October 24, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai
A source within government has disclosed to Concord Times that Minister of Information and Communication, Mohamed Bangura, has been “barred as government spokesman” following his lackluster performance against the SLPP’s [Sierra Leone People’s Party] Jacob Jusu Saffa in a live debate on Radio Democracy’s “Good Morning Show” last week.
Mr. Bangura was less than convincing in articulating the successes of the present government during the last ten years, for which the firebrand mouthpiece for the standard bearer of the opposition party ridiculed him and highlighted the poor performance of the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) in efficiently managing the country’s resource.
JJ Saffa emphatically asserted that the award of contracts for roads construction had been replete with graft and poor output, adding that officials of government have been awarding contracts whimsically instead of going through competitive bidding processes, thus calling for a transparency in the award of road contracts.
Mr. Saffa, an economist and former university lecturer, also accused the ruling party of gross bias in the construction and rehabilitation of roads, citing roads in Kenema city as eyesore while over 40 kilometres of roads have been tarred in Makeni, home of the president.
“Take a look at the road from Moyamba junction to Moyamba town, which is a district headquarters town of Moyamba district. There is an uneven distribution of road construction projects in the country,” he said.
He further alleged that in the process of constructing roads across the country, a US$28m ECOWAS-funded fibre Optic line has been destroyed, which the government was yet to replace.
Mr. Bangura largely evaded the real issues of debate and instead remarked that, “If JJ Saffa has any problem with the cost and implementation of the toll road contract, he should take it to the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).”
Asked how much has been spent on the construction of roads in the country since 2007, the Information Minister failed to respond with exactitude and instead claimed vaguely that government has spent a lot of money to fix scores of trunk and feeder roads.
The Minister of Information claimed that every district headquarters town has good roads, adding that the size of the district was a determinant of how many kilometres of roads are constructed in towns across the country.
According to our source, an emergency meeting was hurriedly convened last week no sooner than the Information Minister left the radio station, but that he refused to attend. In that meeting, our source added, it was agreed that the minister should henceforth ceased being the official spokesman of the government, with the task given to Presidential Spokesman, Abdulai Bayraytay, and Deputy Information Min ister, Cornelius Deveaux.
However, Mr. Bayraytay refuted the claims, which he described as “hundred percent false” adding that the Information Minister has the right to speak on behalf of government and that he still enjoys the confidence of President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bangura told Concord Times that the allegation was misleading. “I was just going to AYV television when I received a call from the presenter that the programme has been postponed. I don’t know where people are getting such information from. If President Koroma is not happy with me, he would have sacked me but I’m still in my office,” he remarked.