a few weeks ago in the Washington.”

“I am happy that you have time to come immediately after your Board meeting and to know that you have decided to continue the engagement with us”, said the president.
Koroma made the point that “controlling corruption is not only the responsibility of government. Even the public has a big role to play.”

He highlighted the strides government has made in fighting corruption since assuming office in 2007. The president said that government has passed one of the toughest anti-corruption laws in Africa.

He also noted that government has given free hand to the anti-graft body to operate and prosecute high profile cases, involving government ministers as well as put in place mechanisms to promote transparency by subjecting the budgeting system to debate by civil society groups.

The president further said that although there are still challenges, the government is moving on with the battle to combat corruption. “We are working on ensuring that those that are found guilty are charged to court without delay”, said President Koroma.

He also told the MCC team that the judiciary is also being strengthened to make its work more effective and assured that government will put in place structures to guarantee the smooth operation of the Freedom of Information Act passed recently, stressing that government has also applied for the Open Government Partnership with the US Government.

MCC TEAM MEETS PRESIDENT 2Visiting MCC acting Vice President, Jonathan Bloom informed President Koroma that they were in the country to update him on the outcome of the last MCC Board meeting and its relevance to Sierra Leone.

“We will continue the compact development with Sierra Leone”, he stated, and furthered that it must have been stressful even for the president in combating corruption in the country.

Mr. Bloom also said that a critical part of MCC operations is the selection of countries for the compact development which is based on 20 objective indicators falling under three broad categories, including investing in people, ruling justly and economic freedom.

Sierra Leone, he noted has passed four of them under the ruling justly category, and observed that the control of corruption is the duty of every citizen as the MCC wants to ensure that their money will be used specifically for the development of the country.

The MCC acting VP also acknowledged the extraordinary efforts the country has made, including the outstanding efforts of the MCC unit in the compact development process, saying that they will continue to work with Sierra Leone through a more limited engagement, while other activities will continue.

According to Mr. Bloom, the impact of the MCC engagement is that Sierra Leone must eventually pass the scorecard and suggested specific activities for the way forward.

“We congratulate you for passing the Freedom of Information Act, as well as steps taken to promote transparency in the country”.

“We hope that Sierra Leone will pass the score card next year so you can develop a program that reflects your development priorities”, he added.