Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 August 2016
Police investigations into mysterious fires at Sierra Leone’s Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) in the past few years, have surprisingly proved inconclusive.
Most Sierra Leoneans believe that EDSA is one of the most corrupt public institutions in the country, and president Koroma would perhaps be the first to agree, though many would say he has failed to address rampant corruption in public institutions.
But last week, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) made a swoop at the electricity supplier, with several high and low level personnel called in to help the commission with its investigations, including the managing director – Timbo; head of sub-station and safety – Edward Parkinson; and Sarah Thomas in the commercial department.
According to sources at the ACC, it is conducting what it refers to as “a deep dive investigation into the operations of EDSA, ranging from procurement, distribution operations, revenue collections, meter manipulations and fraud, general administrative misdemeanours to unexplained and corrupt acquisition of wealth”.
Few weeks ago the president dismissed the entire Board of Directors of EDSA, for its persistent failure to improve access to electricity in the country, especially the capital Freetown. EDSA is also running at a massive loss, unable to balance its books.
The Board of Directors appointed by president Koroma himself has failed to improve the Authority’s financial performance, and there are allegations of serious financial malpractice and misdemeanours contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act.
Statement from State House published on the 2nd of August was clear: ‘The general public is hereby informed that pursuant of the provisions of Section 27(2) of the National Electricity Act 2011 (Act No. 16 of 2011), the president has decided to remove the chairman and members of the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA) from office with immediate effect. In consequence, a five-man interim caretaker Board has been appointed.’
According to presidential spokesman – Abdulai Bayraytay, members of the EDSA Board “are undermining the President’s Agenda for Prosperity”.
This will come as a surprise to many in the country, as those appointed to high office in Sierra Leone are very often believed to be foot soldiers and supporters of the president and his ruling APC party.
If those trusted by the president to help deliver his Agenda for Prosperity are now undermining his ambition, then Sierra Leone is in serious trouble and the ACC appears to be stepping up.
But critics would say that the record of the president in curbing corruption in the last nine years has not been spectacular, if anything to write home about, as ministers and senior public officials have made the running of government into a personal gravy train.
Corruption is costing Sierra Leone over $200 million a year, along with thousands of deaths from poverty and poor health.
The Acting Deputy Director of EDSA – Dr Henry Saccoi, who no doubt will also be questioned by the ACC, told the press two months ago, that EDSA is struggling to make a profit, with rising monthly expenditures far exceeding the company’s income.
Since its formation a couple of years ago, EDSA has managed to increase its monthly income from Le8.5 Billion to Le15 Billion, though monthly expenditure has also risen from Le10 Billion to more than Le15 Billion.
Since the breaking up of the unwieldy National Power Authority (NPA) by the Koroma government into two separate entities – the Electricity Generating and Transmission Company (EGTC) and the Electricity Distribution and Supply Authority (EDSA), hopes for a turnaround have been dashed.
Although EDSA purchases the electricity it supplies to customers from the EGTC and other independent power providers such as AGGREKO on a cost recovery basis, it is however responsible for buying and supplying fuel oil needed for the operation of the generating companies, leaving room for much opportunity for corruption.
EDSA is also responsible for investing in new transformers as and when they need replacing, as well as carry out maintenance of the transmission networks across the country.
The Anti-Corruption Commission is expected to look closely at the payment arrangement EDSA has with the various government departments that are failing to pay their bills, or at least appears to be failing in their duty to pay their bills.
Are the officials of government departments misappropriating monies set aside for the payment of electricity bills?
Two months ago – July, 2016, the World Bank Country Manager for Sierra Leone – Parminder P.S. Brar, announced that the World Bank has approved US$138 million, to support the development of a new 57 Mega Watts thermal electricity power plant in the country.
This should help boost electricity generation and supply in Sierra Leone, especially the capital Freetown, which in the last thirty years has become renowned as one of the darkest cities in the world.
The people of Sierra Leone are struggling to make do with a mere and intermittently supplied 30 Mega Watts, instead of the minimum 500 Mega Watts required for household and commercial use.
In the meantime, ACC Investigations into the running of EDSA continue.