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Sierra Leone: Transition report recommends commission of enquiry

In spite of its rhetoric of inclusive governance, the administration of Sierra Leone’s former President Ernest Bai Koroma presided over a system that promoted a policy of tribalism and regionalism in appointments, the much anticipated report of an investigation sanctioned by new President Julius Maada Bio has revealed.The report of the Governance Transition Team constituted in April, just two days after President Bio was sworn into office, accused his predecessor of pursuing tribal bias in appointments to positions at State House, in Government agencies and commissions, as well as diplomatic postings.

It said ethnically favoured appointments constituted roughly 71 percent of all senior and middle-level
appointments and postings to the country’s foreign missions.

“Ethnic favouritism was also reflected in the APC Government’s award of GoSL contracts, scholarships, commercial bank loans and regional distribution of development projects, with the neglect of Kenema and Kono in terms of roads infrastructure being most glaring,” the report said.

The report released on Wednesday is the work of a team tasked with taking stock of the state of the country when the new government assumed office. It speaks of an astonishing level of fiscal
indiscipline and rampant corruption by the former administration which led to the near-collapse of the country’s economy.

As a consequence, the report found, the economy was left burdened with external debt amounting to US $1.6 billion, domestic debt amounting to Le 4.99 trillion or US$658 million, and an exploded payroll (salaries and other compensation for government employees) of Le.2 trillion (US
$263 million) or 14.4 percent of the GDP.

The report authors also blamed the style of governance of former President Koroma for the fall of the national currency which was trading at Le.7600 to a dollar when power changed hands. It said
servicing these debts alone amounted to US $262 million per year.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) was politicised and made ineffective, and the Government routinely ignored the reports and recommendations of the Audit Service Sierra Leone. The former government also facilitated inappropriate acquisition of state’s assets and properties by relatives and close friends of Mr Koroma. It says government contracts were inflated and inappropriately
awarded to such relatives and friends. “This unacceptable practice exacerbated poverty and illiteracy and helped erode confidence in the integrity of Government,” it said.

The report proffered a series of recommendations, notable among them a special audit of all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to establish how public assets and funds have been utilised by the former government.

It also recommends the immediate institution of a Judge-led Special Commission of Inquiry with a limited timeframe and mandate to recover all stolen or inappropriately converted state funds and other assets, including buildings, quarters, land and the hundreds of vehicles still unaccounted for (presumably stolen by officials of the APC Government).

“The Commission should recommend for prosecution former APC officials whose corrupt conduct is found to be particularly egregious. The Commission should also seek an explanation from former officials, under Section 26 of the Anti-Corruption act dealing with “unexplained wealth”, if it determines them to have accumulated such wealth during their time in public office,” it adds.

The report comes amidst mounting pressure on President Bio from his supporters to take action against officials of the former regime.

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