Sierra Leone president okays audit of past government

Tuesday July 10 2018

Newly elected Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio.

Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By KEMO CHAM
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Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has ordered the implementation of recommendations of a presidential committee, paving the way for a commission of inquiry into the activities of former government officials.

President Bio, in a statement, said the decision, which could see his predecessor investigated for corruption offences, was taken following the cabinet approval of the Government Transition Team (GTT) report at an emergency meeting last week.

The GTT report is the result of a three-month investigation by a committee set up immediately after Mr Bio assumed office following his landmark poll win in March. It alleges massive corruption and maladministration which led to the near-collapse of the economy.

Decision making

GTT was headed by Prof David Francis, who was later appointed as Chief Minister in the current cabinet.

“The Cabinet, as the highest decision making body of the Government, has endorsed the Report of the Governance Transition Team, 2018; approved the recommendations of the report and authorised the Chief Minister, in consultation with the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to lead the implementation of the recommendations of the report in a timely manner,” the statement says.

Prof Francis is charged with leading the implementation of the recommendations.

Sierra Leone's former President Ernest Bai

Sierra Leone's former President Ernest Bai Koroma. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Dr Priscilla Schwartz, has been ordered to establish the commission to be led by a judge in line with constitution, and mandated to conduct the inquiry within a stipulated time.

The presidency says the commission will consist of a chairman who will be a judge of international repute and another renowned judge of national repute. It adds that the names of the judges will be announced shortly.

President Bio, according to the statement, also ordered an immediately institution of a Special Audit of all government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), including the two state-owned commercial banks.

The 100 per cent government-owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and 52 per cent government-owned Rokel Commercial Bank were the subject of a huge portfolio of unpaid loans, allocated to political cronies of President Bai Koroma and which were later written off.

Stolen assets

The heads of both banks have been ordered to notify all such Politically Exposed Persons and Financially Exposed Persons, as stated in a World Bank Funded Audit of the two institutions, to repay their loans within 30 working days or face litigation.

Many of those named in the GTT report, including Mr Koroma, were already out of the country.

The government says it will seek the recovery of all stolen assets through the Stolen Assets Recovery Initiative (StAR), which supports international efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds.

StAR works with developing countries and financial centres to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and to facilitate more systematic and timely return of stolen assets.