Here is an article I culled from FB written by John Moses Kamara about financial mismanagement in the mold of late Pa Sheki by the outgoing APC-led GoSL. Please read and cry for the mother country:
HIGH ECONOMIC CRIMES AND FINANCIAL MISDEAMEANORS OF THE KOROMA ADMINISTRATION
The Sierra Leone Government’s fiscal plight was laid bare this week by its newly elected president in a hastily arranged meeting with representatives of one of the country’s largest creditors - the International Monetary Fund - in which he revealed the scale of the nation’s crippling debt burden and perilous financial position.
Brigadier Julius Maada Bio addressing representatives from the diplomatic corps and the IMF team at State House confirmed that Sierra Leone’s external debt now stands at 2 billion dollars, with domestic debt of 4.9 trillion leones compounded by the government’s recurrent structural deficit due largely to its overreliance on short-term financing by overdraft facility at the Bank of Sierra Leone that amounted to a whopping 160 billion leones.
This is the sort of numbers that can lead to insolvency and financial meltdown for most economic entities. But not Sierra Leone, where voodoo economics have flourished for the best part of 10 years of the previous administration of President Ernest Bai Koroma. Small wonder the country’s major foreign donors including the IMF had lost faith in his government by suspending the implementation of the Extended Credit Facility Programme which was aimed at restoring the economic health and fiscal stability.
Since the late 1970’s, Sierra Leone has never enjoyed any semblance of a healthy and thriving economy. The decision to host the Summit of the then Organisation of African Unity in 1980 by the late President Siaka Stevens resulted in large scale fiscal misallocation and misappropriation of the country’s financial resources including the depletion of the central bank reserve and a rapid deterioration of the country’s balance of payment position leading to successive and massive devaluations of the now floating leone.
Poor political and economic stewardship under President Stevens’ successor, Joseph Saidu Momoh, and a debilitating 10 year civil war which lasted for most part of the 1990’s represented a nadir in the nation’s economic fortunes including a prolong government short down and the ceasing of most major economic activities, including mining and agriculture, the mainstay of Sierra Leone’s fragile and narrow economic base. However, for self-inflicted economic woes, nothing arguably matched the blatant financial vandalism witnessed in the last 10 years under the stewardship of President Koroma.
At the top of the hierarchy of economic and financial crimes committed by President Koroma are deliberate policies and actions taken by his government akin to economic treason, including being party to some of the worst mining agreements ever entered into by a sovereign government by allowing foreign commercial entities to operate in a way that has undermined revenue transparency and accountability for a prolong period to the detriment of the impoverished people of Sierra Leone. Maliciously drafted contracts were reported to benefit individuals in the highest echelon of government resulting in low mining royalty and tax intake from an industry whose strategic economic importance to the country is next to none.
At the centre of this leakage, as President Bio rightly calls it, is the generous tax breaks accorded to certain mining and agricultural business concerns that have cost Sierra Leone hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. These incentives were promoted by the previous government as inducements to foreign investors but were granted by individual ministers with the full knowledge and, some say, with the active participation of President Koroma himself without any review such as a debate in parliament or scrutiny by an independent body to ascertain their benefits to the country.
At the heart of the allegations of economic treason are the increased economic and commercial activities of China in Sierra Leone’s economy. The Asian economic superpower has been growing its influence steadily throughout Africa for the previous 30 years in part to enhance further its growing diplomatic and military clout but in recent times it has accelerated its focused on its economic involvement in Africa particularly on mineral rich countries such as Sierra Leone to meet its insatiable demand for raw materials and new markets.
Whilst Sierra Leone stands to benefit from the Chinese increased involvement in infrastructure projects and the extractive industry, its indifference to political accountability and financial governance has fuelled corruption in its various undertakings with officials of the Sierra Leone Government including cabinet ministers at the detriment of the country’s long term national economic interests. The presidential candidate for the defeated All Peoples’ Congress, Dr. Samura Kamara, was believed to be a strong advocate for Chinese investment and was evident from his campaign of the Chinese influence and the mutual admiration and support; “we are Chinese”, chanted large crowds in unison at the party’s rallies.
President Koroma’s economic policies, which emphasized infrastructural development, provided opportunities for mass scale bribery and corruption involving senior members of his administration. Its therefore no surprise that some of the roads constructed, for example, are amongst the most expensive in the world measured in per unit price. Perhaps the proposed building of a new international airport at Mamamah at an estimated cost of over 300 million dollars - a legacy project for President Koroma - represents the extent of the reckless economic choices pursued by President Koroma and his administration that has left the country virtually bankrupt.
It is one thing for a government to misallocate and another to misappropriate its scare resources and revenue. It was revealed that in the midst of the previous government’s struggles to pay its employees, active efforts were underway only 3 days to the presidential election run-off, led by the Minister of Transport and Aviation Logus Koroma, widely regarded as one of the most dishonest in the previous government, to authorise the approval of a proposal to supply brand new vehicles each for Paramount Chiefs worth around 25 billion leones in what can only be interpreted as a bribe to traditional rulers to support the APC’s sinking efforts to hold on to power.
It was evident to many Sierra Leone that some senior members of the previous government have few or no scruples in converting state resources for party or personal use, be they official vehicles or cash withdrawn from government financial institutions for political campaigns.There are other lesser but nonetheless serious financial misdemeanors committed under President Koroma’s term that constituted at least conflict of interests or breach of ethical standards that could have led to grounds for his removal from office or resignation as president. A case in point is the pervasive practice of many government parastatals of obtaining insurance policies from a company – RITCORP – in which it is widely believed he still holds a controlling stake in and, therefore’ personally benefiting financially from the actions of government agencies in which he ultimately presided over.
A reasonable conclusion can be made therefore that the defeat of the APC in the presidential elections was primarily due to its unenviable record of financial management and poor accountability and transparency. Many members of President Koroma’s administration made little efforts to demonstrate that they were beyond reproach in their stewardship of the nation’s revenue and wealth. This is not only a question of lack of pride but a cultural deficiency pervading the party or even the country as a whole in disregarding the taint of financial delinquency.
All this was possible due to the ultimate political control exercised by the previous president including riding roughshod over parliament. As for the Anti-Corruption Commission, it proved to be ineffectual and had limited success in prosecuting handful of notable officials suspected of financial impropriety and therefore ceased to inspire confidence for most part of the previous 10 years. As an institution, the government or administration of President Koroma was consistently issued with adverse audit opinion by the Auditor General with the government’s revenue division – National Revenue Authority – featuring prominently in most of its negative findings as well as the transparency of its External Public Debt disclosures. It’s therefore no coincidence that the issue of public debt has reemerged as an important topic in these early days of President Bio’s administration.
It is therefore understandable, albeit inappropriate, when supporters of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party speak of arresting or confiscating properties owned by senior members of the previous administration which goes to show how the public’s anger is palpable of the misdeeds of President Koroma’s administration and its apparent disregard for upholding the responsibilities of providing good stewardship and custody of the nation’s financial affairs. There will be ample time until the end of his first term for the administration of President Bio to initiate a commission of inquiry into the financial conduct of the entire previous administration or launch criminal investigations into individuals for specific actions that they believe have been committed illegally and are able to unearth sufficient evidence to prosecute them, and if found guilty, punish them accordingly.
But for now President Bio has to get on with the business of taking stock of the nation’s economic wellbeing and setting his economic and financial priorities right for the near and medium term. It is not going to be easy and there will be no quick fixes as the economic and financial problems are not only man-made but structural in nature. Perhaps there is enough goodwill for the international community to write off the bulk of the country’s external debt as a gesture as it was in 2002, after what has been a bonfire of fiscal imprudence and financial impropriety by President Koroma and his maligned administration.