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:
“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.