Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop): Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 September 2021:
I am confused about the confused manner in which the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) government, under the leadership of Julius Maada Bio, is trying to balance the fiscal imbalance of his government through the over-bloating of public spending with a shoe-stringed budget. In simple language: the Commander-in-Chief has been figuratively robbing Peter with the intension of paying Paul.
That brings me to the needful need to remind President Bio of some of his campaign promises in his 2018 Manifesto dubbed the “People’s Manifesto.” Like most Men of God who find new issues everyday in their holy Bible; so also I have been finding new issues everyday in the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto and in some of the Presidential Addresses delivered in the House of Parliament. And each time I examine any of those documents, the shock becomes shockingly shocking simply because the President has still not translated majority of his campaign promises into policy actions.
Take for example President Bio’s promise of taking “specific policy actions that will be pursued to manage public spending in an efficient and effective manner”. He even told Parliamentarians, in the well of Parliament on Thursday 10 May 2018 during the state opening of the first session of the fifth parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone, that his government would “develop and introduce a standardized overseas travel policy for the public service and covering all categories of workers including Government Ministers”; yet he appears to be the very one who has been repeatedly flouting such “standardized overseas travel policy” (if there is any).
Even in most situations where the Ministry of Finance is facing challenges in paying salaries of government workers on time; the Finance Minister will always squeeze water out of stone to provide funds for the President’s overseas conferences which he could have participated in virtually.
And when the Head of State sneezes, other high-ranking government officials are sure to catch the flu. It is common sense that if the SLPP government is still unable to “develop and introduce a standardized overseas travel policy for the public service…including Government Ministers” then the national treasury will become a sort of free-for-all unguarded cake sharing. Or “kapu kapu ladida”, to borrow that Krio colloquial.
So, it comes as no surprise to me when the Africanist Press recently claims that the “Foreign Ministry’s banking records show that all of the funds received from the Chinese government for the renovation of the Chancery Building [in New York] in 2018 were used as Daily Subsistence Allowances (DSA), on flight tickets, and as relocation costs mostly to newly appointed ambassadors and other diplomatic staff posted by the Bio administration to various embassies in 2018”.
And the shocking thing about this whole “kapu kapu ladida”, according to the Africanist Press, is that the China funds were grossly and recklessly mismanaged “during the first [few] months of the Bio Administration…” when the ink on the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto was still freshly fresh! This is just an example from the countless examples to show that President Bio is still unable to translate his promised promise of introducing “reforms to strengthen public expenditure management”.
Another unfulfilled promise, in the “Forward” section of the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto, is where President Bio says, “Our New Direction will give every Sierra Leonean the ladder of opportunity to climb and achieve their greatest potential for personal development….” You can tell that to the toadies at either State House or State Lodge as it might sound like a lullaby in their ears! But if you tell that to the “Concerned Teachers of Kenema, in eastern Sierra Leone, and the “Benghazi Boys” who are headquartered at the back of the SLPP’s Wallace-Johnson Street headquarters; they will tell you that that “ladder of opportunity” is still an illusion trapped in phantasmagoria.
They will also tell you that what is meant by “achieve their greatest potential for personal development” is only for the SLPP’s Diaspora returnees (of which members of the “London Cabal” are the greatest beneficiaries!). For the Concerned Teachers of Kenema and the “Benghazi Boys”, such a promise now sounds like a dirge.
In that same “Forward” section of the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto, the people of Sierra Leone are promised that, “….Our New Direction will ensure the efficient political and economic management of the state and its natural resources to capacitate our country to pay for and finance all our basic and essential services and to invest in our critical infrastructure for sustainable development…”
Well, the 2019 Audit Report and the “Audit Report on Funds managed by NaCOVERC” by Audit Service Sierra Leone are elucidations that under the watchful watch of President Bio the SLPP government has still not ensured “the efficient…economic management of the state and its natural resources…” And the over-dependence on foreign loans and grants, by the Bio-led administration, and the jubilations on the corridors of power whenever these loans and grants are approved show that the SLPP government has woefully failed in its avowed promise to capacitate Sierra Leone “to pay for and finance all [her] basic and essential services…”
And while the SLPP is still unable to fulfil a fraction of its 2018 campaign promises, President Bio keeps on piling more promises as if the survival of his presidency depends on them.
On Tuesday 18 May 2021, “on the occasion of the State Opening of the Fourth Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone”, he promised Members of Parliament that his SLPP government would “…continue to implement prudent public financial management policies focused on enhancing domestic revenue mobilisation, rationalising expenditures, working towards single digit inflation, maintaining sustainable debt levels, a stable exchange rate, and increasing reserves to support inclusive growth…”
But in actuality, the SLPP government has not been applying sensible public financial management policies; they have not been “rationalising expenditures” as could be seen in the over-bloated Wage Bill; they are still unable to work “towards single digit inflation”, and the SLPP government has still not been able to stabilize the “exchange rate” since 2018 to date.
And even the SLPP’s flagship Free (minus “Quality”) Education policy appears to be a sham that is shambolic in its shambolic-ness. This seemingly sham of a policy is not lost on the nationally acclaimed and well-respected Professor Joe A.D Alie who, in a recent article titled “Looking At The Bigger Picture”, notes that the SLPP’s created Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) “looks like a vintage car”.
The heavyweight Historian is also sceptical about those running that ministry because he is not sure whether they “are the right people in the right places” And Prof. Alie is also not sure of whether those at the MBSSE’s hierarchy “are fully committed”. And that what is now happening at the MBSSE is “business as usual”.
And I will go on and on and on in highlighting countless instances where the SLPP government has failingly failed with distinction on majority of its campaign promises. One only needs to juxtapose their 2018 Manifesto and most of the Presidential Addresses in parliament with the realities on the ground and the failures will be clearly clear for even the short-sighted to see without a magnifying glass.