Dr. Dennis Bright: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 23 October 2018:
The Government Transition Team in its report was categorical that there had been very serious cases of corruption and mismanagement, involving the President and top Government officials in the last APC administration.
Following the publication of the transition report, the views and opinions expressed by the public were once again divided along political lines, roughly red versus green reactions.
On the one hand, those in sympathy with the past government including the former President and the top APC hierarchy were quick to debunk the report as containing baseless claims and being tantamount to a “witch hunt.”
On the other hand, members and supporters of the current Government pointed out instances and made allegations of corruption and graft that had reached unimaginable proportions and that had brought the State to near collapse.
We in the NGC maintain that corruption is too serious an issue to be reduced to a mere political game. Corruption is at the heart of all our problems. It has penetrated our governance system, devoured our institutions and eaten into the mindsets of our people.
The NGC (Photo: NGC MPs in Parliament – led by Dr. Kandeh Yumkella), considered it premature to draw conclusions from the claims made in the Government Transition Report, because even the Team was aware that there was need for a more thorough examination of their own observations and suspicions before the people of Sierra Leone could see the true picture of how their country has been run in the past ten years.
Undoubtedly, that is why they proposed the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry which is now going through its final stages in Parliament.
And if need be, cases before the Commission that would require further judicial process will be referred to the regular courts of justice thereby allowing for the rule of law to prevail.
The NGC made the promise to the people of Sierra Leone that if voted for in the 2018 elections we would fight corruption to save the nation from decay.
We therefore declare that although we are not in authority we will give our full support to the Commissions of Enquiry, for as long as due process is always followed and citizens are treated as innocent until they are proven guilty.
We want to encourage the Government to continue to unravel the mysteries of corruption in our country and, when the facts are known, to ensure that impunity or the culture of “buff case” is properly addressed and precedents are set so that “prospective robbers of State resources” will be discouraged and deterred from pursuing their dark designs.
In fact, we are of the view that in cases where Government officials and their collaborators are found to be guilty of gross misappropriation and plunder of State resources that should otherwise have been used to strengthen our economy and provide essential services to the people, in addition to returning the money – they should also be made to serve jail terms.
Furthermore, we believe that action against corruption should not only be retrospective. We are expecting that those who may indulge in corruption today will be pursued with the same vigour and thoroughness as those who were corrupt yesterday.
If Government displays consistency and impartiality in its drive against corruption, then the accusations of witch hunt would not hold. Corruption has eaten deep into our society and we are expecting corrupt functionaries and their beneficiaries to put up stiff resistance.
But we have vowed to our people that we will provide constructive opposition and change the entire script in democratic practice in Sierra Leone. In conclusion we would posit the following litmus tests to ascertain the credibility of the Commissions of Enquiry and to determine whether due process will be followed:
- For the work of the Commission of Enquiry to be complete and credible, Vote Controllers, including Permanent Secretaries must be included because they are at the heart of financial transactions in all government institutions and parastatals.
Ministers or Heads of parastatals may not withdraw money or issue contracts without the signature concurrence of their Permanent Secretaries or Vote Controllers.
- The Enquiries must be transparent, thorough and fair to allow the innocent to go free and the guilty to face the full penalty of the law. It will therefore be necessary for the proceedings to be covered live on radio and television to help create public awareness about what accountability means and for the public to draw its own conclusions on whether the process is fair or a witch hunt.
- To prevent abuse of human rights and freedoms, the tenure of the Commissions cannot be open-ended. They must be time bound and completed within one year so that those who are innocent can receive speedy relief from the stress they may be undergoing during the process, to allow the Government to get on with the work it has been given to do and for the nation to move on.
The Government must ensure that these Commissions of Enquiry are not a charade; for justice delayed is justice denied.
Ultimately, the execution of the proposed Commissions of Enquiry will give us an insight into whether the New Direction is truly a movement for change and progress.
About the author
Dr. Dennis Bright is the Chairman and Leader of the National Grand Coalition Party, 17e Wilkinson Road, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Contact Tel: 00 232 30 748961
I say YES to return money from those found guilty of gross misappropriation and NO to serve jail terms.
Now that the commission has been approved and will start shortly, we should start to think about what will happen after the commission ends.
I admire what the ACC BOSS has done so far with those guilty of misappropriation of government funds. The ACC just asks them to pay the amounts involved outright or make settlements with the ACC. That was a very smart idea to start with.
National unity would be one of the topics for the 2023 general elections. I should even say that the Chief Sam Sumana and the Mr. valentine Strasser issues have indicated that.
Former president Ernest Koroma made a smart move by reconciling with his former VP Sam Sumana. A very smart political move.
Then came the the hospitalization of the former NPRC head Captain Valentine Strasser. President Bio also made a smart move by immediately taking responsibility as father of the nation by helping the former head of state to be evacuated to Ghana for medical treatment, despite their in differences in the past.
It has all been regarded as APC 1 and SLPP 1. So the score board reads; 1-1. Sierra Leoneans should know from these two events that the campaign for 2023 has already started in the background. You don’t need to be a political scientist for these types of observations. Common sense will guide you.
So, whatever any past or former government official might have done in the misappropriation of government funds, the commission must seriously consider which type of verdict or sentence they issue. At the end of the day, these people are all Sierra Leoneans.
My personal opinion is this; because of national unity and cohesion, all individuals convicted by the commission should not go to jail. They should pay the amount stolen from the state. If for example someone stole the money and built a single house, the government should treat the house on mortgage basis. Leave the house with the individual and prepare a mortgage type repayment program. But to seize houses from people with families which will lead them homeless is not right.
If someone has built four houses for example from corruption with government funds, the the government will take three and leave one which the government will treat on mortgage basis.
If the person has bought lands without developing those lands, then the government must sell the lands to recover the money. It will depend on what the person did with the money.
Also, the people convicted should be allowed to retain their jobs; maybe they could be transferred to other departments. the government must also establish departments that counsel these people. By leaving these people to continue with their jobs, the government could still arrange payments of the money they stole from their monthly salaries.
But by jailing them serves no one. Everybody loose.
So, I am asking the commission to think very carefully what the guidelines will be for those convicted.
The commission should know that corruption did not start from 2007 till now. It started years ago. There are government officials who amassed wealth in the past but are now free because either the commissions in their era were not held properly or the governments then did not care.
But the government of President Bio is serious and that is why some of us are concerned what will happen with the convicted officials.
I know some may argue differently because my opinions are very contentious. That I recognize and accept.
Finally, because of NATIONAL UNITY and COHESION, let there be softer and reasonable sentences. Sierra Leoneans must learn from now on how to forgive and to forgive.
GOD BLESS SIERRA LEONE AND HER LEADERS.
The government needs to do something about this.
The most important elements of the proposed inquiry that should not be lost to the nation are its far-reaching effects which have the potential of changing the country forever, especially in government official quarters.
Indeed the ripple effects of the inquiry is a snare which even though currently largely affects the fallen APC government could well ensnare SLPP in the future.
Naturally SLPP will fall from power at some point. This carries a probability of one, just like death. Whether it is my party – NGC or APC that replaces them, there shall be a call for an inquiry to be set up to look into the stewardship of the government, if for no reason other than to repeat the process just to keep it in vogue.
Surely this is a fact that is not lost to SLPP. Therefore they will step gingerly in whatever they do, not forgetting how ruthless APC can be in the political arena. Their track record speaks for itself going all the way back to the seventies. They bring witches and wizards together to hunt their opponents and critics down when the levers of power are in their hands.
I am heartened by the stance of my party’s leadership, vis-a-vis the inquiry. It portrays class and professionalism, completely devoid of emotions and sentiments. Our main task now is to make ourselves known in every corner of Sierra Leone. NGC should become a household name.
Mother Sierra Leone now has a chance to succeed as politicians become afraid to be caught up in any inquiry.
We must prioritise here. I suggest we start with the Shady merger between PALA Holdings and ILUKA resources, Sale of Sierra Rutile. This was a clear conspiracy to mortgage this country’s natural resources. We don’t want another Niger Delta situation in this very peaceful country of our’s as patience is fast running out.
This Commission of Enquiry should not be like the previous ones whereby those convicted of stealing the country’s money are made to pay peanuts and even made to go scot free. Those who will be convicted must pay back every penny stolen in cash or confiscate properties acquired during the said period for which this enquiry is mandated to operate. Sierra Leoneans we should be proud of such action that the government of today is taking.
This is a step in the right direction Sierra Leone is heading to. Some of us may disagree due to our political affiliations, tribal connections or personal interest, but my fellow Sierra Leoneans, you may not see or sense it now that Sierra Leone will be prosperous and we will reap the benefit of this enquiry.
What do I mean? I meant CORRUPTION IN SIERRA LEONE WILL BE DEFEATED AND CHALLENGED as from now onwards and at the end of all this, we all will commend praises to all those who fought and are fighting this fierce battle in our beloved Sierra Leone.