Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 January 2019:
Sierra Leone’s former minister of defence – Palo Conteh, who was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) last week, has been freed on bail pending further investigations. Conteh is alleged to have been involved in the misappropriation of tens of millions of dollars in multiple military procurement contracts.
Following Conteh’s arrest, a group of senior opposition APC members took to the streets in protest, demanding his release. This prompted widespread fear of political instability and chaos, though the APC party secretary general said that his party will not resort to violence despite calls by extremists within the party to burn down the police station.
Conteh was granted bail yesterday (Photo: Palo Conteh in Red APC party colour shirt after his release yesterday), with bail conditions set at Two Billion Leones and two sureties, each with properties valued at One Billion Leones.
The director general of the ministry of defence was also released on similar bail conditions.
Today the Head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – Francis Ben Kaifala (Photo) said that the ACC will not relent in pursuing those that have stolen state funds.
Speaking about the ACC’s successes in its fight against Corruption in 2018, he said: “Sierra Leone has for the first time passed the MCC Control of Corruption Scorecard, from a failing position of 49% in 2017 to a respectable pass of 71% in 2018; the Afro Barometer Corruption Perception dropped from over 70% in 2015 to an all-time low of 43%.
“According to Afro Barometer, Over 66% of the Citizens now believe in government effort in the fight against corruption jumping from an all-time low of 40% in 2015; in the last 6 months, we have 100% conviction rate and no appeal from prosecutions.
“In 6 months, over Le 8.4 Billion (nearly $1 M recovered and returned to the People for the provision of social services with almost 6 Billion Leones already committed to be recovered in the next 6 months after completed investigations.
“Prosecutions are moving faster and investigations covering all spheres of public life with no room for the corrupt to hide. Now the promise for 2019: we are going to make the price of Corruption so high that those who dare will either go to prison or become bankrupt or both”.
With the commission of inquiry into alleged corruption by public officials in the former Koroma led APC government starting in two weeks, the secretary general of the APC has warned that members of his party will not co-operate with the commission, as long as the commission does not guarantee the same rights as those granted by the High Court.
Many members of the APC say that: “The APC is not against the setting up of the inquiry. What we are against is selective justice. The SLPP wants to investigate all past APC officials and exclude all Permanent Secretaries (Administrative heads) in all Ministries including the Financial Secretary during the APC Administration. Interestingly most of the former Permanent Secretaries are in this SLPP Administration.
“The current Financial Secretary, Sahr Jusu was promoted by President Bio; the former Director of Budget during the APC has been also promoted next to the Financial Secretary; Festus Kuyumbeh, the accountant in the Ministry of Health during the Ebola outbreak has been appointed by President Bio to serve as the Financial Attache in the UK; Ibrahim Swarray – the Director of Procurement during the Ebola outbreak was appointed by Bio to head the National Procurement Agency.
“Mr Kapua, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health during the outbreak is the PS to the Chief Minister at State House; the former Permanent Secretary in Lands is the Secretary to VP Juldeh Jalloh; the former Permanent Secretary Social welfare is now working at State House,” the list goes on, the APC argues.
But last week’s arrest of the director general of the ministry of defence, along with the former minister Conteh, has set a precedent for civil servants in the former government to be held accountable for their previous actions.
It remains to be seen whether anyone serving in the current government will be arraigned before the commission of inquiry in pursuit of justice and transparency.