Corruption and persecution: A question of fair game for ACC Commissioner

27 December 2007 at 10:53 | 1958 views

By Edie Vandy.

The official presentation of the Transition Team’s report to His Excellency - President Ernest Bai Koroma at State House Wednesday 12 December, 2007 was received with jubilation, from pro-government media outlets wiht openly biased headlines.

Such news headlines blatantly demonstrate the extent of media bias and profane objectivity when it comes to political rummaging in present day Sierra Leone. Prior to the official report’s publication, key sections of the press had already criminalized the outgoing administration and declared them guilty as charged, without any form of due process.

The molestation and harassment of erstwhile Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs Mrs. Shirley Gbujama by the police on her way out to Nigeria as reported, is a blow to our fledgling democracy which seeks to protect individual liberty, and freedom that should be preserved at all costs.

Let’s face it, these men and women including NaCSA Head Alhaji Kanja Sesay, Lands Minister - Alfred Bobson Sesay, Education Minister - Dr. Alpha Tejan Wurie, Finance Minster - John Benjamin, Bank Governor Dr. James D. Rogers, NRA Commissioner - John Karimu and the Ministers of Trade and Industry, Marine and Fisheries, Agriculture have only been named in a report for alleged fraud, misuse and embezzlement of state funds.

I’m not sure charges have been preferred against them, have they? If not, why are they prevented from freely moving around to places they want to travel should they so wish?

The argument put forward by sympathizers of this administration that these men and women finger-pointed in the transition report will run away does not hold water. Come on, are there not extradition laws with third party countries to have compatriots sent back home should they be found wanting for crimes against the state? All over the world including Nigeria, and Kenya, citizens are being investigated or tried in absentia and brought to justice to bear the full penalty of the law.

What we are saying is that, there are rules and procedures to follow within a legal frame work, and this government should not attempt to subvert them to attain popularity or cheap political scores.

The country has worked and continues to strive to be a nation of laws, and that should be the modus operandi. One thing has to be done, and it should be now rather than later: bring all alleged perpetrators to book, or leave them as free citizens to undertake, run or manage their lives as every other person in this beautiful planet we were created to live in.

This is a matter of fierce urgency; that’s why well meaning compatriots are calling on the new Anti Corruption Commissioner - Abdul O.B Tejan Cole, to step in as swiftly as possible in living up to his promise made to the people of Sierra Leone through the parliamentary select committee that “he does not believe in political witch-hunting, and would pursue matters without fear or favor.”

What better time but now, for the ACC Head to implement plans to set up a public information section that would counter the wrong perception that “any one under the commission’s investigation is guilty?” Restore the rule of law, that’s my position.

Questions of the heart are being asked by political commentators including this author (but discarded by supporters of this government) on the actual motivation, and sincerity of the transition team set up by the President to bridge the gap between his incoming administration and that of the outgoing one.

Of course every well meaning compatriot will applaud a transition team comprising of professional men and women, from the position of independence who have no political stake in the outcome of their mission. Instead, what we saw was a transition membership partisan in scope to carry an assessment or inventory on the stewardship of their predecessors. Naturally from this vantage point, there is sure going to be a conflict of interest and judgment for after all who wants to make a defeated competitor look good, when it comes to politics in Africa?

Reports so far released by the pro-government media points to one thing: embezzlement. Let’s be real here: As bad and corrupt as some members of the outgoing administration were or were purported to have been, don’t tell me there was nothing good in NaCSA, the SABABU project, NASSIT, Decentralization Commission, the NRA initiative and many other projects or that there was nothing good in some of the fine gentlemen and women who served with their conscience in that administration.

I have not seen or read anything positive coming from the transitional report, unless a volcanic fume of negativity. The report speaks volumes of an underlying trend to embarrass all who served in public places under the last administration. This is not good for reconciliation.

Almost every sector or ministry investigated in the report is being stereotyped as a failed structure, with rogue managers at the helm fleecing the nation of urgentlyneeded resources during their stewardship. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

That is why skeptics are saying that the report be made public for all to digest and conceptualize its fairness. The nation truly welcomes a probe and investigation into these alleged cases of corruption, so that the guilt or innocence of these men and women will be established, and due punishment meted to those found culpable.

The issue of electrifying Freetown and Sierra Leone is a good project and every well meaning Sierra Leonean will support the President’s call for making this sector a priority.

As concerned citizens who clamor for good governance, public transparency, accountability and a corruption free Sierra Leone, we are calling on the Anti Corruption Head Tejan Cole for the immediate investigation of the corruption allegation against the current Minister of Energy and Power, reported by the Standard Times on the issuance of a $30Million World Bank Thermal Energy contract to Global Trading Group in an article titled “Sabotaging The President’s Priority - Double Standards n Awarding $30 Million World Bank Energy Project - Nov 22, 2007”.

Ever since the allegation surfaced, the President has never made a statement addressing the seriousness of this allegation that undermines the very foundation and moral high ground he is governing on and places his Presidency on.

President Koroma told the people of Sierra Leone and the whole world on BBC and other international media that nobody was going to be a sacrificial lamb in his fight against corruption. Well, Mr. President, now is the time for action, not tomorrow or the day after. The question should not be whether a 15 megawatt generator machine was delivered and commissioned against a stated deadline. What a wonderful feat that has been achieved, and we say thumbs up to all who were a part of this project.

Sierra Leoneans are worried because some members of the Energy Emergency Task Force (set-up by the president) are now uncomfortable with the heavy handedness and management of the contract award in gross violation of the standard operating procedures binding on the handling of such procurement at a colossal amount of USD 30 million to Global Trading Group that bagged the 15KW Thermal Energy contract.

Something definitely is wrong here for both Mr. Tani Pratt of the Sierra Leone Institution of Engineers (SLIE) and Professor Jonas A.S Redwood-Sawyer, highly reputable men to stick their career out in strong terms to say ”We feel that our professionalism and integrity have been compromised by the Minister in signing contracts with the above mentioned companies.”

We are not talking politics here, as short sighted people might think. Well and good, if they do. We are talking about honesty, being truthful, accountable and standing up for the core values that define one as an individual. These are very serious allegations, demanding straight answers. Hence the question is being asked: Is it true that the Global Trading Group was helped, supported, favored and the rules changed to accommodate their bid (even when shunned for lack of technical specifications, experience, and competence) for some financial remuneration?

Of course, die-hard supporters are already echoing it, and will push forward this rhetoric: "if this company lacked the technical competence and experience, how come they delivered against such odds?"

Frankly, that is not the point of this message. The core of this debate has to do with judgment, adherence to process, transparency and accountability in the way and manner we conduct business processes as a nation, and as public servants.

People (little or big) just can’t do what they want to do, and flout procedures and authority, and we call it healthy and fine. No. This is unacceptable, and it just won’t do for skeptics and pundits who mean well for the nation. The time to hold accountable our elected or appointed officials is now. If we get this one straight, Sierra Leone will be in good standing, and ‘fired up to move forward.’

We cannot afford to lose this one chance, this golden opportunity to fix our mess at the spur of the moment. This is what we all have been clamoring for. How can we know for sure whether the companies shortlisted for competence but snubbed at the last moment, would not have done a better job than what Global Trading Group did?

What if at some point in time, the question of sustainability, maintenance, and technical glitches come bearing on the system in a rush to deadline adherence whilst compromising quality? And already, there are rumors making the rounds of some serious technical mishap, which calls for patience, and bi-partisan approach for a permanent fix. No, this is not politics as usual.

Without much ado, the nation is making a passionate plea to the new ACC Head for a judicious investigation to get to the bottom of these allegations against the Energy officials handling of contract that led to Global Trading Group owned by Mohammed Bazzy and sons apparent victory over the bid.

For you to be seen as fair, transparent and open, and mean what you say “Where there is a matter before the commission to prosecute, nobody will stop me from taking necessary action,” the people are saying, there is a report out for investigation, the ball is in your court.

Long Live Sierra Leone.