November 17, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone is faced with serious financial constraints to carry out their work of protecting and promoting human rights.
Whilst some government institutions have received part or all of their subventions this year, the commission is yet to receive its first quarter subvention of Le1.5 million from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development.
During this period, the commission has had to rely on international donors, especially the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fund most of their activities, according to officials.
Speaking during the presentation of the 2016 State of Human Rights Report in Sierra Leone yesterday, the commission’s chairperson, Rev. Dr. Usman Jesse Fornah, lamented that their work is being hampered by high staff turn-over, financial and logistical challenges.
He revealed that the annual budgetary allocation to the commission is grossly inadequate while delays in their disbursement undermines the implementation of activities, including the production of the annual State of Human Rights Report.
“To date, the commission’s remaining subvention for the first half of the year (January – June 2017) to the tune of Le 514,222,800 is still locked at the Bank of Sierra Leone, while the subvention for the second half of the year (July – December 2017) totaling Le 946,800,000 is awaiting approval from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development,” he revealed.
Dr. Fornah said the scaling down of leave allowances to commissioners and staff, as well as centralisation of the payment of salaries by Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, is a serious concern for the commission.
In addition, the chairperson maintained that vehicles, office furniture, computers, printers and other equipment procured since the commission was established are now decrepit and need to be replaced.
“This is compounded by the limited office space within the facility which the commission currently occupies in NEC Building and the challenges of maintaining rented offices in the regions. The Commission’s worn-out vehicles and the appalling nature of its office space at headquarters could aptly be described as death-traps,” he added.
He called on President Ernest Bai Koroma to look into their challenges as it will not only further increase the country’s human rights standing, but will also promote compliance with the Paris Principles and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone Act (No.9) 2004.
He explained that the 2016 report, which is the tenth, catalogues activities undertaken by the Commission in the protection and promotion of human rights, as well as ways in which fundamental rights and freedoms in the constitution and international and regional agreements to which Sierra Leone is a party, were observed or violated in the year under review.
Dr. Fornah, however, lauded the steps taken by the government to strengthen the health and education sectors in order to put the country back on track towards full socio-economic recovery.
The 2016 report was also presented to President Koroma at State House and the Speaker of Parliament, as prescribed by the Act.