Leaked memo highlights mismanagement at Human Rights Commission
By Abu-Bakarr Sheriff
A leaked memorandum written by one of the five Commissioners at the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone, which incidentally has a grade A status, highlights serious issues of mismanagement of funds and indiscipline at the Commission.
The memo reads: “You will recall that I have on several occasions raised the fact that there is a clear manifestation of improper use if funds in the HRCSL and all attempts to restructure systems for proper transparency and accountability of funds have not yielded any positive results so far.”
I have raised the issue in previous articles that the Commission, in the words of the forthright Commissioner, does not preach what it practices! The fact of the matter is that the Commission has evaded almost all of the issues I raised, which coincidentally constitute the main crux of transparency and accountability issues highlighted in the leaked memo.
Not surprisingly, some individuals have attempted to deflect the questions by employing another newspaper to do the hatchet man’s job for them. But the reality is that, truth is truth and falsity is falsity. Hence, even though our colleagues attempted to ‘kill’ the messenger by referring to yours truly as ‘a mercenary’. I had to laugh that characterization off as a desperate move to ignore the substantive core issues highlighted, which any serious commission would have addressed speedily.
To remain true to my professionalism, I am not going to reply to such distraction, for the simple fact that those making the allegation are only detractors with a vested pecuniary interest in the matter.
Let me hasten to say that my interest in the matter is purely altruistic, in the interest of transparency and accountability, and love for country, as the Human Rights Commission, like its counterparts in Kenya and South Africa, should be seen to practice what it preaches. It is no gainsaying that mismanagement of funds and lack of accountability are incongruous to upholding the core values of human rights, as corruption and human rights are diametrically opposed to each other.
And for that reason, I challenge the Commission with the following questions, which they have failed to answer so far, apart from strenuously purporting that the minutes in my possession are not ‘authentic’. As interesting as that may sound, the truth is, nobody has denied the veracity of claims made in the memo, save for the petulant retort by the Executive Secretary that I should ask the Commissioner who wrote the memo. In answer to that, I say be careful what you ask for.
That to me, does not only smack of arrogance and gross disrespect for public office, it sums up the thought process of the Commission, because it came from the so-called professional head of the Commission.
Without much ado, I would like the Human Rights Commission to provide answers for these serious questions:
- Has the Commission instituted an audit with respect to the 2nd and 3rd UN Peace building Funds, as one of the Commissioners directed in a memo dated 8th August, 2013? If the answer is no, could they proffer reasons for such.
- Can the Commission deny that staff, including a certain Commissioner or should I say Commissioners, have already received their annual leave allowances since January even though their leave dates are not due yet?
- Did the Commission violate national procurement laws when vehicle number AFI 990 was purchased for the sum of $ 29,000 without following due procurement process?
- Has a certain consultant who was contracted to digitize the TRC Report performed his part of the contract? If no, has the Commission done anything to ensure he performs or pays damages for breach of contract?
- Did the Commission request the Executive Secretary to refund Le.16m after it emerged she was sponsored by ISPHR to attend the 53rd session of the Africa Commission on Human and Peoples Rights in Banjul, The Gambia, in 2013. If yes, has she reimbursed the Commission?
- Did the Executive Secretary spend the two weeks she was supposed to spend at the conference in Banjul or did she return before the session came to closure?
- How many copies of the State of Human Rights Report were published in 2011 and 2012?
- Also, what is the state of implementation of projects by Irish Aid, UNDP Access to Justice?
The above questions and many more I had posed to the Commission, which are yet to be answered. Instead, certain individuals at the Commission have rather been more concerned about the ‘public image’ of the Commission. But the question is, should we sacrifice truth telling, accountability and transparency on the altar of image preservation and ego boosting for a Commission which practices what it does not preach?
SEE MEMO BELOW
Date: 8th August, 2013
From: Commissioner Olu-Williams
Subject: MISMANAGEMENT OF FUNDS
You will recall that I have on several occasions raised the fact that there is a clear manifestation of improper use if funds in the HRCSL and all attempts to restructure systems for proper transparency and accountability of funds have not yielded any positive results so far.
As the Chairperson, I am bringing it to your attention that this does not auger well for such an institution which does not ‘Practice what it preaches’.
I am also really worried over the fact that the situation since I started work in August 2012 to now is fast deteriorating and one cannot say that the Commissioners have full control over the management of the HRCSL. This borders not only around transparency and accountability but also in terms of discipline as well.
In view of the above, I hereby recommend an immediate audit of our books, both for government of Sierra Leone and donors funds in particular the PBF 2 funds by a reputable and credible accounting firm.
In light of this I am further suggesting that no funds should be expended from PBF 3 until there is a satisfactory closure on PBF 2.
I have come to the conclusion that if immediate steps are not taken to prevent this ‘havoc’ situation and Commissioners seen working in unison to wipe out such corruption, I will have no alternative but to take necessary steps to maintain my integrity, and to serve my God in truth and peace.