President Julius Maada Bio won the 2018 Presidential Election making promises to the people of Sierra Leone that resounded with their deeply held wishes. The people had gotten tired of successive governments of thieving officials who pillaged the nation for their own benefit. We had gotten tired of officials accused of corruption not being held accountable for their crimes. Instead of being prosecuted, they were mostly recycled to other ministries, departments or agencies. As if to cool down the situation, some were removed from the public space long enough for their names to stop trending, after which they were brought back, as if they had repented and we had forgotten the crimes they were accused of.
Although he was lauded for the recent cabinet reshuffling that saw the former Chief Minister demoted to another ministry, upon further analysis, that action is now coming under immense scrutiny and criticism, with President Bio now being seen as betraying the trust the people had reposed in him.
After promising the people of Sierra Leone that he would fight financial leakages by taking the nation in a new governance direction if given the helm, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio was elected by a slight margin over his APC challenger. But three years down the line, President Bio and his PAOPA government continue to betray the people of Sierra Leone, as the promised New Direction has turned out to be a new direction in the same old corrupt direction without accountability.
Today, leakages are the order of the day in the New Direction government. As if betraying the people in this vein were not enough, the President is also continuing the age old tradition of recycling officials suspected or accused of graft to other positions in government.
Let us consider a critical recycling job of a public official with allegations of corruption hanging over his head, and the creating of yet another avenue for continuing financial leakages in government.
Before assuming state power, President Bio’s then number one man, David Francis, authored the critical Government Transition Report that formed the basis for the Commissions of Inquiry that resulted to the White Paper, from which recommendations the President can choose who from the previous government should be prosecuted for corruption and related charges.
Ignoring the already huge government wage bill, a new ministry, the Office of the Chief Minister, was created for David Francis, for which new staff was hired and are being paid. As if this unnecessary addition to the government wage bill were not enough, less than three years down the line, Professor Francis was exposed as corrupt by the Africanist Press and the Auditor General’s Report, with $3.4 million still unaccounted for, apart from other dubious acts aimed at throwing off auditors from the scent of his fiduciary activities.
With such accusations hanging over his head, and as his punishment, Francis was removed, not to prepare him for possible prosecution, but recycled to head another ministry, this time the very important Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Seen as the face of the country, the Foreign Affairs Minister represents the country’s image to the international community. Imaging that a man accused of corruption is now the face of the country; now imaging how our international partners see us, the country.
But as if that were not enough, President Bio has made another governance blunder that spells final defeat for our government’s fight against corruption/financial leakages. After sacking the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, President Bio did a U-turn and created a new ministry for her. Nabeela Tunis is now Resident Minister Western Region Cabinet Rank. By doing this, the President is openly telling us that he no longer considers financial leakages a critical governance ailment. It is as if we are being told that payment of Mrs Tunis’s salary and the salaries of the people that will man this new ministry – all of which will add further burden on the already overburdened government wage bill – is in no way indicative of financial leakage.
By recycling ministers the President is finally telling us that the country lacks critical human resources to man our government positions. Are we to believe that across the length and breadth of this great nation, even going as far as the diaspora, we don’t have Sierra Leoneans qualified to man such positions, except from within PAOPA? It sure is a shame that after all these years of suffering under the weight of corruption and financial leakages, the one man that promised to bring an end to it is now, by his very actions, betraying us by continuing them. This leads us to our conclusion that far from being here for our good, PAOPA/New Direction/SLPP is here for its own good.