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Edmund Koroma is a True Financial Wizard

Edmund Koroma is a True Financial Wizard

The National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) was established by the government of Sierra Leone through the Act of Parliament 2001 for  the ‘retirement and other benefits to meet the contingency needs of workers and their dependants and to provide for other related matters…’  With teething problems expected of such a noble concept, it has generally lived up to its legislative mandate. (Photo: Edmund Koroma)

When NASSIT was established, former President Tejan Kabbah, and his government, had to choose from a number of highly qualified candidates the best among the best of candidates for the enviable position of Director-General position of NASSIT, after the position had been occupied by a foreign national.  The choice of Edmund Koroma by the Kabbah government was devoid of political considerations, since he was absolutely not a SLPP partisan, nor was he supported by the heavy weights of the SLPP.  What balanced the scale in his favor was a track record of enviable performance, a record of inflexible integrity.

Now, I once wrote that there is no institution, be it public or private that is devoid of challenges. This is exactly the case with NASSIT.  There have been a lot of challenges faced by NASSIT.  And one of such challenges has to do with its investment. There have been great investments undertaken by the institution when it had Edmund Koroma as Director-General; from its investment on Housing at Goderich to its investments in Bo, Makeni and Kenema – which includes shopping plazas, a novelty in those areas.

But let us attempt to look at its investment dealing with ferries. Much has been written, much has been said and still there is more we should expect.

The investment in the ferries by NASSIT was done to meet a burning need of the consumer who have to travel to the international airport at Lungi and back, and many traders, farmers, etc. who ferry themselves to Lungi and back to Freetown almost daily. There was no functional ferry to cater to the demand.  See the plight of the people, NASSIT was moved by humanitarian, and business, considerations in investing in the ferries.

But should we now use the investments in the ferry, and blow it out of proportion to crucify Edmund Koroma? In my view, no, we should not use one case to crucify a man that has helped in ensuring an institution like Nassit, created by government becomes a success.  We must juxtapose the one case of the ferries with the dozens of other investments, with the dramatic jump in the investment portfolio (over three hundred percent increase) and put it on a scale.  On such a scale not blurred by negative perception, ‘bad hart’, we would acclaim Edmund Koroma as a financial genius, not a villain.

Edmund Koroma was Director-General alright when the ferries’ investment was made.  But, he is not (never claimed to be) an expert on maritime matters, or, boat issues.  He was advised by a team of some of the best experts in that area.  This included the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration.  It was based on their ‘expert’ advice that Edmund Koroma finally sanctioned the purchase of the ferries.  So, why are we not mentioning all of these experts today?

Having proven his financial wizardry at NASSIT, Edmund Koroma is showing his worth as the Financial Secretary in the finance ministry today.  In one of the most turbulent global economic scenario in our post World War II world, under the astute financial management of the likes of Edmund Koroma, finance minister, Dr. Samura Kamara, there has hardly been a fuzz in the financial radar of Sierra Leone.  No banks have crumbled.  There is a steady flow of foreign currency. Imports are steadily coming into the country. Enough confidence has been built in the economy of the country to attract billions of dollars (billions of dollars!!) investments into the country in the area of iron ore, and biotechnology.  We take such things for granted.  But, those who know finance, global finance, will tell you that where there is no confidence in the economy, a poor post-conflict country like Sierra Leone would not be able to attract a fraction of the vast sums that Edmund Koroma-mastered financial effort has attracted into the country.  To crucify such a man who is performing such Herculean feat in such tumultuous global situation would be tantamount to not lack of patriotism, but, even Treason. This is my view.

The finance ministry and other finance managers of our government have ensured that salaries are being paid on time.  People take this for granted.  They have forgotten other years when some public sector workers would have to wait for six months to get one month’s pay. We must give credit to finance guys like Dr. Samura and Edmond Koroma who have guided the finance ship through one of the most confused seas the world has ever had to sail through. 

As a key player at the Ministry of Finance as Finance Secretary, Edmund Koroma has today ensured a proper coordination of all MDAs making them efficient especially in dealing with donor funds. Practically, Edmund Koroma’s financial management savvy is positively influencing infrastructural developments in the country and especially in major district towns. The monitoring of all government and donor funded projects by the hands on management of Edmund Koroma is ensuring that these projects are implemented on time and meet the direct beneficiaries. There has been the setting up of procurement, evaluation and independent review committees in ensuring that procurement procedures are met. Importantly, in a country like ours where in pre-Edmund Koroma era contractors would not be paid for almost a year or over when they would have completed their contracts, Edmund Koroma now insists that contractors to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are paid promptly.  This has enlivened the business environment, and helped to restore confidence in government.

There could have been mistakes in the financial calculations made in the purchase of the NASSIT ferry. Buy, hey, are we in Sierra Leone blind, deaf and dumb?  Aren’t we reading NEWSWEEK, TIME, magazines; aren’t we listening to CNN and BBC?  Don’t we see the best among financial experts in the world losing billions of dollars in each organization, and having to be bailed out by the U.S. German, English governments to the tune of trillions of dollars?  That is the way of finance; it is not one of exactitudes.  But, again, let put all the pluses and minuses of Edmund Koroma’s management in NASSIT on a scale, and he would score A++ for is sound management!!  

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