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NEWS : Politics  

New SLPP Leadership Blasts APC Yuki-Yuki and Supports Freedom of Information Law
Feb 11, 2009, 17:26
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The North American Chairman of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP), Augustine "Boss" Fallay, takes a critical look at the lapses of the government of His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma. In a recent interview with Anthony Samai in the US, he made the following comments. (Please note that AS stands for the interviewer and AF for the interviewee). Anthony Samai (AS): 15 months into the tenure of the APC, do you believe that President Koroma is keeping his promise of transparency in government?

Augustine Boss Fallay

Augustine "Boss" Fallay (AF): No. The international community and Sierra Leoneans are disappointed that President Koromas promise of good governance has been mired in a series of unexplained financial and other scandals, some of which, like the Income Electrix contract, the Anti-Corruption Commissioner has investigated fully and reported on publicly. The governments failure to follow up on those issues in a timely, fair, and open manner is worrying. The SLPP is particularly worried that three and a half years more of these scandals will not strengthen donor or investor confidence in our country.AS: What do you believe President Koroma has done about openness in government operations and policy implementation?

AF: The SLPP welcomes the presidents initiative in declaring his assets and encouraging his top officials to declare their assets. The SLPP was hopeful that the president did so with the public interest in mind. I think the president should respect that public interest now by allowing public scrutiny of those declarations by himself and his top officials so that the public can scrutinize the accuracy and veracity of those declarations. Asking his appointee (the anti-corruption commissioner) to keep his declaration and the declarations of his top officials a secret and under lock and key goes against the public interest. Sierra Leoneans must see the records so that they can determine, for instance, that there is a conflict of interest issue if a government official has a declared interest in, say in a timber/lumber company operating in this country or a new rice-importi../../css/span__span style_.css"FONT-SIZE:9pt; FONT-FAMILY:Verdana">

So my appeal to the President and my challenge to the Anti-corruption Commissioner is, please serve the public interest by allowing the public to freely scrutinize politicians assets and interests. You must make them available to the public.AS: Do you believe that the governments UN sponsored open government initiative is a step in the right direction?

AF: I believe the UNDP had a completely different idea of "open government initiative" when it established the program. I do not think the UNDP was hoping to pay for a series of campaign style stumps in Makeni and Port Loko by the APC government, like the kind organized by the APC official in charge of the programme, with the president telling Sierra Leoneans in the APCs so-called heartland how much he still believes in Kemoh Sesay, his confidant and suspect in this massive cocaine bust that is giving this nation the wrong publicity.

Our, I mean the New SLPPs idea of an open government initiative is as follows:

1. A full commitment by all public bodies under the supervision of the ombudsman to publish all important documents pertaining to the making of major policy decisions that affect the public interest these include who and how public services and state enterprises are run, for how much, who is in charge of what, standards and other reasonable expectations;

2. To open to public scrutiny all state purchasing contracts and disbursements. In this way, the public is able to fully scrutinize instances of conflicts of interest or other inappropriate actions and you (journalists in the fourth estate) and independent civil society organizations can freely monitor whether the public interest is being served ;

3. Provide full regulatory reports on all activities of government - The NEW SLPP believes that the performance of government agencies and departments must be fully monitored and to keep Sierra Leoneans fully informed on all outcomes. In this way, the government remains fully accountable and the people are fully aware of all the key issues. President Koroma and his APC party do not seem to believe in this.

The New SLPP believes that the public interest and the publics right to know are interrelated and crucial for accountable and transparent governance. The current APC government is unwilling and reluctant to practice openness and transparency and it has stalled in considering a Freedom of Information Bill which will make it legally binding on the government to provide public interest information to Sierra Leoneans.AS: How would you assess the impact of the governments transparency initiative then?

AF: In 1994, I read an article entitled "Addicted to Lies, Distortion, and Secrecy" in the Observer in the UK. It started off with the memorable, "If secrecy is a British disease, is it curable?" I ask, "If secrecy is an APC disease, is it curable? Can the APC ever let go of its "addiction to lies, secrecy, and distortion?" The anti-corruption commissioners Income Electrix report illustrates that the APC is still addicted to "lies, secrecy, and distortion." Its absurdist theatre skits of commissions and enquires are so retro and counterproductive. The APC should be focusing on eradicating poverty and providing medical care for Sierra Leoneans as well as employment for the youth. Leh den try for we. Do ya.AS: How will the New SLPP government achieve openness and transparency in government?

AF: The IMF report on Sierra Leone chastises the APC government for overspending and budgetary indiscipline. The APC leaders are living a life of luxury while poor Sierra Leoneans suffer. The New SLPP commits itself to the following:

1. Making budget information from each ministry available to the public. Citizens will then know how much is assigned for what and monitor how it will be spent. No "kukujumuku" spending or buying 35 new black jeeps when people cant afford "wan buttercup rehs";

2. All government contracts and vendor information will be made available to the public. This eliminates the current alleged APC practice of giving out government contracts to ONLY APC party loyalists and cronies.

3. All items of government expenditure including payments will be made available for every project. In that way, sweetening payments and underhand payments and overheads will be cut out.

4. The NEW SLPP also believes that a regulatory position or body should be created for monitoring and reporting on government expenditure and budgeting as well as seeing that all government projects are completed in a timely manner and to the highest standards.

AS: What is your verdict on the All Peoples Congress governments record on transparency and openness?

AF: Sierra Leoneans are disillusioned at the blatant secrecy, distortions, and lies by this APC government. "Attitudinal change" is a joke just like "constructive nationalism" and "zero tolerance". The international community (which has an interest in seeing donor funds benefiting Sierra Leoneans) must show greater and urgent interest in ensuring that good governance and accountability strengthen the democracy that the SLPP reintroduced in this country after 24 APC years of repressive one-party dictatorship and corruption which led to TEN MORE miserable and traumatic years of civil war.

The NEW SLPP believes that a government must act to inform its citizens, that every single Leone is accounted for, every contract is fairly and openly granted, and every project is completed to the highest standards. The public should see that Le1million allocated for a project is spent on completing a project in good time and everyone who receives a payment for that project is identifiable. That spirit of accountability will serve as disincentive for potential thieves.AS: Finally, what do you think of the office and the performance of the ACC SO FAR?

AF: The ACC is a real gem in fighting corruption but to be frank with you Tony, I dont believe the ACC has lived up to expectations under both the old SLPP and the current APC. I believe in Tejan-Cole because he belongs to a generation that wants to right all the wrongs in the country so we and future generations can live and age gracefully. But when you look at the Amended ACC powers, you would quickly realize that APC gave him the tools to do his job with one hand and literally took it back with the other; they literally blunted all teeth in that Amendment by qualifying his powers to bring people to trial by tying such authority to the discretions of the AG under Public Policy measures with a clause that no prosecution will be brought forth against anybody for any offense that the AG deems not in the public interest. AS: What do you think about the chaos in Kenema?

AF: I would not really want to get too much into that but it depends on how you look at it; it is either democracy at work in the sense that our people are no longer ready to allow a few to impose their will on the majority, or a shameful display of the politics of the past and apparently people stood up and said enough to the politics of the past. As now President Barack Obama put it, a majority, especially the youths and the new crop of leaders of the Party, understands that the "greatest risk we can take as a Party is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result." We will be fooling ourselves if we believe that the change we need is going to come from old people with the same old ideas that have kept this country in the doldrums. The NEW SLPP believes that change is going to have to go to them because we are going to demand it. We, the new leaders of the new SLPP will insist on new leadership, new ideas, new politics for a new time because the best way to take Sierra Leone forward is by electing new, imaginative leadership with new energy, new ideas, and belonging to a new generation.

The Siaka Stevens and Siaka Stevens trained generation of President Ernest Bai Koroma has shown that it has not still shed the old APC legacy of bad governance, thuggery, cronyism, and incompetence. Sierra Leone deserves better. The NEW SLPP is the only viable alternative with a strong democratic tradition and with a solid cadre of hardworking, committed, and patriotic technocrats who will take the country forward and not backward.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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