2 Sides to a Coin
Three West African Judges namely Justices Biobele Georgewill, Bankole Thompson and William Annan Atuguba will sit on the Bio Commission of Inquiry with great expectations from our people. They will lead their respective Judge only Commissions to investigate Governance and the country’s resources from 2007 to 2018. By default, their principal Witness is bound to be ex-president Ernest Bai Koroma who was in charge of the country and our governance during that period together with those he entrusted as his Ministers and special advisers. (Photo: Sqn. Ldr. Winston Forde, RAF Ret’d.)
On his appointment, President Koroma said, “Tony Blair is an old friend to us in Sierra Leone dating back to the days when he was Prime Minister. Indeed, he helped us at a time when she needed it most. It is gratifying to note that he and his team are still with us providing advice to deal with the many challenges that we face.” For that reason, he seriously embedded the then African Governance Institute (AGI) staff within government and Tony Blair held frequent meetings behind closed doors as an integral agent of government. I recall that no minutes or records of their deliberations were ever made public. The stated driving mission concerned the fundamental political matter of good governance and they claimed various levels of success in Africa.
Since 2017 the AGI has been replaced by the Tony Bair Institute for Global Change that aims to help make Globalisation work for the many, not the few; a well known Labour Party mantra. They try to do this by helping countries, their people and their governments address some of the most difficult challenges in this world today. Ours remain poverty, corruption and poor governance.
Their published website left the world in no doubt of their methods. Working at the centre of government, they supported the Office of the President to strengthen cross-government co-ordination and performance management. Blair admitted that his team of embedded advisors had been working shoulder to shoulder within a range of line ministries including the Ministry of Finance & Economical Development on its internal reform process, improving fiscal policy and financial reform of the energy sector; the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Trade and Agriculture and Ministry of Health and Sanitation. The AGI became an essential operational part of Government and must surely carry some responsibility for the outcomes under Judicial examination.
On Wednesday 4th April 2018, a new President was sworn in following Presidential elections. The Institute did not comment much about the nature of those Elections and protracted manner in which their previous protégée left office, but wasted no time in zooming in. Their website stated that President Julius Maada Bio was currently organising himself and his team to lead the country over a 5-year term and confirmed that the Tony Blair Institute was in discussions about continuing their support to government and people of Sierra Leone under the stewardship of the Bio administration. In their words, President Bio had entered office with a clear Vision of what he wants to deliver for Sierra Leone: free and quality education and a diversified economy and they vouched to support him in turning it into tangible results.
In addition they now plan to work with the Mayor of Freetown, who appears in a clip on their website, as well thus controlling both central and local government. Can that be wise?
The Question must be to what extent did those who were embedded in government as governance and financial experts be held responsible for the adverse performance of our last Government. That is the Other Side Of The Coin and surely it must be logical and unavoidable that The Bio Commission seeks to take evidence from the Tony Blair Institute. He was not a mere by-stander but an integral part of the EBK Government who must be treated as being equally accountable to the Commission and the people of Sierra Leone. We could learn about what good advice he may have provided that government chose to ignore and what steps were taken to guide government more effectively. If none of that happened, then what was the point of their privileged engagement and why should we allow the Institute to continue to meddle in our affairs to no avail and at what cost?
Perhaps, we should heed the warning recently issued by the IMF Boss, Christine Legarde that poor countries must stop contracting global consultancy firms to write development strategies. That simply does not work and our ministers must, instead, step up to the plate and work effectively with other governments, and not individuals however well intended they might be. If the Commission avoids a review of those secret activities of our co-Government then the Inquiry will be only partially informed and our people would not have been well served.
By Winston Forde
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