The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 November 2013
Sierra Leone’s main opposition party – the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has called into serious question, the government’s management of the economy and the poor delivery of it’s so called Agenda for Change.
The government’s celebration of six years in office this week, has been comparatively low-keyed, perhaps State House recognising that there is very little to shout about.
With rising poverty and rapid crumbling of most of the recently constructed road networks, which the government has lauded as success, it is difficult to see how ministers will justify the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on infrastructure development at the expense of tackling massive unemployment and poverty.
And the opposition SLPP’s analysis of the current situation in the country, especially the plight of millions of Sierra Leoneans who are suffering as the result of poor governance is quite poignant.
In a press statement released this week, the opposition SLPP says that the “first year into APC’s second term has brought nothing but abject poverty, lawlessness and despair” for the people of Sierra Leone.
This is what the statement says:
Saturday, 23rd November, 2013, marked one year since the incumbent President Ernest Bai Koroma commenced his second and final term as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. This also marks six years of APC rule under the Koroma Presidency.
The SLPP in this Press Statement presents an assessment of this period – marked by unprecedented waste, weak governance structure, high youth unemployment, growing lawlessness, deteriorating infrastructure, poor social services, rampant corruption and growing hardship.
Infrastructure – Roads
The APC inherited several road construction projects, including the Lumley-Tokeh road, Hillside Bye-Pass road and Kailahun-Pendembu road. Funds were already committed for these projects when the APC assumed power.
In addition, the APC commenced the reconstruction of township roads under the Reconstruction of Township Roads Project in Freetown and the 12 district capitals in 2009 and 2010, without feasibility studies and proper planning.
Six years on, most of these projects have not been completed and some have even been abandoned.
The reasons for the delay include changes in design, bloated costs, huge kickbacks from contractors and lack of feasibility studies (in the case of the township roads) in typical action pass intention style.
In particular, the Waterloo to Tokeh axis of the Peninsular Road was completed by the erstwhile President Kabba’s SLPP led Government in two years (2003-2005).
Today with the availability of all financial resources for the completion of the Juba Bridge to Tokeh axis since 2007, when this Government assumed power, the project is at a standstill in front of the Emergency Hospital in Goderich.
The initial cost of $27million has now escalated to about $120 million as a result of undue delays, inflation, bloated costs and enormous inbuilt kickbacks.
Also, the Hillside Bypass Road with committed funds since 2007 to cover the whole distance from Pademba Road to Ashobi Corner at Kissy Brook, which could have significantly eased the traffic congestion to the East where the bulk of the under-privileged and suffering masses live, is undergoing a design change that will now only link Pademba Road and Mountain Cut. This is a change that could hardly serve the purpose for which it was initially intended.
Again, the implementation of this project is most ineffective and is at a standstill. It will now be completed at a higher cost that has been inflated to make allowance for kickbacks.
The cost of the roads in the district capitals have increased as a result of kickbacks and in at least 8 districts (Kambia, Kabala, Kono, Kailahun, Kenema, Pujehun, Mattru and Moyamba), the projects have been abandoned.
The recent Global Competitive Report rates the country in the area of infrastructural development as poor and as follows: Quality of infrastructure 127 out of 144; quality of roads 116 out of 144 and quality of air transport 140 out of 144.
There are also a number of major and significant trunk road networks that are in a dilapidated state and are ignored by this Government. These include: the Bo to Mattru Jong road that links Bo District to Bonthe District, the Makeni to Kamakwie and to Fintonia; a road network that will provide an alternative commercial route linking Sierra Leone and Guinea and then Kenema to Zimmi to Gendema, a lucrative commercial route linking Sierra Leone to Liberia.
Also, potholes in the country’s capital city of Freetown have increased significantly engulfing even major roads. This is the result of six years of lack of maintenance and neglect.
Efforts to maintain roads in Freetown and other towns have been further undermined by the establishment of the Roads Maintenance Administration existing side by side with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).
There has been persistent confusion in the interpretation of the two Acts creating these institutions. The RMA has been involved in awarding contracts and disbursement of funds leaving the SLRA with the responsibility to supervise.
The public has rightly viewed the RMA as a conduit to siphon resources for the ruling APC.
The Government as a result of endemic corruption, lack of focus and the absence of a coherent development road map, now requires $250 million to complete their several incomplete road projects across the country.
As always, potential donors would require concrete reassurance that their funds would be used for the intended purpose which the current APC government can hardly give and ensure.
Another major flagship project of the ruling APC Government is the provision of regular and sustainable electricity to urban and rural Sierra Leone.
But after six years of APC in Government the situation remains deplorable, after expending well over $100 million of tax payers’ money and donor funds in providing emergency electricity, in completing Bumbuna and efforts to electrify rural areas.
In spite of the colossal amount invested in electricity at the expense of the social services, today, on average no single household in Sierra Leone except emergency units – including State House and State Lodge, enjoy more than ten hours electricity a day.
Some areas benefit from over 18 hours of electricity a day whilst others do not benefit at all for several months or weeks.
Five years since Government declared its completion, the Bumbuna Hydro Electric Plant is yet to solve Freetown’s power crisis. The Bumbuna dam is currently plagued with serious technical problems that could have been averted had Government heeded and adhered to warnings and technical advice relating to structural defects proffered by international institutions with the relevant expertise.
Government’s failure to adhere was mainly due to its determination to switch Bumbuna on at all cost to ensure that it is true to its pledge to provide Freetown with hydroelectric power within the first 100 days in office.
In effect, today no one knows the true fate of Bumbuna except Government.
Before the elections in 2012, this Government took containers to Koidu purporting to be generators. Months after the elections, Koidu is still a dark city.
The electricity situation in Bo and Kenema that had hitherto benefitted from regular power supply is fast deteriorating with the expansion of these townships and the failure of this Government to expand on the dam and provide additional thermal plant in Bo.
Despite the restoration of the Makeni power supply, blackouts are common as a result of the problem with Bumbuna. Besides the provincial capitals, no district capital has electricity despite the bogus promise made by the APC six years ago.
On another serious note, the agreement between SALCOST and government for managing the dam is ambiguous. Reliable information indicates that the National Power Authority (NPA) provides a fixed amount to SALCOST for generating power irrespective of the power provided.
The SLPP views this arrangement as faulty and urge this government to publicly disclose the agreement for public scrutiny.
Although government has installed solar street lights in district headquarters, the SLPP is concerned about the limitation of this project. First, the solar lights are restricted to streets and do not impact meaningfully on the businesses and welfare of households.
Second, the contract was awarded to Angelique International, a company affiliated to the President through his Sister. At the end of the installation, there is no provision for maintenance of these facilities and this is worrying.
Human development – Health
The highly trumpeted limited Free Health Care for under-fives, lactating mothers and pregnant women is speedily becoming a mere sham, with a substantial amount of drugs always missing.
The Health system has been seriously weakened over the last six years under APC rule and is beleaguered by inadequate drugs, insufficient staffing and fast deteriorating health structures due to neglect and lack of maintenance.
In the next few months, SLPP will inform the public of the conditions of our health facilities in more detail.
Today, the condition of the Connaught Hospital and the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH) that were completely overhauled and equipped by the erstwhile SLPP Government is appalling.
All health indicators since 2007 have been extremely poor. Infant mortality, child mortality and maternal mortality continue to soar and Sierra Leone continues to occupy the bottom of global reports.
Most of the health facilities across the country are understaffed and ill equipped.
In particular, Bonthe Island has been without a resident medical doctor for years now and Kambia and a few other districts do not have functioning ambulance service.
The recent global competitive report 2013 in the area of health is also abysmal and our country was rated as follows: fighting the malaria endemic – 144 out of 144; malaria cases per 1,000 per population – 139 out of 144 and infant mortality per 1,00 – 144 out of 144.
Our schools especially senior secondary schools across the country are overcrowded because of inadequate classrooms and teachers. This is coupled with the fact that the Ministry is led by a Minister that is pre-occupied with fighting ghost teachers and schools, rather than improving quality by providing better service in the sector.
This situation has been worsened by the change of our education system from 6-3-3-4 to 6-3-4-4.
In the absence of adequate teachers, classrooms and essential learning materials, most schools cannot accommodate the new system. Even in Freetown, some classrooms use tarpaulin as roofing materials and most schools have reduced teaching hours and continue with the double shift system with far reaching implications for effective learning and coverage of the syllabuses in various subjects.
The Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) results for the first time in its history, came out in November 2013 – more than a month later than expected in early October 2013.
The overall performance was poor and pupils who succeeded have lost almost one term of this school year with enrolment still in progress because of inadequate classrooms and already extremely large class sizes, with its negative implications for teaching and learning.
There is hardly any school with the full complement of teachers at all levels of the school configuration.
Despite the fact that not more than fifty percent of rural schools are on Government pay-roll, the conditions of service of teachers is the worst in the sub region.
And rather than addressing this anomaly, the extant Minister is busy chasing ghost teachers and eliminating genuine teachers from the electronic payroll. He is adopting an ineffective procedure with disastrous consequences for the future.
To date, little or no effort has been made to strengthen vocational and technical institutions. Government technical institutions lack the wherewithal to provide quality training to our youth in areas demanded in the labour market.
Government support to private vocational institutions has been restricted to those owned by cronies of the APC, without regard to quality outcomes and demand for those training provisions.
Consequently, trade certificate holders from the sub-region and all over the world are expatriated by the mining companies to this country to perform jobs that could otherwise be done by our youths, if they were well prepared for them by the educational system.
Fourah Bay College (FBC), University of Sierra Leone, once highly regarded as the Athens of Africa have for the last three years gone without habitable hostels, with dire consequences for students who bear the high costs of transportation.
The institution also suffers from inadequate lecture rooms and toilet facilities for lectures leading to overcrowded lecture halls and seminar rooms and poor sanitation with no plan for expansion in place.
Also, there is no water supply to the campus and the quarters of lecturers are in a deplorable state. The effect is that today, the University of Sierra Leone is ranked 854 out of the 1,000 top universities in Africa.
Njala University, although fairly better as a result of the bold efforts by the SLPP to reconstruct it after massive destruction during the war, the conditions need to be improved upon. Conditions of service for the lecturers and inadequate funding continue to plague the University system.
The SLPP is also disturbed by the fact that the University and Colleges are increasing fees on the pretext that government is not meeting its obligations to these institutions, and without regard to income levels and growing hardship suffered by the people.
Hundreds of students have been forced to abandon their courses and others cannot start classes because they cannot pay the high cost of university education. This is worrying as it increases the number of early school leavers who add up to the army of unemployed that are likely to engage in socially unacceptable behaviours.
The Global Competitive report in the area of education is equally dismal and our ratings were as follows:- quality of primary education – 136 out of 144; secondary education enrolment 136 out of 144; tertiary education enrolment – 138 out of 144 and quality of the education system is 135 out of 144.
Youth and Sports
In these days of growing youth unemployment, grinding and horrendous poverty occasioned by APC misrule, the only outlet for the youth to enjoy themselves has been football.
But APC’s systematic and methodical destruction of this beautiful game has robbed the youth of this country of their only opportunity to fraternize across party lines. This has led to disastrous consequences for the future of football and associated disciplines.
A case in point is the disqualification of the country’s football legend Mohamed Kallon and others from contesting the last SLFA Congress on very flimsy grounds.
As a party, we believe this is taking government’s manipulation of elections too far. As a country, we have already begun harvesting what this government has sown in terms of bad result from all versions of international competitions our national teams have been involved in since the last manipulated SLFA congress.
In order to stem this tide of unmitigated disasters befalling our national team, we call on the APC government to roll back its interference into the different sports discipline, especially football and make it a truly unifying game as it has always been prior to their ascendance to power in 2007.
One year into its second term under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, Sierra Leone continues to wallow in abject poverty resulting from endemic corruption, lawlessness, blatant disregard of the rule of law and weakening state and democratic institutions.
Poverty continues to eat deep into the socio-economic fabric of the state without any solution coming from the much glorified “Agenda for Prosperity” of Government.
The nation continues to be enmeshed in filth and lethargy, while government officials and their cognates and friends brag of their personal prosperity.
In whole we have a government that has lost focus and has no policy in place to alleviate poverty, as a first step towards creating future wealth and building a prosperous country.
Corruption is rife and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) despite amendments to its enabling Act that grants that institution excessive powers of prosecution and investigation, is unsuccessful both in stemming this ugly tide and in providing the necessary deterrent against fraud.
The ACC has mostly targeted middle and lower income public officials in the fight against corruption, and in most cases these Officials have been acquitted and discharged for lack of evidence, while the real culprits continue to smile to the bank at the expense of the Sierra Leonean taxpayer.
The Sierra Leone Police (SLP) which was restructured and transformed into a “Force for Good” by the former SLPP led Tejan Kabbah administration is today, incapable of preserving law and order without resorting to firing live bullets.
“Trigger Happy” police officers of the Operational Support Division (OSD) of the force are leaving our people dead at the slightest disturbance, and in most cases women and children are the victims.
The Police have also been the focus of corruption and has been named as among the most corrupt institutions in the country. Traffic police officers openly take bribe, and drivers who commit serious traffic offences are allowed to go free for a fee.
Government, despite finally setting up the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) to review the 1991 Constitution, using the recommendations of the Peter Tucker Review Commission which submitted its report to the President in 2008 as a working paper; has gone further to introduce an amendment to the extant constitution in Parliament that sets down a new criteria for the election of a Speaker.
This amendment undermines the authority and purpose of a broad based constitutional review.
High Court Rulings – Elections Petition
It ought to be recalled that former MPs of the SLPP petitioned the processes leading to our choice of candidates in Constituencies 05 and 15 in Kailahun and Kenema districts respectively on very flimsy grounds.
As a result of their petitions, the announcement of the winning votes of our parliamentary candidates in the 2012 elections in those constituencies – Messrs Ansu Lansana and Capt. (Rtd.) Afiju Kanja were suspended, pending the outcome of that matter in the High Court.
As a party, we are shell shocked at the Orders of the High Court relating to the above which effectively grants the APC the two seats in our strongholds.
The Awoko newspaper appropriately sums the rulings as “giving the verdict to the SLPP and the votes to the APC”.
This is an excellent example of a manipulated judicial outcome and a broad day light travesty of justice. As a party, we condemn this manipulation of the Judiciary for political reason and assure all that we shall mount a robust legal appeal to ensure that the people’s mandate is not stolen like it has always been the modus operandi of the APC.
We also wish to call on civil society, the press, the Bar Association and the international community to play their part now and prevent the APC from returning this country to the instability and turmoil of yesteryears.
We have appealed against the decisions and will be coming out with our party’s future political action very soon.
The Millennium Challenge Fund
We note the government of Sierra Leone’s recent nomination for the MCC grant award and mindful of the potential contributions this would make to jump starting our ailing economy.
We hereby support the government’s request for MCC funding, but would also insist that the government makes itself compact ready by addressing the following issues to ensure that all Sierra Leoneans benefit from the proceeds of the compact without political and ethno-regional considerations:
Address the hydra headed problem of corruption particularly in high places
The ethno-regional divide and award opportunities on the basis of competence rather than partisanship or regionalism
Address issues of transparency and accountability in the extractive sector
Empower civil society rather than disempowering them through bribery and coercion
Ensure freedom of the press and repeal the obnoxious public order Act of 1965
Take practical steps to guarantee judicial independence amongst others
Also, under the recent Transparency International (Barometer study); the country’s rating is dismal on corruption. At 83% Sierra Leone is today one of the most – if not the most corrupt country in the world.
We have followed the unfolding drama of land grabbing across the country from Makeni in the Northern Province to Pujehun in the Southern Province, where unsuspecting non literate farmers have had their lands grabbed from them with the complicity of government for pittance.
These unwholesome acts have deprived whole communities of their arable ancestral lands with very serious consequences on their food security and general livelihood efforts.
Notwithstanding the above, the government is using disproportionate power including the use of the OSD’s and the Judiciary to silence legitimate civil actions in those communities where such land grabbing schemes have been orchestrated.
It should be recalled that recently, several people including a former Member of Parliament from Pujehun District were arrested for speaking out against such land grabbing on behalf of their people.
We believe government’s role should stop at creating an enabling environment for legitimate investment and not using its absolute coercive power to disadvantage its own people.
We therefore call on the APC government to investigate all such questionable land deals and where possible renegotiate the terms so that win –win solutions are reached.
The Economy – macro and micro
Despite the much lauded double digit registered growth rate in recent years, Sierra Leoneans are yet to enjoy the benefits of this growth. The high growth rate has largely been due to iron-ore mining.
GDP growth rate including iron-ore is in excess of 10% whilst GDP excluding iron-ore is about 6% not significantly different from its 2007 estimates.
The worrying aspects of this growth trend is that iron-ore has weak linkages with the rest of the economy. Thus, a growth propelled by iron-ore does not have positive distributional effects on the economy.
Besides, our economy remains vulnerable since the prices of iron-ore like all primary products fluctuate. Falling iron-ore prices may cause low growth rate with far reaching implications for our economy.
Additionally, the benefit of growth from iron-ore mining is offset by revenue loss due to huge tax concessions granted to the companies and the double digits inflation.
As a result of the volatility of the world market price for iron ore, there are currently massive retrenchments taking place in the major mining companies in the country.
Some companies, including African Minerals have already abolished end of service benefits for its national staff above supervisory level. We will not be surprised if the other players in the industry follow suit. This is a call for action by government.
Also, key macro indicators are poor. Inflation is high and growing as reflected in the price of all basic commodities in the market. This stifles international trade and the country’s competitiveness as a net importing country. It also accentuates low earning conditions and poverty.
Exchange rate is high and depreciating daily. Today it stands at Le4,400.00 to the U.S. dollar. High interest rate has continued to stifle the demand for money and investment.
Direct bank financing of our deficit and the non-payment of suppliers largely due to unplanned expenditure continue to undermine the private sector and our overall economic effort.
The Central Bank has on many instances exceeded its threshold borrowing requirement with impunity, whilst local businesses have been forced to close down as a result of the failure of government to honour its payment obligations to them.
Unemployment, particularly among the youth continues to be the major threat to our national security.
Investments in productive sectors have been minimal and this government has failed to promote the growth of small businesses. The daily migration of rural youth to urban towns is a manifestation of low investments in agriculture and rural under-development.
In the urban areas, these youth cannot secure the jobs in high paid sectors because they lack the required employable skills. Some of the youth migrants resort to menial jobs including domestic work and others take up unacceptable practices such as commercial sex work, thieving and drug peddling.
The local content policy is a mere sham with jobs such as selling in shops and road work carried out by non-Sierra Leoneans. This government has failed to develop the employable skills of our youth, meaningfully invest in agriculture and attracts local and international investment.
The government has instead focused on extolling the establishment of a Youth Commission, rallies with youth and ad hoc hand-outs to deprived youth. Overall, actual budgetary disbursements cannot exceed two-thirds of allocated amounts.
The advance taxes taken from mining companies since 2011 and 2012 to finance government’s unplanned and high cost infrastructure projects before the elections have reduced the fiscal space for 2013. Today, there are incomplete projects across the country.
Several road projects have been abandoned due to lack of funds.
Basic Imprest to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) have been delayed and these MDAs have relied on donor project units for basic operational items such as fuel, stationery and even vehicles.
Subventions to Local Councils have been irregular and minimal. Local Councils elected in November 2012 received their first disbursement from central government only after 6 months.
Meanwhile, government expenditure keeps rising. Annual allocation for fuel for the Office of the President is usually exhausted in the first quarter of the year.
Excess overseas travel by government officials at the expense of taxpayers’ continue to be a major source of waste of public resources. A colossal amount was spent on a large delegation to the 2013 Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Despite donor financing of agriculture which employs at least 60% of the labour force, reported growth in the sector has not been positively reflected in the market prices of basic food items.
Prices for local foodstuffs including rice, yams, cassava are still high particularly in urban towns. Many households barely manage to provide a single meal a day while most go without food for several days in a month. Even in rural areas, food (rice) produced is not consumed for more than four months.
So, what has the government really achieved after six years in office?
The government’s record as discussed above, speaks for itself. In short the government of president Koroma has nothing to celebrate after six miserable years in power.