President Koroma names and shames corrupt government institutions
In an extraordinarily tough and uncompromising tone, President Ernest Bai Koroma today decried the behaviour and actions of virtually all the ministries and other institutions in charge of law-enforcement in Sierra Leone.
Speaking at a special emergency meeting he called for the purpose at State House, the Head of State told his audience, “I have invited all of you to this meeting and I carefully selected each and every one of you because you form the law-enforcement agencies and are expected to interpret and implement the law to ensure that government functions effectively and efficiently…. You interpret the law on a daily basis in dealing with the public and the international community, but if you compromise your positions, then it affects the overall functioning of the state.”
Present at the meeting were the Ministers of Justice, Internal Affairs, Presidential Affairs, Mineral Resources, Marine Resources, Transport, Lands, together with the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, and institutional heads including the Inspector General of Police, National Registration Secretariat, the Mayor of Freetown, Standards Bureau, Births and Deaths, National Revenue Authority, and Immigration.
The President stated in the most unequivocal terms that he is not satisfied with the way and manner in which virtually all these institutions have been conducting their affairs: “From evidence available to me, there seems to be collaboration within these institutions to undermine the efforts of this government.” The President gave an example of the Immigration department where he said he has evidence to prove that foreigners of African descent are being issued with Sierra Leonean passports for two hundred to five hundred dollars within four days, while a Lebanese or anyone of Middle Eastern origin would pay between one thousand and one thousand five hundred dollars for a Sierra Leonean passport.
The President denounced this as an unpatriotic act that is capable of damaging the image of the country, “exposing Sierra Leone to people who could make this country be branded as a terrorist country”. The President went on to say that Immigration would not carry out these nefarious activities without the collaboration of the Births and Deaths Department which issues out relevant documentation to culprits. He gave another example of the Sierra Leone Road Transport Authority (SLRTA) as issuing driving licenses to non-Sierra Leoneans for one hundred dollars; while he revealed that Customs officials connive with the police to either misuse the duty-free waiver by faking documents or using the names of eligible institutions like IMATT to fleece the state.
On specific police corruption, the President made mention of a reporter from Kambia district detailing the level of bribe-taking at about 15 check-points between Freetown and Kambia, wherein Customs officials and the police have a common collection point and share the loot at the end of the day, “for which the burden is transferred to the importer and then to the consumer. It is the ordinary man that bears the brunt of this syndicate.”
Turning to the National Power Authority (NPA), the President said through the connivance of officials, people are having illegal connections to avoid paying bills; while he said Marine Resources officials are depriving the nation of much-needed revenue by allowing some companies to avoid paying the required fees; and then he berated Mineral Resources officials, especially mines wardens, for conniving with diamond or gold smugglers, which he said this is done with the connivance of airport officials.
“There is a syndicate of 419ers using fake certificates from the Ministry of Mineral Resources and the GGDO to fleece investors of thousands and sometimes millions of dollars, and when they are arrested, they connive with the police to chase the investors away, or if these culprits are taken to the justice system they are granted bail with the purpose to share the loot. This is done with the knowledge of people sitting in this room. The police know this is happening in a grand scale,” the President asserted, making mention of the seized cocaine plane as having been in the business since 1992 with the connivance of people expected to maintain the law.
President Koroma said he had called the meeting to tell everybody that, “This year will be a year with a difference… It will not be business as usual… We must change the direction of this country… no infrastructural development will take us out of the woods if the situation continues as it is now. As ministers and institutional heads, you must take full responsibility of your departments by looking inwards. The Sierra Leonean public has had enough; they have not been treated fairly because of the interests of those who want to mortgage the sovereignty of Sierra Leone to Al Qaeda or other terrorists for a few dollars.”
The President said it is time for all to make the necessary sacrifice to move the country forward, “if we do, we will generate more income than getting money through criminal ways… This must stop, and from now onwards, I’ll not warn anybody. Any institution or individual caught will be dealt with accordingly; not only by losing the job but we will take the appropriate legal action for betraying the confidence of the people…”
President Koroma did not entertain any reaction but left the conference room immediately after his passionate charge.
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