Letter to editor

A Rebuttal of Dr S. S. Banya’s Defense of the SLPP Government ’s Corruption

22 June 2007 at 10:27 | 807 views

By Mohamed A.Jalloh.

The recent opinion piece in the Unity newspaper by Dr. S. S. Banya, ex-foreign minister of Sierra Leone and a former SLPP, and then APC, and now SLPP senior official, in defense of the SLPP government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah and Vice President Solomon Berewa is marred by material errors of omission and commission.

Tellingly, Dr. Banya omitted to disclose that he has personally benefited from his conveniently shifting loyalties to the two major political parties that have been the indigenous collaborators of foreigners in the impoverishment of our country during the last thirty years.

It is no accident that Dr. Banya concealed that crucial information from his readers, for to have revealed it would have undermined his credibility in his attempt to rebut the charge of massive and chronic corruption levied by one of SL’s foreign plunderers and pillagers, Britain, against its unacknowledged co-conspirator — the SL government. In short, Dr. Banya misled his readers.

This conclusion is further strengthened upon consideration of Dr. Banya’s use of obfuscation in an attempt to confuse his readers into dismissing the very serious British charge of corruption against the SLPP government of President Kabbah. Specifically, Dr. Banya seeks to absolve the SLPP government of corruption by claiming that its accuser, the British government, is guilty of corruption in failing to disclose that much of its aid to SL benefits British citizens and organizations, i.e., it is "tied" aid. Yet, the question that Dr. Banya failed to answer is one that dooms his defense of the demonstrably corrupt SLPP government, namely:

Does the fact that British aid corruptly enriches British citizens and organizations entitle the SLPP government to enrich its own members with such aid at the expense of the people of SL?

Only an unpatriotic S/Leonean would answer the above question affirmatively. Regrettably, but not surprisingly — given his relevant background noted above which he carefully concealed from his readers — Dr. Banya has unwittingly chosen to answer that question in the affirmative. This is evident from his quest, by implication, to justify the SLPP government’s corruption in the use of British aid by seeking to equate it with the British government’s corruption in its representation of the amount and nature of that aid.

Notwithstanding, the conclusion is inescapable that, far from succeeding in defending the SL government from the charge of corruption levied by its co-conspirator in the rape of SL, Britain, Dr. Banya’s opinion piece failed even to address the charge. This is apparent from the fact that the British government is not accusing the SLPP government of receiving aid that is not tied. On the contrary, the British government is accusing the SL government of corruption in regard to that aid.

Therefore, a valid defense to the charge of corruption is that the SL government is not corrupt — not that Britain’s aid comprises only 20% of the total amount of aid it has given the SL government, as Dr. Banya merely asserts in defense of the SLPP government. In a court of law, such a defense would be laughed out of court on grounds of transparent irrelevance. It deserves to suffer the same fate in the court of public opinion comprised of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans in this case.

Editor’s Note: Moh’m Jalloh, a Sierra Leonean native resident in the USA was head of the Economic Planning Department at SLPMB in Sierra Leone. He now heads a financial services company in suburban Washington, D.C.

Dr. Sama Banya’s article:

UNITY NEWSPAPER

“BRITAIN MAY HALT .15M AID TO SIERRA LEONE

By PUAWUI (Dr. Sama Banya).

This was the heading of an article in the Awoko Newspaper of Tuesday June 12 by one Alex Duval Smith, a journalist probably on a two day visit to Sierra Leone.

The main theme to Alex Smith’s article is rampant corruption in Sierra Leone. Just before Tony Blair’s visit another BBC correspondent said that Britain was spending millions of pounds on this country but that there was nothing to show for it because of corruption.

All these people, from Clare Short to Hilary Benn, to the BBC, to Alex Duval speak glibly about rampant corruption in our country, with their minds naturally on government Ministers and other Public officials. What they are telling their listeners is that Britain is wasting its tax-payers money on a never-do-well government. But is that the reality?

Now it is true that in addition to her military intervention at a critical time during the rebel war, Britain has spent and continues to spend large sums of money as aid to this country. And believe me we are grateful for this, but it is my view that the British are not telling the whole story of their package.

How much of the .50 million spent annually on Sierra Leone goes directly to the consolidated funds? Doesn’t the bulk of this money go to IMATT, Action Aid, ICRC etc? When Hilary Benn was here two years ago, Charles Mambu of the Civil Society Movement asked him about this and details of salaries, Allowances for DFID personnel, air transportation etc. His answers were at best vague.

Again, two years ago both the heads of Action Aid and Oxfam in Britain declared publicly that 80 per cent of aid meant for Africa remained at home. That statement was never challenged by DFID or the Commonwealth Office. It would be interesting to have figures of how much British Aid goes directly to the Ministry of Finance including the .15million for the budgetary support.

In a Seminar some three or four years ago at the Miatta Conference Centre the Head of DFID said that the best thing would be for donor funds to this country to be paid directly to the government which would then choose its priorities. Is that happening? Did DFID follow that proposal?

Which “high profile” cases of corruption remain to be prosecuted? When under much pressure one such case was taken to court recently in contravention of an entrenched clause in our constitution, was the case not thrown out for that very reason? And who were the appeal court judges at the time, were they not foreign recruited ones? Would they be accused of being corrupt or biased? On the contrary, haven’t they only interpreted the law as it is? Thank God they were not Sierra Leonean judges.

Everyone pontificates about rampant corruption as if this government is doing nothing to arrest it or to prevent it. People like Alex Duval Smith simply report what they hear in cocktail bars or read from inspired leaked official documents. Neither they nor DFID takes cognizance of the many measures that this government has put in place to plug loop holes to corruption.

Would that DFID would publish a detailed analyses of how British Aid is disbursed in this country. Perhaps all those people who say that there is nothing to show for it would think again. Indeed we are grateful for British Aid but aren’t they pushing us a bit too hard?

This is happening at a time when our governments fiscal policies are being acclaimed by the IMF and the World Bank, both of which institutions go through government accounts with a tooth comb.

The United States government and the EU say that we have done well, so where lies the big deal?

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