President Bio suspends public officials accused of corruption by commission of inquiry

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 October 2020:

President Bio has today suspended all civil servants and public officials accused “of acting improperly with respect to the use of public funds” by the Commission of Inquiry. Two of those affected by the president’s decision, are his minister of agriculture – Dennis Vandi and the secretary to the vice president – Baba Fortune. Both have been suspended, according to the country’s information minister – Mohamed Rahman Swaray.

According to the commission of inquiry report,  “The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology was the most recklessly managed Ministry within the period under review and was run as a cartel and criminal enterprise by Dr. Minkailu Bah and his collaborators, the Permanent Secretaries, except Prince Emmanuel Oldman Cole, resulting into massive misappropriation and or loss of humongous sums of monies, both in Leones and in United States Dollars…..”

“Dr. Minkailu Bah, the former Minister from 2008 – 2018 together with Mr. Mani Koroma, Dennis Vandy and Umaru Conteh, former Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology were involved in gross abuse of their offices in the reckless manner in which they dealt with the finances of the Government under their care and failure to provide leadership and supervision of the Ministry or Department or Agency put under their charge”.

In its recommendations, the commission of inquiry report stipulates that Dr. Minkailu Bah, Dennis Vandy and their co-conspirators must pay back tens of millions of dollars – jointly and severally into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone.

But since the publication of the commission of inquiry report and the government’s White Paper, Dennis Vandy has protested his innocence. Speaking to the Global Times last Monday, he said he was never given the opportunity to hear the allegations made against him.

“I was in this country throughout the sittings of the Commissions…I was never invited…I was never notified of being a Person of Interest…Above all, I was never interviewed by any one working for the Commissions”, Mr. Vandi protested.

“I have studied the report carefully and found out with dismay that I was wrongfully indicted for every bit of malfeasance which took place at the Ministry of Education from 2007 to 2018…I served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education from 29th March to 31st August 2016…I was never invited to the Commissions, and I was never declared as a Person of Interest to the Commissions”.

Many other former public officials are also claiming they were never invited for questioning by the COI but today president Bio has decided to suspend all civil servants and public officials accused by the COI “of acting improperly with respect to the use of public funds”.

They have all been given up to three months to appeal the decision of the commission of inquiry, with effect from the date of publication of the COI report.

This is what the State House statement says:

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Seneth Brown says — “ The mandate of the COI was made known. All those who held positions of trust between 2007 and 2018 were investigated”. Hey Mr. Brown, are you sure all those who held position of trust between 2007 and 2018 were investigated? Have you actually seen the selective list, provided by David Francis targeting mostly opposition figures? I will actually like for you to corroborate your assertions sir!!

  2. Thanks Mr Brown I understand your point you are making. When it comes to dispensing justice, it has to fit the crime. Those who chose to commit it or break the law should be held accountable for their actions or misdeeds. To say I was just obeying orders will not wash in a court of law. The Nazis tried it in their trials – So did members of the Pol Pot regime. We all want to see corruption eliminated in Sierra Leonean society. It will be tragic if we ignore the laws of the land for political point scoring. In fighting corruption, we have to apply the laws of the land equitably without fear or favours.

    Those accused of stealing from the state, should be given the opportunity to defend or explain their side of the story in a court of law. Even former RUF leaders were charged, placed on trial and convicted for their crimes. And these people are guilty of the most heinous crimes man is capable of inflicting on his fellow man. The reason that was made possible is because the Special court for Sierra Leone was an international tribunal not a national tribunal. I will refer you to Dr Blyden’s case to see how our justice system is compromised. Yes the commission of inquiry made some accusations against certain individuals including EKB. Whether it is coincidence or by design, majority of the accused persons of gross misconduct in public office happens to be from the North. And it didn’t stop there.

    The president appears to have jumped the gun by issuing statements to the effect that these accused individuals should pay back their alleged stolen loot into a national consolidated fund within thirty days or risk forfeiting everything they have built over a life time. That to me sounds like a military dictatorship. Moreover it undermines the basic principle of the law that says A MAN IS INOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY BY A COURT OF LAW. AS SIERRA LEONEANS WE NEED TO LEARN TO RESPECT THE RULE OF LAW. IT SHOULD BE PARAMOUNT ABOVE EVERYTHING ELSE. When that day dawns, no one will be talking about tribal and regional differences, because they will trust the judiciary to do its work independently without political intervention. May God bless Sierra Leone.

  3. Interesting development of suspending government officials, or ministers that are named in the commissions of inquiry corruption charge sheets. Now if this is another ploy by president Bio to be seen to be applying the rules even-handedly to both disgraced members of his government, and the sense of injustice felt by the APC rank and file accused, it is slowly but surely going to blow in his face. The only surprise, in this whole circus, is those that are found guilty by justice Biobele commission, never knew they are persons of interest and being investigated by the commission in the first place. Now we are talking about investigating corruption.

    If that is not what is called corruption, I can’t find a tag for it. If we take the president at face value, and give him the benefit of the doubt, we can say he is finally doing the right thing for our country. But going by his previous actions or the lack of it, we’ve seen Ministers that commit offence, like the resident minister of North Hon Abu Abu making inflammatory statements, only to be suspended by Bio, due to public pressure, and because Sierra Leoneans are a nation infected with short term memory loss, only to be reappointed in the same position with even more clout to influence matters of state in the country.

    What president Bio wants us to believe, and seen to be doing, is that he is dispensing justice fairly and evenly. The ACC COULDN’T HAVE INTERVIEWED THE FORMER PRESIDENT EKB, on his schedule Tuesday meeting, until president Bio make this charade of announcements. His supporters have been given a reference point. Look he is even going after his own lot. They will say he is the most fair minded president that occupied the office of state. I will say the jury is still out on that one. Some people will say that it was EBK’s lawyers who asked for the matter to be rescheduled to Thursday, but I don’t buy that. Because we are not a fly on the walls of what goes on in the president office at state house. There must be a telephone hotline between Bio and Ben Khalifa. The ACC itself is not transparent as they will have us believe.

  4. This President is just wasting our nations precious time and taxpayers money; you cannot transform merciless vultures into loving gentle doves overnight; Corruption has always been a way of life in Sierra Leone; it is etched totally and deeply in our hearts, subconscious minds and souls like the engravings on a gold ring. The methods they are using to fight corruption are quite superficial, they do not address the root causes and how to solve them – the emphasis has clearly been only on restitution, and punishment driven by an insatiable thirst for revenge.

    You need great insight, skill and untainted sincerity to fight corruption in Sierra Leone – These criminals do not have what it takes to minimize or eradicate corruption in our beloved country; First things firsts look for diverse ways to prevent corruption from happening in the first place; For surely, “An once of prevention is better than a pound of cure?”(Benjamin Franklin)

  5. What is the difference between the present and the former government officials as far as the COI is concerned? Both former and present officials must have the right to appeal the decision of the COI concerning them. Have to. God bless and protect our judiciary from interference. TBC.

    • Some on this forum never cease to amaze me. First the COI was a selective Justice only targeting northerners, now it is about the president pretending to play fairly. Guys, play, live and eat politics. However, be analytical in your views on important national matters. The mandate of the COI was made known. All those who held positions of trust between 2007 and 2018 were investigated. Many of the issues looked at by the COI are issues that were highlighted repeatedly by the Auditor General in her yearly reports since 2012.

      I would implore here those who are showing their ignorance on critical issues to read the legal arguments put out by Justice Bankole Thompson in his report. He is the sole Sierra Leonean Judge that presided over the COI. He is a Krio by decent. But his argument about command responsibility especially with regards the defense put out by professor Monty Jones the former minister of Agriculture. Prof Jones lawyer argued that his client was the political head who took policy decisions for his Ministry, but should not be held responsible for malfeasance occurring in his Ministry during the implementation of those policies. If you have time to read that powerful legal ruling, you will have a rethink like a man looking into a mirror. But will you?

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