Sierra Leone Telegraph: 1 April 2021:
President Dr Julius Maada Bio on Tuesday officially announced the formal closure of the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) Threshold Programme funded by the US government in 2015.
The $44.4 million threshold programme was aimed at improving access to clean water, reliable electricity, and support the government to implement measures that will limit opportunities for corruption in Sierra Leone.
But as the threshold programme comes to an end and the government of Sierra Leone looks to receiving its much publicised $400 million MCC funding, questions are being asked about the success of the threshold programme that has now come to an end, and whether the Bio government can be trusted to manage a $400 million MCC funding.
In 2015, less than 30% of households in Sierra Leone had access to electricity and clean, safe drinking water. Today, it is estimated that this figure has declined by about 2%, with 68% of households still struggling to access reliable supply of electricity and clean water.
Though there was hope the Bio government would take its promised fight against Corruption campaign seriously, the veneer of the government’s anti-corruption strategy is fast peeling off.
Tens of millions of dollars are reported missing across government ministries and departments, including the offices of the president and his wife the First lady.
With such appalling abuse of office and financial impropriety, there is little confidence the government can be trusted to manage a $400 million MCC funding package effectively.
But, speaking at the threshold programme closure event held at State House on Tuesday, Chief Executive Officer of the MCCU, Ndeye Fatu Koroma, said: “The MCCU team, a band of young and bright Sierra Leoneans, was tasked with pursuing aggressive reforms in the electricity and water sectors.
“We were asked to influence policy, build capacity and shift entrenched business cultures to ensure that our people have access to basic services that are integral to human capital development and the economic transformation of Sierra Leone”.
The US Ambassador to Sierra Leone, David Reimer, spoke about the progress made in confronting the challenges facing the people of Sierra Leone, saying that the government has made significant strides to respond to infectious disease outbreaks, raised spending on education, and increased the percentage of girls who completed primary school.
Additionally, he said action is being taken to control corruption and combat trafficking in persons. These initiatives directly contributed to Sierra Leone passing the MCC scorecard for two consecutive years. He confirmed that he was confident that by continuing to work together, Sierra Leone would be on the path to a brighter future.
“The United States of America is and will remain a firm and steadfast friend of Sierra Leone. Thanks to our shared values – democracy, the rule of law, and individual liberty – and our historic ties of family and culture. We remain deeply committed to Sierra Leone’s success as a democratic nation and to the wellbeing of its people.
“From collaboration on peace and security, to support for the health system as you confront both longstanding health challenges and the current pandemic, the United States – and our Embassy here in Freetown – will work with you to build a more prosperous, peaceful and healthy future for all,” Ambassador Reimer noted.
Vice President of Sierra Leone, Dr Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh, who is also the Chairman Board of Directors of the MCCU, said that the closure of the threshold programme marked a very important milestone in the partnership between the MCC and the Republic of Sierra Leone.
“Your Excellency, upon assuming office, you placed the MCC under my direct leadership. You gave me three objectives: to oversee the successful implementation of the Threshold Programme, to improve on the performance of the scorecard and lastly to deliver a Compact.
“Today we are witnessing the successful implementation of the Threshold Programme. As we close the five-year threshold programme, it should be noted that MCC decision to engage Sierra Leone in 2015 was a response to the Ebola crisis, to ensure that essential services are available to Sierra Leoneans, especially clean water and clean electricity,” he noted.
Vice President Jalloh also said that with the Coronavirus pandemic in the country, the threshold programme has been extremely relevant, which led to the provision of clean water to the communities of Aberdeen and Kingtom.