From the Editor’s Keyboard

President Bio and the future of Sierra Leone

9 July 2019 at 19:02 | 2287 views

By Emperor Bailor Jalloh, PV Freetown Bureau Chief

Gearing towards the re- birth of a new nation, the current President of Republic of Sierra Leone Brigadier Retired Julius Maada Bio who has just clocked a calendar year in state governance on Thursday April 4,2019 had waged robust legal wars on three key state enemies: Corruption, Indiscipline and Poverty- eyeing the brighter future of Sierra Leone with his popularly known " New Direction" administration.
President Bio was duly elected President of Sierra Leone during the March 31,2018 presidential run-off election under the ticket of the then opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) and was officially declared president elect on April 4,2018 by the national Returning Officer/ Chief Electoral Commissioner Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh of the National Electoral Commission ( NEC).

Implementing his political manifesto during the past presidential electioneering campaign trail, President Bio first launched his education flagship programme called " Free Quality School Education ( FQSE)" in August 2018 in the Miatta Conference centre, west of Freetown in a bid to curtail the alarming rate of illiteracy in the country and also to institute a sound human resources base for public and private sectors, followed by the implementation of Treasury Single Account ( TSA) and the appointment of three Commissions of Inquiry ( COI) by constitutional instruments endorsed by Sierra Leone Parliament and also revamped the designated spirit of the Anti-Corruption Commission ( ACC) of Sierra Leone as tough measures for fiscal discipline and combating rampant corruption with impunity.

The three Commissions of Inquiry ( COI) are underway with special reference to the country’s Auditor General Reports in the compound of defunct UN backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, New England Ville ,West of Freetown presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson of Sierra Leone, Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Justice William Annan Atuguba of the Republic of Ghana probing state governance activities by former state functionaries including Sierra Leone erstwhile president Ernest Bai Koroma of the then All People’s Congress ( APC) led Government, modified by the Commissions of Inquiry " persons of interest". These Commissions of Inquiry came in the wake of a recommendation by the Governance Transition Team ( GTT) report set up by President Bio.

The Anti - Corruption Commission ( ACC) of Sierra Leone have been retrieving billions of Leones or billions of US dollars from some past former state actors including former ministers via Out of Court Settlement ( OCS) and indictment and law court trial of both and past and current state actors are also in progress nationwide.

Meanwhile, April 2,2019, the country’s Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa in a press conference in Freetown announced that over $ 1 billion public funds are yet to be accounted for in three years by four sectors during the past APC regime in a Technical Forensic Audit Team report with forensic audit experts drawn from Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and other Sierra Leonean audit experts via Audit Service of Sierra Leone headed by Lara Taylor- Pearce. The just concluded Technical Audit exercise was a request made by President Bio through Sierra Leone Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa in July 2018 to technically audit the country’s Social Security/ National Social Security Insurance Trust ( NASSIT) , Energy ,Civil Works and Telecommunications/ National Telecommunications Commission ( NATCOM).

To foster transparency and accountability in Sierra Leone , the Sierra Leone Constitution, 1991 and the Standing Orders of Sierra Leone Parliament have made relevant legal provisions to collectively achieve that. Committees of Parliament- section 93 paragraph e, indicates Public Accounts Committee.

CHAPTER IX Commissions of Inquiry, Sierra Leone Constitution, 1991 section 147 subsection ( 1) save as otherwise provided in subsection (2) , the President shall , by constitutional instrument appoint a Commission of Inquiry into any matter of public interest where-
a. the cabinet advise that it is in the public interest so to do; or
b. Parliament by a resolution passed in that behalf requires that a Commission be appointed to inquire into any matter specified in the resolution being a matter of public importance.

The Constitution of Sierra Leone,1991, establishment of office and functions of Auditor- General, section 119 subsection ( 1) There shall be an Auditor-General for Sierra Leone whose office shall be a public office, and who shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Public Service Commission, and subject to the approval of Parliament. Subsection(4) the Auditor-General ,within twelve months of the end of the immediately preceding financial year ,submit his report to parliament and shall in that report draw attention to any irregularities in the accounts audited and to any other matter which in his opinion ought to be brought to the notice of Parliament while subsection ( 5) states that Parliament shall debate the report of the Auditor -General and appoint where necessary in the public interest a committee to deal with any matters arising therefrom.

In the past 10 years of APC led administration, little or nothing was done to implement the Auditor-General’s report even the special audit on Ebola funds management with all Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) public hearings in Committee Room One in Parliament buildings in Freetown.

According to the Standing Orders (SOs) of Sierra Leone Parliament, (6) (a) There shall be a committee to be known as the Public Accounts Committee consisting of the Deputy Speaker as Chairman and not more than ten other Members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection.
(b) It shall be the duty of the committee to examine the annual accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the House to meet public expenditure together with the reports and special reports of the Auditor -General thereon.

(c) The Public Accounts Committee shall, for the purpose of discharging that duty, have powers pursuant to subsection ( 6) of Section 93 of the Constitution.

(d) The Public Accounts Committee shall, have power to examine any accounts or reports of Statutory Corporations and Boards after they have been laid on the Table of the House, and to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of Parliament.

Concluding, H.E. President Julius Maada Bio is a lucky Sierra Leonean that has governed Sierra Leone twice. First as a Military Head of State under the National Provisional Ruling Council ( NPRC) 1995/96 after the’ Palace Coup’ of Head of State Captain Valentine E.M. Strasser and now democratically elected President of Republic of Sierra Leone under the ticket of the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) with robust determination for brighter future of Sierra Leone.

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