Sierra Leone Telegraph: 4 October 2020:
As political fallout continues, between the government of Sierra Leone and the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) party over the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry reports and the White Paper into corruption allegations against the former APC government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma, opposition National Grand Coalition (NGC) party has spoken. (Photo: Dennis Bright – Leader and chairman of NGC).
Writing in a statement published today, the Chairman and Leader of the NGC- Dr. Dennis Bright said: “The National Grand Coalition party (NGC) notes with great concern events within the past month that have raised very serious questions about governance in Sierra Leone and indeed put on the spot all three arms of Government: the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.
“Notably, perception surveys which were conducted on the subject of corruption have revealed, among other things, how the people of Sierra Leone see and what they say about the institutions and people that govern them.
“The picture is not good. All the arms of Government are perceived by the people as being very corrupt. A large majority of citizens (69.1%) see the Police force as the most corrupt institution with 83.8% naming policemen and women as the most corrupt group of persons in Sierra Leone.
“Parliament is perceived as the fourth most corrupt institution and Parliamentarians as the second “most corrupt persons” behind policemen and women. The Judiciary is also viewed as corrupt by 43.9% of the respondents. These numbers are not good and are a serious indictment of the entire Governance system in our country.
“Parliament has reacted vigorously with the Speaker of Parliament describing the perception surveys as ‘a deliberately orchestrated and calibrated conspiracy to damage the good name and reputation of Parliament and Parliamentarians.’ The NGC however hopes that our law makers will eventually see the surveys for what they are, not allegations or accusations but perception, bearing in mind however, that perception of the people can be a potent force.
“The NGC is of the view that instead of needless rebuttals and attempts to cow critics to silence, these surveys call for serious introspection and a national conversation going forward. We have therefore advised our Parliamentary representatives to be at the forefront of advocacy for introspection, self-criticism and pro-active measures to clean up that institution of whatever defects may be giving it a bad name.
“As far as the Executive is concerned, Government has just published a White Paper on the three Commissions of Inquiry into “the assets and other related matters in respect of persons who served under the last regime. The report indicates that staggering sums of public funds were fraudulently diverted, misappropriated or simply stolen by officials of the State, sometimes in collaboration with non-State actors.
“The NGC has examined the White Paper and other documents and found the amounts allegedly stolen to be so dramatically high that they can easily fund an entire national development plan.
“However, as the decisions in the White Paper bear the strength of a High Court judgment, we are expecting appeals to follow, and it is only reasonable that the law is allowed to take its course. In fact, the fairness of the decisions and the integrity of the process are already being challenged by persons of interest, law firms, accounting firms, companies and at least one political party. The credibility of the appeals process will therefore depend on the ability of the Judiciary to uphold the Rule of Law and resist any attempt to make it a puppet of the Executive.
“The appeals process in the saga of the three Commissions therefore offers the Judiciary the opportunity to redeem itself from the people’s perception as being a corrupt institution. As Engineer Andrew Keili has said in one of his writings: “impunity must stop but it must be ensured that there is fairness in the process.”
“In conclusion, the NGC proposes that one way of avoiding the extremely expensive exercise of running Commissions of Inquiry to probe previous administrations and the attendant accusations of witch hunting and unfairness, is for Government to conduct investigations and punish corrupt officials in real time.
“Every year, the Audit Service, without the fanfare of televised trials, uncovers several cases of mismanagement and the same irregularities for which the three Commissions have now convicted public officials. The NGC believes it will be a more effective deterrent if the recommendations of the Audit Service are speedily acted upon and defaulters within the sitting government brought to book.
“The NGC therefore reiterates its total rejection of corruption in all its forms and supports any attempt to uproot it on condition that this is done with due regard for justice, fairness and the Rule of Law by a Judiciary that is independent of any influence from the other arms of the State.”