PERSONAL GLIMPSES: HE CAME: HE SAW: BUT COULD NOT CONQUER

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(ONLY IN SIERRA LEONE INDEED!!)

By: Winstanley.R.Bankole Johnson

I shall be remiss in my call to national service if I do not address the rather callous and boastful attempt by the Central Bank Governor, Prof. Kelfalla Kallon to accord the highest level of confidence to himself for even his own foibles. Although a social media clip denouncing President Bio that was mischievously attributed to him had been fittingly debunked on his behalf, the Governor who was disgracefully dispatched on exit leave a clear seven months to the end of his tenure (but is still receiving the full perks pertaining to that office) disingenuously chose to come out of his involuntary hibernation and make denigrating statements against us his employers.

Through it all and with typical SLPP “Pa-O-Pa” braggadocio Prof. Kallon reminded us that there was no way someone like him who had been brave enough to have tamed – not one – but four full grown roaring lions in Kenya, could cowardly shy away from taking full ownership of statements against the government, had he made them.

Foisted

Perhaps I should at this stage remind readers that we’re talking here about Prof. Kelfalla Moinina Kallon, the man who was plucked from the academic sinecure post as an economics Emeritus Professor after (30?) years at the University of Northern Colorado and catapulted into the corporate limelight as Central Bank Governor of Sierra Leone.

And I offer no apologies for using the verb transitive: “catapulted”, because his entire university stint as an Emeritus Professor in Econometrics was restricted to the theoretical uses of statistical methods and the testing of various hypothesis relating to economics and finance. Observe the operative word here “hypothesis”!!

I am given to understand that whatever interfaces he had with counterparties during all those years on university campuses were equally restricted to retail outlets, and not even for a brief spell did he venture into the public sector, talk less about him supervising Central or Commercial Banking practices. Yet this was the man foisted upon us, and into the demanding role of a Central Bank Governor, and entrusted with absolute management supervision and control of our National Treasury plus over fourteen local Commercial Banks and twenty other Non-Banking Financial Institutions.

Many believe that aside an attraction for PhD holders as a recruitment criterion for sublime posts by the SLPP to intimidate society about competence, his choice was more in compensation for favours long bestowed on Mr. Bio whilst campaigning for the Presidency in 2018 or earlier than on his practical competencies.

Fiduciary

Immediately upon his entry into the Bank of Sierra Leone the Public Relations Department went into complete abeyance. Daily appearances at various Radio AM shows were to him like sumptuous breakfasts, because Prof. Kallon was all over the airwaves buoying up the hopes of Sierra Leoneans that within six months he would have reduced both the size and Exchange Rate of the SLL to par with the USD – that is to say from the SLL700/USD that he met it, to SLL1/USD – and to also have reduced the Inflation Rate from the 17.5% level he met it to single digits. But as at his exit around March of this year, both the Exchange and the Inflation Rates had soared to as high as SLL2,400/USD and 56% – respectively – and climbing.

Well give the devil his due, he succeeded in making the New SLL currency notes equal in size only to the USD Notes. Beyond that and almost two years after his botched cosmetic (or palliative) currency re-denominations at as yet unquantifiable costs to the national treasury, the Old SLL Notes are still in use, and in fact with much greater amount of it in circulation than the New ones.

Doubts even exists now whether the Central Bank of Sierra Leone are siesed of the actual volume of our currency in circulation countrywide, given repeated extensions to the cut off fiduciary dates for the Old Leones.

So due to skyrocketing inflationary pressures and of course a present Debt/GDP ratio at 98.8% , our Leone continues on a free fall against all other currencies (including worse of all, the Guinean Francs), whereas all the Coins that were also minted and launched at the re-denomination extravaganza have since disappeared from circulation because they are of no use.

The economic woes into which we have sunk as a country under his watch actually qualified him for indictment as the nucleus candidate on the new corruption charge of “Deceiving a Principal”, but the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) probably as an oversight, chose instead to first prefer it against the main opposition candidate Dr. Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara in the matter of the SL Chancery Building in New York.   

Profligate

It is now clear that even if Prof. Kallon had been reading and following up about the Sierra Leone economy prior to his appointment as Central Bank Governor, he definitely must have underestimated the full complexities and challenges of his job description, particularly as they impact the convergence of the Real and Informal Sectors within an environment that is highly politically charged. For example in typical African economies much as it is always the Central Bank Governors that continually take the flak for failures of countries to achieve Price and Markets Stability, the reality is that they (Bank Governors) exercise very little or no practical control having regard to the over-arching authority of Presidents, Ministers of Finance and Financial Secretaries within profligate political dispensations, and with a proclivity to expend far more than the economy can generate as incomes. 

In Sierra Leone in particular, any reckless government  with a penchant to expand domestic and external borrowings without due parliamentary scrutiny just to settle bloated Wage Bills or in pursuit of their fictitious development agenda is bound to stress even Janet Yellen or Andrew Bailey (US Treasury Secretary or Bank of England Governor respectively) beyond their endurance. 

So instead of supervising economies as “Bankers to the Government and other Financial Institutions” according to law, successive African Central Bank Governors have only been managing to defend their tenures by, in addition to their core Central Banking responsibilities, act as well as the Principal Tellers (Cashiers) to successive Heads of States, Ministers and Members of Parliament in meeting their various insatiable and questionable demands ranging from for provision of Hard Currencies, Newly Minted Notes or even “Financial Top Ups” for their periodic constituencies visits. In the event, many Bank Governors soon become technically overwhelmed by the challenges of such non-core responsibilities, and which is why like many before him Prof. Kallon came, he saw, but could not conquer.

A little over four years down the road and six months to the end of his first renewable tenure in October, he had to be surreptitiously ditched via dispatch on terminal leave.     

Mouse

Thus the man who boastfully reminded us about his bravery to have tamed four (not one) roaring lions in broad daylight on a Safari and with his bare hands somewhere in East Africa, exited office without as much as taming both the SLL/USD Exchange and Inflation Rates in our economy which is equal only in size and ferocity to that of a single Kenyan mouse, when compared to those four lions he claims to have tamed. 

He met and took over the reins of that sublime office from a competent substantive Governor Dr. Patrick Conteh, but left without one on seat to hand over to. He even had to be expediently dispatched leaving his Deputy Governor (1) the astute Dr. Ibrahim Stevens at the helm, so as for him not to cause further harm/damage.

The negative signals these development portend for this country can best be imagined than described. The man who assumed office grumbling about the APC having collapsed the economy left the country both without a Bank Governor and without an economy. Thank God he left the buildings in tenantable states.

Yet for the daft we are, or are supposed to be in his own estimation, he believes we should show him due respect because he has provided pictures of him alone cuddling four male lions.

For someone like me who had sojourned in Kenya and still familiar with their tourist attractions, I am still investigating whether what he was referring to as evidence of his bravery and photographed with were actually “roaring lions” (like he claimed) or those with their fangs, dentition and claws carefully manicured and set aside for picture poses with tourist at substantial costs. And I promise to let my readers know in due course.

Productive

Meantime the public has been so peeved by the temerity of the Governor to have hit the airwaves instead of continuing to remain incognito (and in hibernation) at government expense, that one concerned citizen summarized his audacity as tasteless braggadocio under one caption: “Only In Sierra Leone!!” 

And indeed it is only in Sierra Leone that more than seven (7) clear months after a substantive Central Bank Governor was unceremoniously exited from service, replaced by the Deputy Bank Governor (1) and dispatched on involuntary leave that he could still be describing himself as the substantive Bank Governor, be occupying the Bank Governor’s Residences, be on full salaries, emoluments and perks of a substantive Bank Governor and condescendingly be scolding us the bulk of citizens deprived of employment opportunities to try to become productive, instead of discussing him on social media.

Risk Grading

Pundits believe it is government’s preference for a Northerner for the post that is delaying the appointment of a substantive Bank Governor. The SLPP have managed the national economy so badly through an insistence on, and a rigid application of their South-Eastern monolithic approach that it is about time the blame is spread nationally. But whatever their reasons, the absence of a substantive Central Bank Governor within any economy in excess of seven moths is anathema, and among the many reasons why our country’s Risk Grading continues to plummet, compounded by an inability of most local Commercial Banks (and perhaps even the Bank of Sierra Leone itself) to enter credible Correspondents Banking partnerships for seamless financial intermediations for Trade Finance and Direct Funds Transfers.

Worse still unlike in the past when it was the Bank of Sierra Leone that held a monopoly of according “Fit and Proper Clearance” credentials to individuals and Financial Institutions under its supervision, I can recall at least two instances now wherein International Banks operating locally and licensed by the very Bank of Sierra Leone have demanded “Fit and Proper Clearance” reports from their “Supervisors” -The Bank of Sierra.

Personally I have no qualms about how the government wishes to run its establishments and or economy, but when you consider it is an institutions as sensitive as the Central Bank that is under review, one is left to wonder on what sentiments or impulses this government is allowing Prof. Kallon to remain this long out of office and on the longest vacation leave ever, as the substantive Bank Governor and on full salaries and benefits.

Contrast his privileges and opulence with the way and manner he has stoutly resisted all appeals to pay us Non-Executive Board Directors for the residual tenure of our appointments since April 2018, unless and until President Bio gives him the clearance to do so.  Even the precursor of Prof. Kallon, Dr. Patrick Conteh has not been paid a single cent to date since he too was unceremoniously exited.  

Though I have written to him about it umpteen times, I will continue to write to him again and again as I await that approval directive from President Bio as our Fountain of Honour in the same way he consented to approving an Appropriation Act before closure of the 5th Parliament last March, to ensure that none of his own appointees suffer our kind of predicament in this country again.

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