Sierra Leone corruption inquiry begins next month

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 17 December 2018:

Just months after being elected as president of Sierra Leone, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio received a damning report from a committee he had established to look into the management and governance of the country by the former Koroma-led APC government.

The Governance and Transition Committee (GTC) report is replete with allegations of gross abuse of office, corruption and malfeasance, running into hundreds of millions of dollars.

Some of those named in the corruption report, have already made out of court personal settlement with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, and have started repaying the money they are accused of misappropriating.

It is believed that hundreds of former APC government ministers, heads of public institutions, and private business owners will be summoned to give evidence to the judge-led inquiry when it commences.

Three months ago, the government tabled a Bill in parliament proposing the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry and arrangements for the conduct of the inquiry.

After weeks of intense and partisan debate, MPs voted a series of amendments to the Bill, before it was then finally accepted into law.

Since then, there have been doubts as to whether the government will go ahead with the inquiry. But today the government announced that the inquiry will commence in January 2019.

A press conference was held this morning in Freetown by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Priscilla Schwartz, and this is what she said:

“The Secretariat of the Commissions of Inquiry wishes to inform the public that the Commissions will commence public hearing in January 2019.

“The Commission of Inquiry will implement a key manifesto promise of His Excellency the president Rtd. Brig. Julius Maada Bio, to combat corruption, bring accountability in governance and foster economic growth for the people of Sierra Leone.

“The secretariat therefore wishes to encourage members of the public to support, assist and own the process as the “THE PEOPLE’S COMMISSION”.

“You can support the process by providing relevant information relating to the assets of persons who were President, Vice Presidents, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, and other public officials who served in government between 2007 and 2018.

“Assets for which the Secretariat seeks information on include: lands, houses, bank accounts, shares in companies, cars and any other property of value.

“The commission Secretariat will also appreciate any other information regarding mismanagement and misconduct in their official functions.

“In view of the above, members of the public are encouraged to own and assist the process by providing relevant information regarding the assets of public officials and pecuniary resources while in office during the said period to the following email addresses:

cominquiry@mic.gov.sl
coiinfo@lawofficers.gov.sl

“Alternatively, members of the public who reside in Freetown could take relevant information regarding the assets of public officials and pecuniary resources or other information regarding mismanagement and misconduct in their official functions to the Commissions Secretariat at the LAW OFFICERS’ DEPARTMENT, FIRST FLOOR OF GUMA BUILDING, LAMINA SANKOH STREET, FREETOWN.

“Members of the public residing in the provinces, who hold relevant information that will aid the work of “the peoples’ Commission of Inquiry”, are encouraged to call or text your name, address and telephone contact to the following numbers and the Secretariat of the Commissions will get in touch with you to obtain your information:

Tel. 232 75 011982
Tel. 232 76 649647

“The public is advised not to give any information or document to anybody or authority than the commission secretariat that will contact you to make adequate arrangements to obtain your information and assure your protection.”

According to the government, the inquiry is all about democratic accountability and a fight against impunity, not a witch hunt.

To ensure transparency, fairness and credibility, two international instruments will be fully utilized it says: World Bank Stolen Assets Recovery program; and UK Government’s Serious Fraud office, will be contacted and fully engaged to recover the people’s looted funds.

“The Commissions of Inquiry are here,” says the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice, told journalists this morning that the delay in commencing the inquiry was due to finding a suitable location and the identification of Judges – both local and international.

Budget has been allocated and three containers at the Special Court facilities in Freetown will be renovated to accommodate the commissions respectively.

Minister of Information, Mohamed Rado Swarray who chaired this morning’s press conference, described the commission as the people’s commission. 81% of the people are in support of the commission he said.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks Levi for your information on the APC lead inquiry of former president Ernest Koroma. As you well stated, they all went scorch free. Does it mean that nobody was corrupt or there was no misappropriation of government funds during the late president Kabba’s SLPP government? or was the APC government’s inquiry just a sham or cosmetic?

    If nobody was corrupt no problems. But if government officials were corrupt and the APC lead government protected them, then GOD will surely pay them for stealing the people’s money. They will never hide from GOD.

    Let them don’t forget that hell is waiting. AMEN and AMEN. We will pray that GOD closes heaven’s door before them for stealing the people’s money. If they fear hell, let them stop stealing the people’s money immediately.

    One thing we all agreed on my brothers, is for the government to focus on the misappropriation of government funds by the past government only and not before.
    This will be an example and rule. Public officials(be it the president, a minister, permanent secretary etc) will from now on be held accountable and face corruption inquiry after they leave office. Public officials will now know that the law will not be kind to them if they are corrupt.

    Finally the government should not only to try prosecute corrupt officials set up commissions on inquiry, the should also try to investigate why government officials are corrupt. Is it because emoluments?

    One thing I want to make clear is that, there is no excuse to be corrupt because of poor emoluments. However, the government should try and do something concerning workers pay packets.

  2. The thick clouds hanging over former APC government operatives for the past nine months have started to dissipate and it looks like a hurricane is in the offing with all its sinister grandeur.The forecast calls for sustained winds speed that have never been experienced anywhere – certainly not in Sierra Leone.

    Insomnia will now dominate the respective lives of all those that are likely to be summoned before the inquiry to give evidence under oath the violation of which is criminal with very serious repercussions,including jail time.

    Religious pleas will now go into override.No doubt the reverends and imams will be preyed on for help in the endevour. Those who believe in “sasa”[voodoo]will perform their peculiar uncanny rituals.The trouble is some of them always develop what a reverend once called “Sundayaitis”, an illness which only manifests itself on Sundays to make them avoid going to church.The muslims among them will now have to find out where the nearest mosque is.

    The most important element of the inquiry should be its precedent-setting phenomenon whose ripple effects have the characteristics of infinity,which in turn will benefit the nation.This time it is APC that are on the hook.Next time it could well be SLPP – this thought should make them operate cleanly.The ruthlessness of APC is borne by their history dating back to the late sixties right through to the Momoh era.

    Julius Maada Bio is not a toothless lion after all.Through Ben Kaifala the President should make his claws felt by even those APC villains that have fled the country.

  3. Mr. Matturi, Ernest Koroma established a Commission of Inquiry that was chaired by a Gambian judge in 2008. To best of my knowledge some of the ministers in the Tejan Kabbah government appeared before that commission and they were all acquitted.

    We cannot institute a double jeopardy scenario by going beyond the stipulated period for this commission of inquiry. It simply does not make sense.

  4. Commissions of inquiry against corruption has always been controversial in the past. Even in present day politics, it is very controversial and divisive.

    The government has set out the years which the inquiry will cover. That period does not cover the NPRC rule. There are some who will argue that the process is not fair because of that. Then, the whole issue comes again to controversy, fairness and divisiveness.

    Some are arguing that the president’s tenure in office during the NPRC rule must be looked into. That is a very fair question.

    My own personal view on this issue concerning the president is, he should not be part of the inquiry now whilst he is in office. Let us respect the presidency for the effectiveness of the inquiry. Some will react to my statement by saying that no one is above the law. The trouble with back dating the inquiry from the NPRC days is that, two succeeding governments have ruled Sierra leone after the NPRC left power.

    But none of them really took action on any misappropriation of government funds by the NPRC junta. was it a mistake?

    My question is, was it because there were people who would have been implicated in both the SLPP government of the late Ahmed Tejan Kaba or Ernest Bai Koroma if a thorough commission of inquiry was set up to investigate the misappropriation of government funds by the NPRC junta?

    Some are now ver angry that it is not fair because the government left the years when the junta under Strasser and the current president where in power. I agree with then. But unfortunately, time has lapse.

    If the present president should be investigated for any financial wrong doing during the NPRC junta rule, lets wait until he leaves office. Let us give him and his government the chance to investigate what is most recent. We shall at a later date investigate the corruption of the past.

    If there are any financial wrong doings during the NPRC rule, evidences are in place which any future commission of inquiry will work on. For now, I think it will be a good idea to let the government do its job.

    My advice is that the inquiry should be fair. It should not be a witch hunt. Culprits, regardless of political affiliation or ethnicity should be brought to justice.

    This inquiry is going to be very challenging and there will be plenty of debates and discussions to come.

    • A retrospect of past governments corruptions before the concept of the enactment of Commission of Enquiry is nonsense. If that’s the case then we have to go deeper to 1961 after independence.

      When was the first phase of Commission of Enquiry established in Sierra Leone. If we are serious and ready to annihilate corruption, let the axe come down upon those governments that are found guilty effective and there after the first phase of the establishment of the Commission Enquiry. Meaning, culprits should have been held accountable and punished at the first Commission of Enquiry.

      But going back to the time of independence, is purely nihilism. Are we to go back and prosecute Siaka Stevens, Albert Margai?

      An amendment of a constitution is to correct and include or implement new ideology. Please stop fooling the people.

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