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Sierra Leoneans call upon Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative

Sierra Leoneans call upon Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative

Sierra Leoneans call upon the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative to be part of the solution to governance lapses in Sierra Leone and not part of the problem

Concerned for Sierra Leone
Freetown, Sierra Leone, March 12th, 2013

Dear Mr. Tony Blair,

In recent months Sierra Leoneans and the international community have been concerned about allegations of over USD $1 Million of donor funds from a GAVI grant to Sierra Leone intended to vaccination vulnerable children that are unaccounted for. See initial Reuters report http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/21/us-sierraleone-health-idUSBRE8BK0YB20121221).

At precisely the same time as corrupt officials in the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation were busy siphoning off donor funds intended for vulnerable children, just down the corridor in the very same ministry, officials from Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) were putting the finishing touches to a path-breaking initiative to provide free healthcare to children under five and lactating mothers.

The people of Sierra Leone have a deep affection for Tony Blair who as British Prime Minister played a pivotal role in ending the brutal and bloody civil war that brought the country to its knees a decade ago. However the irony of the Africa Governance Initiative plugging one governance hole while others in the same ministry were busy undermining governance is not lost on us as Sierra Leoneans.

We believe this scandal raises important and urgent questions for the AGI to consider if it is to leave a lasting legacy of strengthened governance in Sierra Leone befitting a statesman of Tony Blair’s international stature.

We Sierra Leoneans are becoming more and more worried that donors such as DFID, NGOs and companies increasingly ignore corruption or write it off as “the cost of doing business in Africa”. Some of us would actually like our countries to function and to make progress and for embezzlers and fraudsters to be held to account.

The embezzled USD $1 Million of GAVI funds is just the tip of the iceberg (see 2011 Auditor General’s report below). More than 64 Billion Leones of the total 110 Billions cannot be accounted for by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation!

In other words, if AGI is unable to act in concert with other international partners to strengthen standards of governance in Sierra Leone, there is a very real risk that many of the programmes for which the agency raises funds to implement in the country may simply fail.

As Sierra Leoneans, we believe Tony Blair is a friend of all Sierra Leoneans and it is in that spirit that we call upon the AGI to be a part of the governance solution in Sierra Leone and not part of the problem.

We can no longer afford to condone a lax attitude and failure of accountability by international partners that fuel and perpetuate bad governance, thus rewarding the corrupt officials who enjoy virtual impunity.

With sincere thanks and appreciation,

Sheku Boima

Concerned for Sierra Leone – We are an independent growing group in and outside the country. From all social, ethnic, political and religious background who are raising awareness and mobilizing for more open accountable and just society and political system in Sierra Leone.

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  • Dr Matte Gerhold, Hd of AGI in Freetown recently wrote about Delivery and Democracy in Sierra Leone in Huff Post POLITICS (UK). I really wish AGI would participate in our local press and media, considering they claimn to speak about us and on our behalf so often, but overseas only. He raised the prospect of our fast growing economy, Tourism in which Tony Blair is patently interested, mentioned that flawed mechanism of private/public partnerships that is proving a cankerworm in Blair’s Premiership Labour legacy in the UK, and seemed to underplay our real problems, including Education. Within my 250 words, I responded as follows, and agree the drift of the above article, which must be a first:

    “See http://www.sewachronicle.com/our-elsewhere-country/ an article on my website http://www.winstonfordebooks.com. Bumbuna will not generate electricity for at least another year, which takes us back some 40 years. Notwithstanding the Health Care programme we have few qualified doctors, or hospitals. Yesterday, 29 civil servants including SL’s Chief Medical officer were indicted for misappropriating $1m of GAVI Funds.

    My book, ‘The Story of Mining in Sierra Leone shows that nothing has changed in mining. The Board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative recently suspended SL for non compliance. We failed to meet their 5 requirements; in particular the ministry could not account for US$1m received from African Minerals in 2010. Our people do not benefit from mining, God help us when we start pumping oil.

    One of my articles deals with Governance, the main AGI business, and you should scroll the pages of Kondo Fat to Parts 2 and 3. Your Chairman believed in education for the British electorate, and I am disappointed how little is discussed about the appalling level of education in our country. How can the people become middle income earners, in a flash, with little education? Education should be one of our top priorities, or jobs created from this mineral rush will remain beyond the capability of our local workforce. The message on education, training, youth employment, is germane. Africa has to assume control of her destiny no matter how much Donors may have done for us, and themselves, in the past.”

    11th March 2013

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