Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2018:
Sierra Leone is one of the most corrupt nations on the African continent, with an estimated 70% of public funds misappropriated by public officials.
After ten years of poor governance by the ousted APC government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma, poverty continues to blight the lives of almost 80% of the country’s 7 million population.
The country’s economy is crippled by low investment in industrial development, poor availability of electricity, and poor public sector governance.
But all of that is about to change, as the SLPP government of Julius Maada Bio sets out on its mission to instil fiscal discipline, accountability, public sector reform, and above all fight against corruption.
Last week, the former head of the country’s tax collection office (the National Revenue Authority) – Haja Kallah Kamara and her finance director were arrested and held in custody on allegations of corruption on a grand scale.
According to a source in the Anti-Corruption Commission speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph today, both are expected to be granted bail of 5 Billion Leones each tomorrow Monday, as investigations continue.
Last Thursday, the tough talking newly appointed head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) – Francis Ben Kaifala (Photo), spoke to the press about his unstoppable fight against corruption.
He said that the ACC has taken bold steps to recover funds, especially monies owed to the state (running into millions) by defaulters, who had previously been found guilty of corruption and entered into an arrangement to pay back stolen funds.
Former directors of the country’s National Social Security Trust – Edmond Koroma, Mahmoud Idris, Gibril Saccoh and Ibrahim Bah were found guilty of corruption in a ferry purchase scandal involving millions of dollars a few years ago.
But they failed to pay back stolen funds, after agreeing an out of court settlement with the previous ACC Commissioner – Joseph Kamara, to repay Le 500 million each to the state; and no serious effort was made to enforce the agreement.
The newly appointed ACC chief kaifala has reopened the case. They were arrested last week and later bailed. And a fresh monthly payment plan has been agreed, which will see them pay the first installment sum of Le 50,000,000 (fifty million Leones) each by next month.
Since their release a few days ago, Bah has paid his Le 50 million into the consolidated fund as first instalment.
To the utter dismay of members of the media present, the Commissioner also informed them about what he referred to as “a systematic reliance on Executive Orders to do manifestly illegal things”, citing a case surrounding the Petroleum Directorate which saw its former Director, Mr. Raymond Kargbo receiving “terminal benefits” amounting to over Le 1.2 billion whilst still in active service at the Directorate.
“When Mr. Kargbo was brought in, he came brandishing an Executive clearance he earlier received from State House a year ago that allowed him to pay himself terminal benefits, whilst still continuing in office as Director…
“We are going to Commission a legal opinion into whether an executive clearance can be used in this way; and whether their use can absolve someone who does something that amounts to corruption or corrupt practices”, the Commissioner explained.
In what later transitioned to be a naming and shaming of egregious corrupt practices under the previous government, not even the past Parliament survived the Commissioner’s wrath.
The Commissioner pointed out that the previous Parliament, without proper financial justification, ratified an agreement – the Transport and Port Management Systems (TPMS) which was intended to see the people of this country benefit from 60% of all revenue generated by the Sierra Leone port, with 40% going to the company running the port.
But the company, under this arrangement, has accumulated arrears amounting to over $ 11 million (eleven Million United States Dollars) from 2015 to 2018.
This company, with the assistance of the previous parliament altered the financial clause in the agreement that reduced the quarterly payment due government to a measly $300,000 (three hundred thousand Dollars) fixed sum, thereby obliterating the millions of dollars due to the people of this country.
Worst still, the previous parliament used this amendment to cover a period already passed prior to the amendment by making the change retroactive. When the owner of the company, Sahr Ngegba, was arrested and detained by the Commission, his defense was that: “I did not do it, parliament did.”
But in reply, the Commissioner said: “Parliament is empowered to make laws, but they are not above the laws they make”.
Under the amended agreement with parliament, Sahr Ngegba owes the government $1.3 million. The ACC commissioner promised to continue his investigations into the port corruption saga.
Before his release on bail after spending days in custody at the ACC, plans were at the finishing stages that will Ngegba return $500,000 into the consolidated fund by August 3rd 2018, and an instalment payment of $100,000 each month for the next eight months.
The ACC commissioner also discussed last week the alleged misappropriated funds by the former Youth Ministry amounting to Le 29 billion (twenty-nine Billion Leones). This was funds allocated to the ministry by the Road Maintenance Fund for the Youth in Drainage Project. He is also accused of misappropriating Le 1.5 billion meant for the Youth farm project.
The former minister, permanent secretary and others were detained by the ACC. He was later released on bail set at Le 1 billion.
In another case of corruption at the Ministry of Agriculture amounting to Le 19 million, the new ACC boss has recovered Le 17 million so far; and has filed the following cases to court since he took office: The State VS Emmanuel E.E.C Shears Moses; The State VS Jonathan Michael Jenkins (a lieutenant commander in the RSLAF); The State VS Meshell Kamara (Bo); The State VS Emmanuel Sulaiman Musa Kawa (Kenema). Hearing on these cases will begin on the 20th August, 2018.
Responding to questions on whether the Commissioner will be bold enough to indict members of this current government, the Commissioner responded by saying: “I encourage you members of the media to be swift enough in bringing corrupt practices by any member of this current administration to my notice, and help me set a very bright example.”