Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 February 2015
Reactions and responses to the Sierra Leone Audit Office Report into the mismanagement of the country’s Ebola funds by the Koroma led government, have been swift and terse. (Photo: SLPP National Secretary General – Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie).
And there is no sign of this disgraceful criminality coming off the national agenda, until justice is seen to have been done.
President Koroma in the meantime has been accused of giving succour to those cited in the report of having breached procurement rules, as well as failing to provide the Audit Office with supporting documents, by politicising the report.
Critics say that by committing the report to parliament, which has no jurisdiction nor capacity to determine whether crimes have been committed or not, the president is offering his friends, allies and cronies plenty of time to leave the country, manufacture records and at worst destroy vital evidence before any police investigation.
Parliament, critics also say, has no business trying to second guess or pre-empt the outcome of a police investigation. And by meddling with what is likely to become police matter, a parliamentary debate may prejudice any legal proceedings that are certain to follow.
The National Secretary General of the opposition SLPP – Mr. Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie, has published the party’s strong response to the report into the missing Ebola Funds. This is what the statement says:
“The Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) acknowledges and notes the Audit Sierra Leone Report on the Management of the Ebola Funds for the first six months of the outbreak (May to October 2014). The party is stunned by the level of unruliness and sleaze that has pervaded the management of the nation’s fight against the Ebola scourge.
The Audit Report reveals that the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) spent “in excess of Le 84 billion…donated by institutions and individuals mostly within Sierra Leone and from tax revenues” during that period.
The report also notes “it is clear from our audit conducted that there continues to be lapses in the financial management system in Sierra Leone and these have ultimately resulted in the loss of funds and a reduction in the quality of service delivery in the health sector”.
Our Party in collaboration with the other nine political parties under the aegis of APPA, has and continues to give its unflinching support to the Government’s fight; i.e., the eradication of the Ebola scourge that has plagued our nation in the last nine months.
Equally so, the SLPP as one of its fundamental principles holds the belief that in spite of our political and philosophical differences, it sincerely hopes that the dream of a good society has no chance of fulfilment if the conduct and management of the nation’s finances are not carried out in a prudent, transparent and accountable manner.
It is from this standpoint that the SLPP is particularly appalled at the severity and intensity of the alleged mismanagement of public funds meant to save lives.
Some of the grizzly details of the Audit report read like a white collar crime thriller, and some of its findings are attached to this Press Statement for ease of reference.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) believes that conduct of misappropriation of the Ebola funds feeds into a pattern of shoddy financial management and lack of accountability that is characteristic of the All Peoples Congress (APC) Government.
It is an open secret that the ruling party used the fight against the deadly Ebola disease as a means to enrich their supporters and to corrupt some civil society activists, whose services were engaged in the Ebola sensitization effort.
In particular is the likelihood that the Civil Society pied piper – akin to the pied piper of Hamelin will be trapped in this wholesome financial scam.
The Party is aware that most of the contracts went to APC big guns, and their supporters.
We strongly believe that what may appear as an administrative lapse, may well be a deliberately orchestrated effort to commit graft.
Also, the pattern of employment and participation in the Ebola efforts has for a large part been extremely partisan, allowing the ruling party to fill available positions with APC operatives, who have in most instances proven to be incompetent.
And as the evidence seems to suggest – very corrupt.
Given the damning consequences of the actions and inactions of the officials entrusted with the management of these funds on the nation, the SLPP calls on Government to carry out following:
1. Institute a public inquiry into the audit report and the management of the national fight of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) since May, 2014 to present and to bring all wrong doers to book;
2. Ensure that all taxes owed by suppliers, contractors and any other parties be paid with interest to the state;
3. Embark on a recovery of all monies that have not been collected due to dishonoured cheques;
4. Step back from the partisan and nepotistic pattern of employment and the grant of contracts, which may have caused the loss of dear lives in the country and
5. Immediately review the present structure of the National Ebola Response Centre and the procurement process in place to ensure accountability and transparency.
Fellow Sierra Leoneans, you will agree that the Ebola outbreak has created an injurious situation in our country over the last nine months. We have lost thousands of our compatriots to this deadly disease, leaving thousands of children orphaned.
Therefore, it is simply unconscionable that others would be siphoning from funds meant to prevent the spread of the disease, cure victims and take care of the orphans.
It is even more disturbing that while this criminal negligence is going on, the government and its agencies has been on holiday, turning a blind eye to the various concerns of misappropriation of Ebola funds raised by sections of the citizenry before this report was laid in Parliament.”
End of statement.
Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie
National Secretary General – SLPP