QCELL Boss Reassures Sierra Leoneans of Quality Service

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By Alfred Peter Conteh

The Chief Executive Officer of Qcell, Karthik Jayamani has described his company as a law-abiding one. He said they have always abided by laws governing the country.

Speaking to this medium at his office on Thursday June 30th 2022, Jayamani said they received directives from NATCOM on June 23rd 2022, urging Mobile companies to increase their and this has left us with no other cause than to comply with what is in the press release. He boasted that for the past couple of years, Qcell has been the only network that provides the cheapest mobile services (voice call and internet) with quality high standard.

He disclosed that they will increase their local tariffs for all voice calls (On-net & Off-net) in compliance with the regulation to 470 for Qcell to Qcell and 490 per minute from Qcell to other network which will take effective at any time from now. He maintained that the increment will reflect voice calls and the cost of internet will remain the same with a more upgraded 21st century technology which will cover almost every corner of the country.

He boasted that they have always stood the test of time to provide affordable and quality communication service that will suit the comfort of their subscribers.

 “We have strived assiduously to work for the welfare of our darling customers, the people of Sierra Leone and to support the Goals of President Julius Maada Bio and Ministry of Information and Communication to improve the Quality of communication and make mobile communication affordable to all Sierra Leoneans” he said

He said a demonstration to this cause has been the constant push for affordable tariff in the market and also the massive network expansion on our 4G coverage around the country, adding that they will not relent until people pay next to nothing to access quality mobile services in Sierra Leone.

The Marketing Manager, Edward Nesley Pratt disclosed that Qcell as a responsible company will always stand with the people of Sierra Leone to provide them their heart desires.

“Every month we make sure that we upgrade our system by erecting more towers to add more strength to our network and thanked subscribers for patronizing with them.

Big Boost to FQE, As...

Govt. Doles Le15B Resource-Support to 5,058 Schools

The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) has disbursed school grants valued at Le 15,729,002,000 (Fifteen Billion Seven Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million and Two Thousand Leones) directly to 5,058 public schools running a full cycle primary education from classes 1 through 6.

These grants, based on data collected in March 2022, were disbursed on 15th June, 2022 as Performance Based Financing for Term 2 of the 2021/22 academic year, and they seek to improve various components of quality education at the school level.

The Government of Sierra Leone currently provides large scale support, including provision of teaching and learning materials, and financing (fee subsidies) to ‘government’ and ‘government-assisted’ schools at all levels. However, these resources are not always adequate to cover all the expenses and needs of beneficiary schools and ‘unapproved’ schools do not currently receive such mainstream government financial support.

The Performance-Based Financing (PBF) school grants are innovative additional resource-support packages to schools that amplify specific learning and administrative outcomes. The size of the support is dependent strictly on performance metrics – the school gets more of the standard PBF grant if it improves student attendance, retention and progression and improves teaching and learning outcomes. Schools with special needs and circumstances (i.e., unapproved or small schools, schools in poor communities, or schools with students with disabilities) also receive extra funds. Guidelines for the use of PBF Grants are available in the PBF Manual on which all School Management Committees (SMCs) and Head Teachers have been trained. Parts of these resources could be used for payment of stipends to community and volunteer teachers, payment of staff bonuses based on performance, and supporting school operations.

As part of this project implementation, the MBSSE received technical assistance under the Free Education Project from the Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovations (DSTI) to introduce the Open ‘Government to Person’ (G2P) framework to accelerate cash transfers to the schools. The platform integrates the data collection on the schools’ performances on the PBF indicators, calculation of the grants, and transfer of funds to the schools’ accounts in real time in a secure manner. As a pilot from this collaboration between MBSSE, DSTI and the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, One Hundred and Fifty-Seven Million Seven Hundred and Sixty-Six Thousand Five Hundred and Ten Leones (Le 157,766,510) of the total amount was transferred to 58 out of the 5058 school accounts using the (G2P) payment mechanism. This automation and digitization will provide rigor, transparency and efficiency to the system when scaled in the future.

The Government of Sierra Leone Free Quality Education Project / Multi-Donor Trust Fund is implemented by the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education through the Free Education Project Secretariat and it is supported by World Bank (IDA), European Union, Irish Aid, Foreign Commonwealth Development Office, and the Global Partnership for Education.

Fireworks in Parliament…

APC Defiant as SLPP Attempt to Amend Constitution by Ambush

Once again Sierra Leone has been gripped by the vagarious of political brinkmanship. Once again it is about the ruling Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) penchant to conduct issues of national interest in spite of everyone else. In exactly a year to the country’s general elections, the SLPP is attempting to change very fundamental aspects of the nation’s electoral laws.

The main opposition has fiercely objected to these proposed changes. The key arguments of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) relate to concerns about attempts to amend the Constitution through the back door. Some of the specific sticking points include the following:

First, while Section 32 (8) of the Constitution provides that the Chief Electoral Commissioner (CEC) could be removed due to misconduct; this Public Elections Bill which seeks to “Repeal and Replace the Public Elections Act 2012”, in Clause 5 (1a), wants the removal of the CEC to be on “gross misconduct” but without any definition of what that means.

Second, Section 76 (1b) of the 1991 Constitution provides that public officers should resign twelve months before an election. This Bill, according to a Power Point presentation to the Pre-legislative Committee, reduces the length of time from twelve to six months.

The leader of the opposition in Parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah, therefore insisted that if the SLPP wish to amend the Constitution they should come before Parliament with the appropriate instrument. And, Bah said, such an important instrument must be exhaustively dealt with before proceeding with the proposed Bill which is attempting to amend some critical constitutional provisions. 

On this basis, Bah urged the Speaker not to allow the House to proceed with the Second Reading of the controversial Bill saying that, to proceed would amount to putting the cart before the horse, as well as an attempt to amend the constitution through the back door.

This was in response to the submission by Mathew Sahr Nyuma that the House should just proceed with the Second Reading of the Bill because, according to him, on Thursday next, the specific Bill to amend the 1991 Constitution will be tabled in Parliament.

At the same time, the Leader of Government Business, and SLPP members, made a dramatic U-turn regarding the presentation by NEC on the Bill. Nyuma told Parliament to discountenance the NEC presentation because the clause about the length of time public servants are required to resign before an election is not included in the proposed bill.

Reacting to this serious inconsistency, Hon. Chernor Bah said: “… it means that the House was misinformed and misled by NEC through that presentation to the Pre-legislative Committee.” The opposition leader further asserted that “this is even the more reason why we should deal with the instruments before coming to the Second Reading because this Bill is suspect”. 

Given that the presentation in question actually lays the basis for the passing of the Bill under review, such inconsistency between NEC’s presentation and the Bill itself reaffirms the opposition’s concerns about the true motives of this proposed legislation. It speaks directly to the suspicion that the ruling party intends, as usual, to pass the controversial bill by ambush.

It is worthy to note that several elements of the proposed Public Elections Act 2022, relate to voter registration. Clause 13(1)(a)(i), states that “There shall be a national register of voters to be known as the “Register of Voters” which shall contain a national identification number….”

Some members of the public, civil society, the media and APC MPs, have expressed concern that such a requirement will disenfranchise a considerable number of voters. This is in view of the fact that majority of Sierra Leoneans have not registered with the National Civil Registration Commission (NCRA). Given the limited time between now and the June 2023 general elections; observers believe that NCRA doesn’t have the capacity to conduct such a nationwide registration to allow for the critical voter registration by the electoral commission.

Also, in Clause 57(b) of the same proposed Bill, there is an attempt to reintroduce the proportional representation (PR) and the block district system by extrapolating Section 38A of the Constitution as amended in (2001). But this is being done in a way that favours the PR system even when constituencies exist. The said provision in the extant Constitution provides that:

“Whereas under any law for the time being in force, a date for a general election of Members of Parliament has been appointed but constituencies have not been established in accordance with subsection (3) of section 38 for the purpose of such election, the president may, after consultation with the Electoral Commission, direct that such  election shall be conducted on the basis of the existing districts in a manner to be known as the district block representation system instead of constituencies.”

The operative clause to note in that provision is “whereas under any law for the time being in force, a date for a general election of Members of Parliament has been appointed but constituencies have not been established in accordance with subsection (3) of section 38…” In the view of the APC, at this material moment, constituencies do exist and so, consideration of the PR and district block system is superfluous and totally irrelevant.

The main opposition APC is not alone in its opposition to procedural constitutional amendment. On 13 January 2022, during the “Launch of the Government White Paper on the Constitutional Review Process” to President Julius Maada Bio at State House, Speaker of Parliament, the Rt. Honourable Abass Chernor Bundu, emphasized that it was best for Sierra Leone that recommendations relating to amendments to the Constitution be deferred until after the 2023 general elections.

The thrust of Bundu’s statement then was that constitutional amendments of provisions such as the ones being proposed in the Bill under review would require a Two Thirds majority. For Bundu, given the chasm between the opposition and the ruling party, it is delusional to assume that such a consensus could be achieved. He said then that “even if all the 58 members of the SLPP, all the 8 members of the Coalition for Change (C4C), all the 4 members of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), all the 3 independents and all the 14 Paramount Chief MPs were to vote in favour, that would still not amount to Two Thirds” .

During his Thursday, 30 June 2022 intervention in Parliament, Bundu affirmed his position against any procedural amendment to the constitution. “The Constitution cannot be amended indirectly, there has to be a bill whose purport should be for that purpose,” he said.

Without doubt, such a Bill, if passed in it current state, would have direct negative impact on the June 2023 general elections. The main opposition therefore argues that proceeding with the Second Reading of a Bill which potentially modifies certain provisions of the extant constitution, without procedurally exhausting the debate on the instruments relating to the Bill which the Leader of Government Business promises to bring to Parliament, mimics the passing by ambush of the COVID -19 State of Emergency Bill. That Bill, Bah recounted, was passed into law without the rules and procedures relating to that emergency. “We cannot allow this to happen again,” asserted the opposition leader.

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