As President Bio issues stern warning


January 30, 2019

By Joseph S. Margai

A determined looks, President Bio prepared to deal with all corrupt individuals

While launching the three Commissions of Inquiry yesterday at the former Special Court for Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio has sternly warned that anyone who fails to comply with the inquiry would face the full force of the law.

“All those who will be invited by the commissions must comply. Anyone who fails to comply, and I repeat, anyone who fails to comply will face the full force of the law,” he warned.

He observed that corruption remains the single most critical deterrent to the development of Sierra Leone, noting that it impedes human capital development which is the most critical driver of development in every country.

President Bio was yesterday delivering the keynote address during the launch of the Commissions of Inquiry at Special Court Complex, Jomo Kenyatta Road in Freetown.

He noted that it would be a threat to the country’s national development when monies meant for educating children and youth population, and for providing affordable and well-equipped healthcare facilities and services for every citizen irrespective of tribe or region, are stolen by just a few people.

“When monies meant for ensuring food security for every Sierra Leonean or even for the management of the aftermath of disasters, are stolen by a few for their own luxury and comfort that is a threat to us as a nation. When grants meant for building critical and purposeful infrastructure that will propel economic activity and provide good paying jobs for our people are stolen by a few people that is a threat to our national development,” President Bio said emphatically.

He said when a few people collude with “vultures” or among themselves and deprive citizens and country of revenue from the rich natural resources and other sources of public revenue, their activities constitute a threat to the nation.

“When people fraudulently convert public funds and resources to their own private use, waste public funds with impunity, and abuse their offices and authority to the detriment of millions of Sierra Leoneans, that is a threat to us as a nation,” he said.

According to him, corruption is a clear and present danger to the life of every Sierra Leonean and a threat to “our existence as a nation.

“We must confront corruption head on. We must be bold and resolute and we will prevail. We will fight and win this war on corruption.”

 “Corruption has thrived because there has been a lack of strong political will and the near absence of a steely determination to draw a line under corruption once and for all. Successive government audit reports reminded government between 2007 and 2018 of gross inefficiencies and deficiencies in governance and public accountability, leakages, and downright squandering of state revenue and resources. The responses were more lip service to fighting corruption, sham trials, and backdoor acquittals and reinstatements of public officials,” the president said in a more determined state.

He cited the Governance Transition Team (GTT) report which he said concluded that rampant corruption, fiscal indiscipline, and abuse and misuse of public office had left Sierra Leone in a dysfunctional state.

He noted that based on the recommendations of the GTT report for (among other things) a forensic audit and judge-led Commissions of Inquiry, his government requested the legislature to debate and institute the Commissions of Inquiry as required by law.

“The Commissions of Inquiry will look at three key issues: governance processes, assets, and the outcomes of the forensic audits. The forensic audits tracked fraudulent activities within entire chains of governance. The commission on assets will look closely at disparities between income or means and assets. The Commission on governance processes will examine inefficiencies and deficits in governance especially where people deliberately misused or took advantage of state institutions. The Attorney General has described the legal processes,” President Bio noted.

President Bio allayed the fears of Sierra Leoneans that the judges have no stake in the politics of  the country and that they will sit as independent commissioners without bias or prejudice.

“It is not a political witch-hunt. Nobody is going to be asked whether he or she belongs to a political party or hails from a particular region. It is a simple process. The Commissioners will ask people questions, investigate what they are told and the evidence put before them, and thereafter present a report of their findings,” he said.

He added, “As a government, we will act on those findings because it is in the national interest and it is for the public good. We will act on the findings to show Sierra Leoneans, including serving government officials that this must be the last Commission of Inquiry in our history. These commissions will act as a deterrent to every Sierra Leonean (now and in the future) who are or will be entrusted with the public trust. They are a reminder that one serves one’s country, one must serve with honesty, fairness, justice, diligence, and compassion.”

“As I have said repeatedly, this war against corruption is a war we must win. I have fully empowered the Anti-Corruption Commission to use all its legal powers to relentlessly investigate and prosecute all cases of corruption in my administration. Those found wanton will be promptly removed from public office and subjected to the full force of the law,” he said.

He assured  the public that the fight against corruption is and will remain as consistent as it is robust, noting that as a country, “we must put an end to this culture of rampant thieving, abuse, waste, and impunity.

“We must foster a culture of public accountability. The Commissions of Inquiry are a public commitment by us as Sierra Leoneans to rid our country of corruption, fraud, abuse, and waste. I therefore call on every Sierra Leonean who believes we can be better and do better as a nation to support these Commissions of Inquiry. We owe it to our country; we owe it to our compatriots and generations yet unborn to get it right once and for all. I therefore formally launch the Commissions of Inquiry,” he said.