Citizens await Govt’s Whitepaper on Commissions of Inquiry
By Mohamed M. Sesay (Lucky)
It is out of curiosity from citizens in ascertaining which kind of punitive measures Government intends to take against former State Actors, who according to findings in the three (3) Commissions of Inquiry (COI) reports, plundered, shattered and battered the country’s epileptic economy. The Courier has been hinted by citizens whose monies were scrubbed in a broad day light by corrupt politicians in a rubbing-with-aggravation-alike-manner that they are impatiently demanding for the publication of Government’s whitepaper as premised on findings and recommendations in Justice Biobele Georgewill’s Commission of Inquiry report. The clarion call by citizens demanding publication of the White paper has a fragmented public opinion wherein some argued that the deadline as stipulated by law for the publication of the Whitepaper has elapsed, while the other set of people hastily concluded that it is out of cowardice behaviour on the part of government to publish the long awaited Whitepaper thinking that upon publication of that Whitepaper, the country will be in an uncontrollable pandemonium likely fermented by aggrieved former state actors. Well, the Courier will definitely agree with the former who said the deadline for the publication of the Whitepaper has far elapsed, premising my argument on section (149) subsection (2) of the 1991 constitution which reads ‘’ The president shall, subject to provisions of subsection (4), cause to be published the report of a Commission of Inquiry together with the Whitepaper thereon within six months of the date of the submission of the report by the Commission’’.
Also, it could be justified as alluded by the other set of folks who said it is out of cowardice act on the part of government which has precipitated this marathon delay in publishing that all hailed Whitepaper. On the 25th of March 2020, three (3) Commissions of Inquiry headed by the luminary Justice Biobele Georgewill, officially handed over three voluminous reports to H.E President Julius Maada Bio which entice evidence of egregious racketeering enterprise exhibited under President Koroma’s led administration. The Courier is not a legal luminary but by perusing the aforesaid sections in the 1991 constitution, well I will not say the government is in contravention of the above-mentioned sections since we are under public health emergency, but one could comfortably make an assertive statement that the official date for the publication of this most cherished Whitepaper has long overdue as per law. If we are to go by the prescribed dictates of the constitution, the six months period started on the 25th March when the reports were handed over to President Bio, to the 25th of August 2020. Therefore, due to public optimism in visualizing this Whitepaper, the people have become very impatient and desperate to read the contents in the Whitepaper.
Over the past decades, massive state graft, abusive of public offices by public officers and misused of state resources including state properties, were like a legal modus operandi for those politicians who the people entrusted with those resources and properties to man. Therefore, the emergence of President Bio as Commander-In-Chief and President, vocalizing war on corruption be it macrocosmic or microcosmic, came with a euphoric gratification to many if not all Sierra Leones. Following his pronouncement in proclaiming war against corruption, President Bio on the 6thof April 2020 which was just two days after being sworn-in as president, appointed a twelve (12) member Government Transition Team (GTT), which was chaired by the Chief Minister Professor David Francis mandating them to conduct an immediate stocktaking of state affairs of government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and report those findings to the president and Vice president.
After intense probing into activities of former President Koroma’s Government, the GTT report was compiled and faithfully submitted to the president on the 25th of June 2018. In that GTT report, it was alleged that an astronomical level of fiscal indiscipline and widespread corruption were visible under former President Koroma’s led Government. Inasmuch as the GTT report became highly contestable to the main opposition APC party questioning the methodology and discriminate measures used to compile the report, the GTT report recommended to President Bio to institute an instantaneous Judge-led Commission of Inquiry with a limited timeframe and mandate to recover all stolen and inappropriate conversion of state funds. The GTT report further requested President Bio’s Government to look into the ownership status of assets by former public officials including buildings, quarters, lands and the hundreds of Government vehicles unaccounted for.
In accordance with recommendations provided in the GTT report, Government instituted Commissions of Inquiry No.1, 2 and 3 all being constitutional instruments of Act No. 64 of 2018, which were administered by Justice Biobele Georgewill from Nigeria, Justice Bankole Thomson a Sierra Leonean and Justice William Annan Atuguba from Ghana. While handing the COI reports to president Bio, Justice Biobele Georgewill entreated president Bio to address and check the grave mischiefs of corruption on economic and financial stability of the country and also help to recoup all the stolen, misappropriated and or unaccounted funds for the people of Sierra Leone. Those monies were definitely our monies and therefore, government MUST ensure that every avenue is exhausted gearing towards recouping our monies. That luminous morning hours on the 25th of March was indeed a glamourous day wherein people were glued to their radio and television sets, cautiously and consciously listening to president Bio’s glad tidings message, reassuring the three judges and the people of Sierra Leone of his indefatigable commitment to ending state graft, and also indicating that the 2018 Commissions of Inquiry would be the last Commission of Inquiry due to its pending unprecedented consequential consequences which I hope will soon befall on those corrupt officers who absconded our monies. ‘’As I have maintained before, this must be the last Commission of Inquiry in our history. As a nation, we should have learned and applied the singular lesson from these Commissions that persons who hold the public trust must serve honestly, justly, fairly and diligently; and that as a country, we must put an end to a culture of rampant thieving, abuse, waste and impunity. So, these Commissions should serve as a warning and a deterrent to serving officials’’. These were the direct words of President Bio while receiving the reports on the day of closing the 2018 Commissions of Inquiry.
Conclusively, an unquantifiable anticipation from the people over the publication of this Whitepaper has overwhelmed the Courier which brought about the notion of putting this piece together. The people are desperate to know how their monies will be recouped from corrupt officials. They are equally concerned as to what will be the punitive actions against those officials who according to reports, plundered and battered the country’s grappling economy. The Courier is therefore requesting Government to expedite the publication of the Whitepaper so that the people can be informed accordingly. As mandated by law, under section (149) subsection (4) of the 1991 constitution, the six months’ period for the publication of the Whitepaper has elapsed, therefore the people are keen to know the content in that Whitepaper. As the Krio adage says, ‘’kill dog before dog eye mek dog know say die dae’’ which means, the content and the heroic implementation of this whitepaper will definitely help to sanitize and sanctify our body politics from graft, because this will surely send a strong worded warning to serving public officials that enough to corrupt, enough to misused of power, and enough to misappropriation of public funds and properties. The Courier will end here in todays’ edition while joining my people to impatiently wait the timely publication of that highly expected Whitepaper which is premised on the findings and recommendations of the just concluded Commissions of Inquiry.