President Bio closes Commissions of Inquiry and warns his government officials

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 March 2020:

The long-awaited conclusion of the Commissions of Enquiry (COI) into governance processes, assets, and forensic audits of the former APC administration, was officially marked today at a media conference held at the Special Court Complex in Freetown, where the reports of the three COI Judges were presented to president Julius Maada Bio for his government’s approval.

Receiving the reports and addressing the conference, president Bio warned serving ministers and officials of his government not to betray pubic trust.

But there was confusion when the president said that this inquiry must be the last in the history of Sierra Leone, prompting suspicions that he may want to stop future government from holding similar inquiries into the affairs of his current government, by bringing new legislation to that effect.

This is what he said:   

“As I have maintained before, this must be the last Commission of Inquiry in our history. As a nation, we should have learned and applied the singular lesson from these commissions – that persons who hold the public trust must serve honestly, justly, fairly, and diligently; and that as a country, we must put an end to a culture of rampant thieving, abuse, waste, and impunity. So, these commissions should serve as a warning and a deterrent to serving officials.

“As the Attorney General and Minister of Justice has stated, the Commissions of Inquiry looked at three key issues: governance processes, assets, and forensic audits. The forensic audits tracked fraudulent activities within entire chains of governance.

“The commission on assets examined disparities between income or means and assets. The Commission on governance processes looked at inefficiencies and deficits in governance especially where people deliberately misused or took advantage of state institutions,” president Bio said.

The president also noted that in spite of partisan wrangling over the legality and the very legitimacy of the COI, he is “glad to report that there has been no reports of public humiliations, lynching, or even tribal wars as the political prophets of doom had boldly predicted.”

He added that at the end of the day, nobody was questioned because of their ethnic group or their place of origin.

“I have argued that corruption is a key deterrent to the development of Sierra Leone. The fraudulent conversion of public funds and resources to private use, the waste of public funds with impunity, and the abuse of offices and authority to the detriment of millions of Sierra Leoneans, are all threats to our development as a nation.

“The machinery of state and its governance institutions have been weakened by corruption and it would seem we have failed to heed the bitter lessons of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and the collective shame of our underachievement as a nation,” he said.

Sole Commissioner for Commission of Inquiry No. 1 – Justice Biobele Georgewill, who spoke on behalf of the other two Commissioners, said that with the highest sense of responsibility they felt fulfilled to present their final report.

He said that during the proceedings of the COI, they adopted a robust approach to ensure that they carried out their work in accordance with due process and the rule of law in Sierra Leone.

He noted that during the process, the State and Persons of Interests were given equal treatment to ensure fairness and impartiality.

Justice Georgewill also commended president Bio for giving them the independence to do their work, saying that that was unprecedented.

He expressed hope that an assiduous implementation of the recommendations of the report would go a long way to changing the narrative in public governance in Sierra Leone.

Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Dr Priscilla Schwartz, said that the COI was not a witch-hunt but a quest for accountability.

She added that the process is demonstrative of the strength of the country’s democracy and the beginning of the restoration of the rule of law and equal access to justice in Sierra Leone.

She also commended the three Commissioners for showing tremendous courage and professionalism, and described them as being outstanding, for which the people of Sierra Leone would be grateful.

Responding to today’s handing over of the reports to the president, and the government’s failure to announce a date for the publishing of the reports, Dr Sylvia Olayinka Blyden of the APC said:  “As far as I am concerned, the president’s first test is to be transparent. Since sensational summaries have been released and read out right in his presence, the President should therefore do the ethical thing as Fountain of Honour and immediately publish the Reports as per Section 149 of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, or failing which, tell the the public why he is not publishing the Reports.

“Why have the Reports not been made public yet, since they were handed over this morning? Don’t tell me the President has six months to take a decision on whether he wants to be transparent. That’s a slur on him and his credentials of transparency. Hiding the actual text of the COI reports and merely releasing sensational summaries of just one report (Biobele Georgewill), is not good for the transparency we all seek. If you have already allowed for the release of sensational summaries read out right in your presence, then the ethical thing to do now is to release the full reports. Let the reports be published now. The public are not fools. They will be able to read the Reports and see how the Judges came to their findings,” Dr Blyden urged the president.

7 Comments

  1. I don’t know who are the advisers of the president and the president’s current level of knowledge concerning international events occurring in both the developed and developing countries of this planet earth. to be frank and honest this current leadership of prezo Bio likes to do things in his own own way without room for improvement/reservations despite the promising and shinning light at the end of the dark of tunnel.

    A recent example including the past academic year prezo Bio changed the 4-academitc years of classes/tutorial/schooling of the Senior Secondary School to 3 years and resulted to the massive failures at the WASECE exams despite his government spending over 20%+ of the country financial budget for that fiscal year especially on basic and senior secondary education and I was initially against such changes before the 2018 presidential/general elections and made my concerns in this media then.

    Coming back to the topic at hand my advice to Mr president that even in Australia where I am currently residing such a mandate he made is unconstitutional to a triveing/living democracy compared to mama Sierra Leone. At the end of the day the will and demand of the people prevail.

    Here in Australia for instance the mothers/parents of veteran soldiers who took their own lives in apparent suicide attempts because the Royal Armed Forces of Australia failed to come to these deceased soldiers aides in their time of needs had allowed these mothers/parents to be heard with their concerns and the Australian Prime Minister who is also head of the executive government had recently established a Commission of Inquiry with the Commissioner empowered with the powers / authority as a judge of the judiciary of the Australian Federal Court.

    Here in Australia we have States governments which are equivalent to local governments in mama Salone and recently one of the States’ government based on there election laws on political donations being floated set up a Commission of INQUIRY to look into that matter. What I am suggesting my prezo Bio you don’tknow when the need of COI will be needed and the circumstances that might ignite the needs for COI to be implemented as the example I gave you baes on the case studies here in Australia

  2. Commissions of inquiry will continue to roll out in Sierra Leone. It’s a shame and insult of an unfinished job. The likes of the present financial secretary, minister of finance, H E Bio and his gang of thieves will be brought to book after their one term in office.

  3. I agree with you Mr. Saidu Conteh. The gaps between the West – Northerners and the South Easterners is so clearly visible from all indications so far. Exempting people within your Government corridors who worked for the then past Government of HE. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma of APC just because they are your tribesmen or regional country men, is nothing but cheap tribalism and Partisanism.

    Before the commencement of the said COI you have already branded the accused persons as thieves so what else do you expect when its you who gave free job to the Commissioners? But time will tell. And don’t fool yourself and your Government officials that this is gonna be the last communission of inquiry, No! It will continue and your very self will be brought to book when the time is due. Sierra Leone is for all of us, no one tribe has absolute right than the others.

  4. Justice Biobele Georgewill is a very wise man. All what he said makes sense. Frankly speaking, he was not giving the time and independence he needs to carry out his job very well. Since the start of this commission, which of course was a good thing, the way it was carried out, especially with the intent of selective justice, did not go down very well with the wise Justice Biobele Georgewill, I reckon. I agree with most of what Mr. Saidu Conteh said. Can you imagine how some misinformed people were using all sorts of vicious words against former APC Administration officials?

    President Bio knows very well that if the COI is going to work as it should, then, most of his henchmen, some SLPP operatives and sympathisers will be in trouble. How on earth can ungentlemen like the present Minister of Finance, the present Minister of Lands and the present Financial Secretary were not even investigated? These men were all in questionable position during the last administration. Can you imagine?

    Now, because the President knows very well in his heart that he is going to lose in 2023, he is trying to appease people like me and the next APC Administration not to investigate him and his collaborators. I say no Mr. President. Make no mistake Mr. President. The next APC no nonsense Administration is going to pursue all corruption practices that have been happening for ages. This is the last COI or not is not going to fly.

    Trying to pass legislations about future COI or not is not going to stop the next APC Administration from pursuing for example, investigating the now to be former President, the now to be former First Lady’s spending on her projects, the Auditor General’s report concerning the billions of missing Leone’s etc,. That I will guarantee everyone.

    Finally, what the wise Justice Biobele Georgewill did is this – in my view – “Here is the report of the unfinished job you gave me to do Mr. President. I should not investigate SLPP operatives or sympathisers. Time, my independence and my reach of investigation were limited. Most of the people involved in this matter were permanent secretaries, financial and vote controllers whom I dare not touch or invite.

    I therefore hand this mess over to you to clean up yourself”. God bless the wise Justice Biobele Georgewill and all the best in his new endeavours. Goodbye Justice Biobele Georgewill. I’ll try to make a visit the next time I visit Nigeria.

  5. The president to say that this is the first and last enquiry in the history of Sierra Leone, doesn’t go down very well. How long does this current government wants to stay in power. They have stayed nearly 2 years. l don’t think its wise to even think that this government is qualified for another 5 years. We have to put Sierra Leone first. You can’t wait for a commission to finish before starting to build a better Sierra Leone.

    Let all those who are guilty pay back what they have stolen. That has got nothing to do with you. You do your bit, and at the end of the day you have only one term. Sierra Leone needs strong leadership. If you don’t know what to do, time is against Sierra Leone. I am sorry you will have to leave. No one person owns Sierra Leone.

  6. Since day one I have always maintained that the COI investigation was just another charade intentionally designed to score cheap political points. I said it was just another lousy scam, and it has turned out to be true. Now you can all call Saidu Conteh a Prophet! (lol) What kinds of pessimistic, gloomy messages is this President sending to our people by saying that he doesn’t want future investigations and by his sombre, outright refusal to release the final reports and make them public?

    Mr President there’s no turning back now. You’ve already thrown the dice, and it rolled for months and months. Now upon coming to a halt, it speaks loudly – what does it say Sir? Day in and out, tirelessly your notorious government and it’s supporters, hurled filthy insults, ceaselessly attacked and tarnished the hard earned reputations of helpless innocent law abiding people.

    You spitefully started the ball rolling, accused innocent citizens of rampant thefts and corruption. So for the sole purposes of clarity and transparency, let’s now see who they are…Que Sera Sera (What will be will be) No fears at all. Rising Sun Will Rise Again

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