Calls for a ban on the Minister of Agriculture, Mr Denis Vandy from taking part in the governance of the state are widespread within public domain. Mr Vandy was Permanent Secretary (PM) in the Ministry Of Education (MOE) in 2016 where he served for several months.
The public is anxious to see an empty seat in government for the former PM who has been indicted by Government ‘White Paper’ for several financial improprieties.
A member of a prominent civil society organisation, Mr Yusif Bangura is one of those calling on government to relieve Mr Vandy of his ministerial duties since his freedom of movement has been restricted.
“How can we have a Minister who cannot travel out of the country,” Mr Bangura wonders. The Ban on the Minister of Agriculture is one of the bold steps to enforce Government White Paper that emanated from the three defunct Commissions of Inquiry (COI).
The COI findings indicate that hundreds of billions of Leones as well as state assets could not be accounted for by the government of former President Ernest Bai Koroma. To Mr Denis Vandy, the appearance of his name in the list is a surprise as he put it he has never been invited by any the COI from start to finish.
“I was in this country throughout the sittings of the Commissions of Inquiry. I was never notified as a person of interest. Above all, I was never interviewed by anyone working for the commissions,” Minister Vandy said in an interview.
He further explained to this medium that he was shocked and saddened to see his name in the list as a person on interest to the COI. Mr Vandy was also particularly concerned over what he referred to as a blatant breach of the principle of natural justice which says the two sides to a story must be heard.
“I was never given the opportunity to be heard before the Commissions of Inquiry,” he says.
In his Statement, Mr Vandy believes that he has been wrongfully indicted for wrongs alleged to have taken place in the Ministry Of Education between 2007 and 2018.
However, the public is of the firm view that Mr Vandy’s right to seek redress in the Appeals Court remains intact.
The Only place, Sierra Leoneans say, for the indicted Minister to seek solace is the court.
“The Minster must go to the courts to clear his name if he knows that he led a clean public life while he was serving the country,” a member of the public says.
In a speech from the throne almost a week ago on the intended robust and fullest enforcement of the ‘White Paper,’ President Julius Maada Bio neither ruled out any appeals process nor stifled anybody’s right to appeal against recommendations in the White Paper.
“Persons and entities affected by the recommendations are guaranteed a peaceful and transparent judicial appeals process through which they can seek relief,” President Bio assures.
The move for the ban came after Mr Denis Vandy’s name found its way in a list of former government officials banned from leaving the country without recourse to the Attorney-General’s Office.
His former status as PM placed Mr Vandy in a special class, power and authority as administrative head, vote controller and custodian of human and material resources at MOE.
Suffice it to say he is in a position to know about the disposal of finances for activities and projects in his ministry. Minister Vandy’s name appeared on eight pages of VoL-1 of the White Paper which emanated from Commission-64 presided over by Justice Biobele Georgewill.
The Commission was charged by Constitutional Instrument-64 with the responsibility inquiring into assets and other related matters in respect of persons who were President, Vice Presidents, Ministers and Deputies, Heads and Chairmen of Boards of parastatals, Departments and Agencies within a period spanning from 2007 to 2018.
Page-32 VoL-1 of the White paper shows how Minister Vandy alongside other officials recklessly managed finances at the MOE. It is also alleged by the White Paper that MOE was run as a cartel and criminal enterprise resulting into heavy financial losses that nearly wrecked the institution.
Funds meant for several activities such as school feeding, payment of fees subsidies, revitalization of education development, construction of technical and vocational institutions, rehabilitation and extension works at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone among others were allegedly misappropriated with Mr Vandy at the helm.
The activities, the White Paper says, for which Mr Vandy and others are held accountable were carried out without supporting documents. Of particular note was the allegedly misappropriated US$23,000,000 meant for education development for which Mr Vandy and collaborators are objects of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigations.
The former PM, Mr Denis Vandy served MOE for several months in 2016.
In an administrative officers’ postings of August, 2016, Mr Vandy proceeded on leave and later replaced by Mr Umaru Conteh.
Following the emergence of the New Direction Government at the helm of state governance, Mr Denis Vandi was made Secretary to President, a post he also held for months before he was sacked.
What caused his dismissal remains a closely-guarded secret. He was later appointed Minister of Agriculture where he has stayed to date. Whether government will yield to public calls to see Mr Vandi out of governance is a wait-and-see affair.