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MPs draw daggers over Ebola money

...but Hon. Kabia tenders apology for ‘misinformation’

January 30, 2015  By Jariatu Bangura

Parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle in Parliament yesterday drew daggers after a ruling All People’s Congress (APC) lawmaker representing Constituency 50 in the Port Loko district blamed her colleagues in the opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) for not properly utilizing money disbursed to them for Ebola sensitization in their respective constituencies at the genesis of the Ebola outbreak.

Hon. Isata Kabia averred that SLPP lawmakers from Kailahun district, which registered the index Ebola case, should not blame sacked Minister of Health and Sanitation, Miatta Kargbo, for the surge in Ebola infections in the country because they were each given Le30 million to engage their constituents at the start of the outbreak.

Her statement generated fiery debate between the two sets of lawmakers, with SLPP MPs urging their colleague to withdraw her statement on the grounds that it was “misguided, misleading and irresponsible”.

Hon. Kabia initially stood her ground, insisting the opposition should show gratitude to the government for giving them money to fight Ebola.

However, Hon. Rado Yokie of Constituency 68 in Bo district countered that only Le19 million was disbursed to him by the former health minister.

Hon. Umar Paran Tarawally said the Port Loko lawmaker was being “mischievous” with the truth, as her statement was “baseless and unfounded” as he added to the chorus of opposition voices calling for a withdrawal of the statement.

Minority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Dr. Bernadette Lahai, recalled that a day after the index case of Ebola was registered in eastern Sierra Leone, the erstwhile Minister of Health called MPs representing Kenema, Kono and Kailahun districts – eastern Sierra Leone – to a meeting.

She revealed that they were each given five days sensitization money (Le1,750,000 x 21 lawmakers) and 180 liters of fuel to carry out sensitization, after the meeting.

Thus, the total amount disbursed to all 21 eastern region lawmakers was Le36,750,000, not Le30 million each as stated by Hon. Kabia.

“In fact Bo MPs only received Le19m for 11 of them and 200 liters of fuel each and nothing  more was given to them,” Hon. Dr. Lahai further clarified.

Speaker of Parliament, Hon. S.B.B. Dumbuya, was left with no option but to urge Hon. Kabia to withdraw her statement, but the Port Loko MP trice refused to do so.

However, following closed door deliberations by the leadership of both parties in Parliament during lunch, Hon. Kabia was apparently prevailed on to apologise to her colleagues.

Upon their return from lunch, she did apologise to opposition MPs for having erroneously blamed them for the escalation of the outbreak in the country and quoting the wrong figures they had received from the Ministry of Health for sensitisation.