President of Sierra Leone’s doctors union condemns government spending on luxurious SUVs

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 01 July 2020:

The president of the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) has criticised the government’s decision to spend much needed cash on luxurious Toyota SUVs, estimated at almost $2 million, instead of buying medicines and PPEs for hospitals.

Last month, the government of president Julius Maada Bio imported dozens of luxurious Toyota SUVs for the use of government ministers and staff managing the COVID-19 Emergency Response. It is estimated that each of the SUVs costs approximately $60,000.

There are reports of several nurses and doctors not receiving their salaries, whilst sick patients kept in dreadful conditions in Covid-19 isolation and quarantine centres are deprived of sufficient food, water and medicines.

Sierra Leone’s healthcare system lacks investments. Doctors and nurses are poorly paid, and very often do not get their salaries for several months. Hospitals are ill-equipped and under-resourced.

Far too many people are dying in hospital wards because of poor diagnosis and lack of medicines.

Since the Ebola pandemic in 2014 and now COVID-19, hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into the country’s healthcare system; but because of corruption and poor prioritisation, less than 40% of government budget is actually spent where its needed to save lives.

Yesterday, the President of the SLMDA – Dr. Delwin M. Findlay, wrote to his members of the SLMDA. This is what he said:

“Good Day all. I am taking this step to update you all on the ongoing health situation in Sierra Leone as concerns  our doctors.

“Today 30th June marks the end of the initial 3 – month agreement by government of Sierra Leone with Healthcare workers on COVID-19 allowances.

“By a press release from the Ministry of Finance on 2nd June 2020, which erroneously stated that all allowances to date had already been paid. The SLMDA released a counter statement debunking the claims of the Ministry of Finance.

“As a result of thi,s the payslip of Dr. Samba Jalloh, General Secretary of SLMDA was published on social media with comments that he had already been paid and that the views of the SLMDA were politically motivated influenced by myself the President of SLMDA.

“Our investigations revealed that little or no effort was made to obtain and verify lists of staff at Isolation and Treatment Centres. It seemed that the authorities were devoid of a working plan to do the verification.

“The executive team headed by the Vice-President, undertook to obtain lists from all Medical Superintendents nationwide, unaided by the Ministry of Finance or any other form of logistics. These lists were produced and have been in the possession of IHPAU, NACOVERC and the Ministry of Finance for more than 2 (two) weeks and still payments have not been made.

“To date we as an association have lost 2 (two) members to COVID-19, Dr. Samuel B. Sesay and Dr. Peter M. George. May their gentle souls rest in peace.

“One of the points on the MOU with the Government of Sierra Leone was the provision of a compensation to the families of deceased doctors. This has now been developed into a Special COVID-19 Life Insurance Policy under the National Insurance Company with GOSL paying the Premium for initial one year.

“This policy includes a compensation of 15% of annual gross salary to any doctor that contracts COVID-19 and survives; Death compensation of 24 (twenty four) months gross salary to the next of kin of the deceased; Critical Illness compensation of up to 50% annual gross salary for any verifiable costs incurred during illness. This will come into effect on 1st July 2020

“The two already deceased doctors are not within the coverage period of this policy. However the compensation to the families of Dr. Samuel Sesay and Dr. Peter George will be paid by GOSL.

“This policy will remain in place after COVID-19 as a Life Insurance Policy for all government doctors.

“Availability of drugs and supplies in Isolation and Treatment Centres is a big headache. With all the money flowing into the COVID-19 fight it seems ”it is easier and more important to buy brand new SUVs than buying much needed drugs and equipment for Isolation and treatment centres, making us the laughing stock of Africa and the world”.

“The Non-COVID Services  are being neglected. Everyday are reports of shortages especially with the Free Healthcare services. No sutures, even paracetamol for children are not available. We as an executive will continue to impress on MOHS on the need for basic supplies. If announcements are made on Electronic media everyday supplies should be made available as a matter of must.

“My colleagues I implore you to continue working today 30th June 2020, Tomorrow July 1st 2020 is another day.

“Please treat every case until proven otherwise,  as potentially infected with COVID-19.”

Commenting on the government’s purchase of 30 luxurious SUVs, a local journalist wrote: “Whilst other countries have government officials cutting down on their salaries to help their governments tackle huge burden on poor citizens, ours are here importing very expensive vehicles claiming to fight Coronavirus Pandemic in Sierra Leone.

“In Sierra Leone, 30 SUVs and 100 Motor Bikes purchased by the Ministry of Finance for Districts and Central Emergency Operations Centers costing Le 5,928,300,000 (five billion, nine hundred and twenty-eight million, three hundred thousand Leones).

“Sad, yet we have frontline health workers who don’t even have gloves, facemasks to handle minor illnesses. Yet, we have health workers who have worked for weeks without salaries and allowances.

“Now to the relevance of the vehicles, I stand to be corrected here, but almost all the management staff of Covid-19 in Sierra Leone already have official vehicles in their service to the state. The Head of EOC is Minister of Defense, he has his official vehicle as Defense Minister. So have others, including the Spokesman of EOC who is Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Western Area Coordinate of EOC Miatta French who is NEC Western Area Commissioner. All of them have official vehicles assigned to them on behalf of the state.

“Why not use this money to provide for people under quarantine? I felt disgusted, and outraged when senior colleague Umaru Fofana reported on BBC Focus on Africa that, there are people under quarantine in Sierra Leone who survive on a single sachet of water (less than 1 litre) a day. Yet we have money to buy vehicles for people who already have official vehicles when you cannot even provide proper quarantine facilities for infected persons in the provinces. Is this not total misplace of priorities?”

Since coming to power in April 2018, the government of president Julius Maada has received over a Billion Dollars in foreign aid and loans to invest in improving public service delivery, and  promote economic growth. But there are fears most of that money are being wasted on luxurious and unnecessary spending, with little or no accountability.

17 Comments

  1. Every day we getting some chilly stories, and again today President Bio was a merchant “a car dealer in Ghana”, now both Ghaanian and British Citizenships are gone. People are really busy searching for this young man’s records, the interesting thing is, they only looking for the negativities. The voters are fools to cast their votes for this man if he was an evil the way you described him. Folks the gov’t purchased new vehicles for the state, not for personal use. If he doesn’t you the folks will be asking the same question “where is the money?” The Sierra Leone medical and Dental Association (SLMDA) criticizing the gov’t; of course they have the right to do so, as patriotic citizens, they have all right

  2. Stargazer, “ Deplorable lie” is what you displayed in this glorious forum by changing your real identity from Saidu Conteh to stargazer after you have been disgracefully expelled because of your lack of respect and lawlessness towards forumites and writers. As far as I am concerned you are a “ jail breaker”. Now back to the subject of quarantine – the unfortunate reality is currently, the USA has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world 2,739,879, with 128,749 deaths. According to health experts, we are not following the example of China where the pandemic started, by hiring an army of contact tracers to find and isolate people who were exposed to the disease. But in China and Sierra Leone, people considered at risk of spreading the disease are mandated to quarantine in specific locations.

    In the USA, citizens are not mandated but advised to home quarantine and if they have underlying health complications, then they can be admitted in the Emergency Room. I personally know health workers who have been through our quarantine system and they personally took care of themselves (including feeding) as compared to Sierra Leone where the government takes full responsibility. Based on scientific research, mandatory quarantine applied in Wuhan China and other countries that have been successful in controlling the spread of this deadly disease, is the only way to flatten the curve and hopefully control it.
    A chartered flight departed Freetown for Washington DC few weeks ago and none of the passengers were quarantined, unlike Sierra Leone where mandatory quarantine was practised months before the global shutdown of all international flights.

    During that period, millions of passengers entered the USA freely and unfortunately, now we cannot travel to Africa, due of flights banned from the E.U. Let’s hope and pray that the New Direction government will continue to save lives and the doctor must respect the process of disbursement of funds, because the Auditor General is quietly watching, as it was in the case of the Ebola and if the New Direction government can pay former corrupt APC officials, pay money to poor people during the 3 days lockdown, currently paying Le 1.3 million to citizens affected by the economic crisis, also pay Le 42 billion for students fees, paid Le 8 million as back payment to each nurse.

  3. What did you say, I didn’t get it? Please wake up from your deep slumber,and soberly repeat what you just said; “The reality is even in the USA the government is not responsible to take care of its citizens under quarantine even health workers, because quarantine centers are not even available in the USA.”Bwahahahahaha – Who told you such a deplorable lie, that you have now embraced as your new personal mantra?(lol) Well,on this noble forum,rest assured,you will not go away unnoticed after spewing outright falsehoods,and red herrings. The truth of the matter is that there are 15 military bases approved by the Dept of defence, and the CDC as quarantine facilities in the United States; THE MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE in California, that recently released 195 evacuees is just one of them. Hey listen,get your facts straight,before it becomes too late for you to salvage whatever little there is, that is left of your credibility on this glorious forum.(lol)

  4. This financial sh** and excellent financial mess will continue till the Bio SLPP is voted out of power. The Bio SLPP has not been involved in any corrupt activity as far as the present ACC is concerned. The truth is, we will never know the severity of corruption under the Bio SLPP until the Bio SLPP lose power and a no nonsense administration with the first Sierra Leonean PhD Criminology expert as ACC boss takes over. Ladies and Gentlemen, State House is between 2023 and 2024 in sight. Have they started packing their suitcases in advance to “get SALONE sorted”? God bless the Republic of Sierra Leone.

    • If the Bio led government is really messing up the country’s coffers, the international community would not have been giving grants and loans to support his government. The EBK led APC government mismanaged our country’s economy to an extent that, the international community shunned them. When Bio took presidency, he instilled confidence in them in less than 2 years. It is all due to his leadership qualities.

  5. Again, why are patriotic Sierra Leoneans surprised by the countless self-serving policies and actions devised only to benefit the PAOPA elites? I mean, since this regime came into power and deceptively declared to have inherited a bankrupt economy, have any of you observed any scale down in their extravagant lifestyles? Isn’t it time for those of you who have the country at heart, to realize the claim of bankruptcy was all part of a phony scheme, devised to attract billions of foreign aid, which then could be shared amongst the POAPA elites, under the guise of pony projects, procurement and lavish salaries for do nothing political appointment positions? My fellow Sierra Leoneans, what exactly is there to hide?

    Desperate to get their hands on millions of dollars from IMF and world bank, the regime selfishly removed fuel subsidies and raise business taxes—resulting to skyrocketing of basic commodities across the nation. With a majority of the PAOPA extremists being unemployed and broke for the past decade, they were ready to do anything to realize their dreams of building mansions and sending their loved ones overseas, even if it means suffocating the already suffering masses. As was the previous APC officials during Ebola, these good for nothing cowards, are back at it again, siphoning Covid-19 funds to maintain their lavish lifestyles.

  6. It is better the SLMDA stand to what they have decided, if not this unserious government will not look to your needs. You will not believe the only referral pediatric hospital in Freetown do not even have paracetamol and all other drugs are running out. This present government is not for the people, but for themselvesT the worst government ever to rule Mama Salone but God will punish them all.

  7. Interesting Video clip from a popular social media comedian that always makes jokes of most African leaders. Probably this video has triggered the reaction of some of our medical workers who haven’t even treated a coronavirus patient since the outbreak, but believe that since the government decided to equip the Emergency Task Forces with brand new SUVs and motorcycles (logistics) in order to travel around the country to wage war and defeat this dreadful disease, they are also entitled to bonuses.

    Sierra Leone has been known for all the wrong reasons, when it comes to fighting Ebola by showing people dying in thousands, but this time around when people are dying all over the world even in the most powerful nations, we are known for spending money on logistics in order to defeat the disease. I personally prefer that image over showing dead bodies around the country. as was the case of the civil war, Ebola and Mudslide, when the whole world was feeling sorry for us because we were ill prepared. The reality is even in the USA , the government is not responsible to take care of its citizens under quarantine even health workers, because quarantine centers are not even available in the USA.

    Bonuses which were paid to ONLY health workers taking care of coronavirus patients, were discontinued two months ago because it was unsustainable for most private nursing homes and hospitals due to the bad economy. But for love of the country and profession rather than money, health workers still received their normal salaries and continued saving lives just like soldiers during war. Some health workers are not even qualified for the $1200 from the government ( since March) which took 2-3 months to process because of their annual income which was supposed to be within a certain category.

    Finally, the reality is this disease is Novel which will continue to be a challenge for the world until a vaccine is discovered and I wish President Bio will wave his magic wand to transform our broken health sector that he inherited during the outbreak of this pandemic. Pandemic happened over 100 years ago and instead of condemning the president who is committed to using his military knowledge to fight and defeat this disease like a real enemy, we should at least commend him for his leadership and sacrifices his administration is still making to save the lives of Sierra Leoneans. Some other countries are still facing huge challenges. May the souls of the doctors and people of Sierra Leone that succumbed to this dreadful disease continue to rest in perfect Peace. Amen and Ameen.

    • When you say you wished president Bio could wave his majic wand to transform the broken health sector that he inherited during this pandemic, tells me that he is not doing what is right. As a result your wishes did not come true. Poor child! No wonder he is being chewed like a chewing gum. Thats what happens – when the brain fails, the body suffers. (u nor wan de yeri na parebool de?) It was the same thing APC did during Ebola. YOU know brother Alusine Fallay, when King masco,a popular Sierra Leonean afro folklore musician said in one of his lyrics that, if Sierra Leoneans want to make Sierra Leone become a better country,they should first change their attitudes, he was referring exactly to those folks who see blue and call it pink.

      Dont get me wrong, everyone in this forum somehow favors political ideologies of a particular party, if not belonging to one. But that doesn’t mean we should be so naive in pointing out realities when it comes to picking them out from the fakes. until we all are willing to throw out hypocrisy, call out issues as they are, speak truth to power in order to help move salone forward, the problem will continue to wear and tear all of us down. In this platform I listen and hear all the ‘for and against’ arguments. But what I hardly hear is the truth. Most times, some people will come up with the most sickening argument just to put out something for nothing, all in the name of “it’s my opinion”.

      Let’s start to call things as they are, even if they are against our wish or liking – at least for the sake of saving a life. If this president was really serious in using his military skills and knowledge as you purported in fighting this pandemic to save lives, what we are seeing happening in the country right now could not have happened in the first place. But here is a president who doesn’t even have a COBO or DIME, let alone tools to fight the pandemic, yet still he is being seen sporadically and unnecessarily spending from the aid given to him by other countries to help his people. Monies that could have been used to help fight the pandemic is now being used to purchase luxury vehicles for travelling, all in the name of “wi dae pul kovid komot na salone”.

  8. Mr. President did you critique the last government about Ebola money, mudslides or when they were buying the same Suv’s? Please correct me I might be wrong! Or is it that you are more concerned now because maybe, just maybe you are only concerned now because it is a different government? This is not to say you’re wrong. I 100% agree with your premise. Inadequate health care in the country is contributing to a lower life expectancy. But there was a government there for 10 years – did you raise these concerns about Inadequate supplies and services? A country where the main general hospital is functioning without a dialysis machine or if it does, it has not been in working condition.

    Several governments have been in place without any. We now know some have been bought and is about to be installed but COVID19 interrupted the process. I still do agree with you though, a lot more needs to be done. These Suv’s are very expensive and the money can be better spent. But it has been like this for decades, to the point where government ministers steal them and sell them on after they leave office. Again from the last administration, the ACC has to be retrieving them. They probably need to repair the roads in the city which are in terrible condition. Thus giving them the excuse for purchasing these expensive Suv’s. If the roads are properly maintained they won’t need them. Still appreciate your concern. Thanks for your service to the people.

  9. This president and his government are behaving like Hip Hop stars. Bling, Bling. The only difference is, those stars work for their money. It won’t surprise me if government ministers are sent on shopping sprees in London, Paris or Dubia for diamonds crusted rings and gold chains around their neck. And since none of them can sing, they will tell us to go and download the Sierra Leonean national Anthem. To add to their stolen wealth, for them to spend it on massive mansions, with all that goes with it. And the ultimate Bling of all, that must get amoured gold plated Gulf stream jet.

    When I wrote the ten commandments of how to remove the word commandments, it sounded religious. The ten rules we need to develop our country, is just the sort of thing I had in mind. I don’t think this government has the interest of this country at heart. For the life of me, I cannot imagine prime minister Lee of Singapore, when he embarked on developing his country, would have done this sort of public waste of money. Why the SUVs? Why can’t our governments get their priorities right? What about our doctors and nurses? The population of Sierra Leone is the size of a city like London or some cities in the United States. And these cities are run by Mayors, never mind Governors. And everything works well. They get state grants, but they put it to good use for the benefit of all. I hope the IMF, that is encouraging this reckless behaviour is watching.

  10. A lackadaisical government lacking in foresight,not having their priorities in order that’s who they are. Its quite easy to see that they do not have the interest of the nation at heart.They are tirelessly fleecing the system,buying
    expensive vehicles for their friends and supporters,while hardworking health workers are going unpaid, yet still bravely risking their lives on the front-lines of the pandemic without face-masks, gloves and tools they need to perform their duties effectively. Only these greedy,mean-spirited tribalists that don’t have a conscience will let people under quarantine starve to death while being kept in the most deplorable conditions imaginable.

    Are these people really fellow Sierra Leoneans,that are so very unfriendly and inconsiderate of the plight,and suffering of others? I think not! What a big mistake voters have made, to have Maada Bio, David Francis, and JJ Saffa in complete control of our nations affairs. A once rising democratic country is now in shambles,completely transformed into a Totalitarian state,ruled by the worst kinds of lawless,nefarious individuals your naked eyes have ever seen.

  11. This is what they see as the best way to spend government money. SAD indeed for our health care professionals, workers and country. But if you ask the ACC to investigate the deal – paying $60,000 for one SUV, they will end up telling you, all is just fine. SAD with the idea “Na we them dis” rather than catering for our frontline health professionals, workers and population. These SUV’s will end in their homes for very low price in the not too distant future as write offs. Can they convince me that’s not the case? Never! The people will decide when the time comes. Amen and Amen. God bless Dr Findlay

  12. Well nothing really new, all governments since 1965 have been the same in wasting our meager resource. Not a single president has changed the course of wastage. I wonder what could have gone wrong had Mr president bought his ministers the Land Rover Defender some that would outlast his presidency. Everyone f our leaders believes in the pomp and pageantry of his predecessor. Its a shame and completely reprehensible act from a leader who entered office on the promise of stopping the leaks from our coffers.

  13. Sierra Leone has one of the worst health care systems in Africa with the Health Minister admitting recently that the country only has one intensive care unit. But this is not a priority rather ministers and senior official to drive in luxury is prioritised. It is a disgrace with government officials failing to realise that they will at some point need the essential services that this sector provides.

  14. Mr. president of SLMDA, may be you have forgotten that president Maada Bio in former times has been a car dealer in Ghana?

    • Oh yes, I remember that. That’s when Jerry Rawlings took a dislike to him because of his corrupt behaviour. They tried to replicate Rawlings during the NPRC times, but left out the part about clamping down on corruption which Rawlings disliked.

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