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President Koroma calls for more transparency

President Koroma calls for more transparency

In his traditional New Year’s message to the nation, President  Ernest Bai Koroma (in photo)  has called for more transparency and accountability in the handling of Ebola funds.

According to the President, Sierra Leoneans must resist those individuals who will want to use Ebola funds to enrich themselves, to score political points, or to cause mischief and disaffection in the country.

He went on to state that those who are not working but want to hide under the cover of those who work to get paid must be exposed especially when they are not involved in raising awareness about the disease, but want funds for their selfish needs.

“There are people who don’t work but want to hide under the cover of those who work to get paid; we must expose them”, the President said.

There have been serious concerns regarding the funds provided for the fight against Ebola. Civil Society, the media and international partners alike have raised the flags, one way or the other regarding the way the funds are being expended. The internationally acclaimed auditing firm (KPMG) who had been contracted as official “Accountant” of the Ebola account pulled out under very suspicious circumstances casting more doubts on the credibility of the government handling of the resources. Lately, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer of the National Ebola Response Center- Rtd Major Paolo Conteh announced that his institution had prevented the siphoning of funds through a bloated payroll.

Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise to hear President Koroma announcing that:

“We expect all international agencies, NGOs and Civil Society Organizations who have received the majority of funds to fight Ebola to have similar records for a thorough accounting of their actions.”

What may be surprising though is the need to postpone the process of accountability until the end of the scourge. The excuse has always been that we do not need the distraction that may result from the fall out of such auditing exercise. Well, while we are not yet clear as to when exactly this outbreak may end, the public might have to continue to wait for an explanation of how monies received or borrowed on their behalf have been spent.

Another point in the President’s new year’s message is the announcement of the imminent reopening of schools.

One of the greatest impacts of this outbreak has been on the education sector. Schools and colleges have been closed, some used as holding centers.  Parents and the public have been very bothered about the damage this would have on the already weak educational standards in the country.

Although the authorities have attempted to provide alternative learning through  radio and television teaching programs, everyone has been looking forward to the reopening of schools.

To assuage the public anxiety, the President also announced that he has instructed the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to put in place modalities for the reopening of schools and colleges in the shortest possible time.

“Dates for the reopening and other modalities will be announced by the ministry in due course”, he asserted.

This could also be seen as a response to public outcry. Many people have argued for reopening of the learning institutions given the fact that traders are allowed to carry on with their businesses in more congested and unhygienic environments. This so because the reason why learning institutions were closed down was to prevent the further spread of the virus among the school children and students at colleges.

Therefore, while the President’s announcement comes as a welcome news, like the accountability issue, it is not clear when this would materialize given the uncertainty surrounding the end of the outbreak.

This may well be the reason why the President has declared seven days of prayers, fasting and charity with effect from 1st January 2015.

Amadu Lamrana Bah reporting.

Credit:Development and Economic Journalists Association of Sierra Leone

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