By Mohamed Sankoh (One Drop)
Often times, it amazes me amazingly on the realisation that President Julius Maada Bio doesn’t have time to read over his 2018 manifesto, dubbed the “People’s Manifesto”, or any of his Presidential Addresses delivered in the well of Parliament. In today’s One Dropian dropping, I will focus mainly on the President’s cardinal campaign promise, which is the fight against corruption.
For all intents and purposes, President Bio and his ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) have been jokingly joking when it comes to the issue of the fight against corruption. And the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), which should be the impartial arbitrator in that fight, now appears to be the harlot of the SLPP. The ACC’s hierarchy has been shamelessly showing-off its harlot-ness every time a high-ranking official, or officials, of the SLPP is, or are, being investigated for corrupt practices!
In the SLPP’s 2018 Manifesto, Sierra Leoneans are promised that, “In the New Direction, the SLPP government will treat corruption not only as a governance issue but as a national security threat. It will therefore leave no stone unturned in its fight against corruption.” This commitment was re-echoed by President Bio in his first speech in the Chamber of Parliament on 10 May 2018. Prior to that, the SLPP’s “Report of the Governance Transition Team [GTT] 2018” claimed that the ACC under the erstwhile All People’s Congress (APC) government, “…was politicised and made ineffective”, and that “the [then APC] Government routinely ignored the reports and recommendations of Audit Service Sierra Leone”.
But it is truly true that it is under the current SLPP government that the ACC has been openly politicised. For the very first time in the ACC’s history, its Commissioner tells the nation in a press conference that he starts an investigation into stinking corruption allegations besmearing the Sierra Leone Mission in the United States of America only after he was asked by President Bio to do so! This clearly shows the lack of independence. And for the very first time, the Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner, and the Chief Investigator of the ACC are from the same tribe. And when one takes into consideration that most senior members in that institution are also from that same tribe; you get the feeling that the current ACC make-up could be likened to “the gathering of the tribe”!
And the SLPP government has been dishonestly dishonest when it claims in the GTT Report of 2018 that the then APC “Government routinely ignored the reports and recommendations of Audit Service Sierra Leone” and promises in its “People’s Manifesto” that in “the New Direction” the SLPP government will “Ensure the full implementation of all recommendations in annual audits of the ASSL and of Ministries, Departments and Agencies…” But in reality, all the Bio-led administration has been doing is to harass and smear the reputation of the Auditor General just to frighten her into submission. Even though the Auditor General Report of 2019 highlights massive misuse and misappropriation of public and donor funds by senior members of the Bio-led administration, nothing has been done to bring the culprits to book.
What the current SLPP government has been doing is either to completely ignore all recommendations in the Auditor General’s Reports or use the ACC to water them down. This fact is not lost on the National Coordinator of Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), Abu Bakarr Kamara. As recent as recently, he accuses the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by the SLPP’s deputy Speaker of Parliament, of not doing much to address the queries in the annual Audit Report of Audit Service-Sierra Leone. He notes that PAC is still conducting hearings on the 2019 Report with only 60% of the queries being covered while the 2020 Audit Report will soon be out.
And it is not true that the then APC government “ignored the reports and recommendations of Audit Service Sierra Leone” as claimed by the SLPP’s GTT Report of 2018. At no time did the erstwhile APC government launch a campaign of calumny against the Auditor General and Audit Service–Sierra Leone with the aim of putting spanners into their mandates like the current SLPP government overtly did through the Financial Secretary and the Ministry of Finance. Mid this year, majority of Sierra Leoneans were shocked and horrified after some Media Kamajors and Cyber Vigilantes were seemingly activated to do the usual mudslinging which is one of the tactics of the SLPP to scare away professionals from doing their jobs professionally. They first called for the outright sacking of the Auditor General which they later watered down to “resignation”—all because she pin-holed the SLPP’s ballooned fight against corruption.
And when Ebola struck on 24 May 2014, it was ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma, himself, who later asked for an international audit on the Ebola funds because he knew that his hands and that of his government were as white as snow. He even referred to Ebola funds as “blood money”. He allowed the auditing processes to go on unhindered.
But when COVID-19 struck on 31 March 2020 (the day President Bio officially confirmed Sierra Leone’s index case), the SLPP government saw it as a money-making venture! And when Audit Service-Sierra Leone did a “Report on the Audit of Funds manage by the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre and other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (March to June 2020)”, and unearthed massive misused and misappropriation of donor and public funds, the SLPP again employed guerrilla tactics and shot the messenger simply because the message was unpalatable. And, as usual, the Anti-Corruption Commission was in handy to do all the public laundering!
The current SLPP government is so corruptly corrupt that its corruptness is being aptly summerised by Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, of the Africanist Press in a recent article, this way: “…what makes the Maada Bio situation different is possibly the simple fact that at no time in the recent history of our country —at least within these 60 years— has any government presided over the kind of theft that we have seen in these three years of the Bio regime… In just 2019 alone, Maada Bio’s record on financial indiscipline and frivolous public spending has surpassed all presidents we have had in Sierra Leone—from Siaka Stevens to Ernest Koroma….”
It is on that note that I will end today’s One Dropian dropping with an excerpt from President Julius Maada Bio’s Address to the Nation on the occasion of the 58th Independence Anniversary on 27 April 2019. He stated that, “Lawlessness, nepotism, discrimination, greed, crass opulence, mismanagement, and bad governance at all levels have not made our country a land worth living in…” Is the Commander-in-Chief making a Freudian slip on how his government really is? Little wonder our Head of State is now engaged in a seemingly officialised version of “Temple Run”!