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COMMENTS & OPINIONS  

Re-Awakening The Justice Semega-Janneh Commission Of Enquiry
By Abdul Fonti
Oct 16, 2009, 13:43
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After the 2007 September Elections, His Excellency the President during his visits to the provinces to thank his voters, informed the people about his determination to institute change.  He did not hold back on his emotions on some issues. He clearly expressed that the past regime must account for deemed misappropriation of project and public funds and postulated the setting up of Commission of Enquiries to screen various projects supervised and manned by personnel of the previous Government.


This was supposedly a political maestro at work. Typical of Sierra Leoneans, wanting to taste blood, the public jubilated. The Justice Semega-Janneh Commission of Enquiry was set up. The Sababu Education Project was chosen as the entry point of the APC Government to make a statement about their Agenda for Change.


The Attorney General and Minister of Justice abandoned his regular duties and became the lead Counsel to unravel these envisaged anomalies and malpractices.


Miatta Conference Centre was filled to the brim.  The saga began.

 

Constance Cummings John Junior Secondary School (Regent Square Municipal Primary School) A SABABU Civil Works Program not a Freetown City Council Intervention

 

Proposed College of Science and Technology (The GHOST School at Hill Station)


It quickly became obvious that those employed by the Sababu Project were highly skilled professionals.  Further, the project, although crafted in a cumbersome framework yet it had an almost water-tight financial profile.  It was revealed that the International Accounting Firm KPMG were the financial and procurement agencies of the Sababu Project, with Mr David Carew, the present Minister of Trade (erstwhile Minister of the almighty Finance Ministry), as the signatory for  KPMG.


You could see the anguish on the face of the Great Serry Kamal, Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the APC Government.  Could he continue in this line of questioning?  He quickly recognised that pursuance in this direction would not be tightening the noose around the neck of the erstwhile Minister of Education but their own David Carew, present Minister of Trade.

 

The beating of the retreat started.  Contractors that were late in completing their tasks bore the brunt of the Attorney Generals anger. A few Million Leones were picked up from here and there.  Another entry point had to be sought to see if the intended target could still be roped in.   The focus was changed to the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and European Union (EU) school rehabilitation projects.


IDB Project Fund was a loan to Government of Sierra Leone based on a project written by the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST). The intention was to rehabilitate / reconstruct approximately one hundred and fifty (150) Primary Schools. However the response of the IDB took four years before implementation commenced.  As a post conflict country with rapidly changing needs, the Project Director, the Management Team and the IDB Project Task Manager saw it fit to make some slight modifications to the project with the intention of increased value addition to the outcome of the project


1) Schools built exactly in the design of the proposed primary schools, could be used as Junior Secondary Schools in Chiefdoms without one or need another as a consequence of the increased numbers progressing from Primary Schools.

2) Primary designated structures could be used for Tertiary provisions that impact on Primary Teacher Training or training of Primary Teachers  in Science.

3) Rehabilitation of some facilities in Secondary Schools, more so those with boarding homes, to ease the envisaged trauma of pupils progressing from Primary Schools.


The above interventions constitute less than 15 schools, representing less than 10% of 150 primary schools and therefore did not require the revisiting of the Project Terms of Reference of the funding Agency. Approval of the Project Director and the Task Manager sufficed for these modifications.


As distinct mark of approval by the Funding Agency a new IDB Technical/Vocational Project was approved even before the 100% completion of the Primary School Project.


The EU Project on the other hand spanned rehabilitation of several academic institutions.  The Commission of Enquiry focused on that built at Hill Station, initially described by the Attorney General as a Ghost School. This has turned out to be a magnificent edifice proudly located at Hill Top for all to see.  Two of the three buildings were sponsored and built by the EU as a Secondary School.  A request was presented by Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST) for all the buildings to be used as a College of Science and Technology.  This was accepted by the funding Agency and sign posted to reflect this change.  Further a concept paper was also forwarded to the EU informing them that the intention was for these facilities to be manned by a Public-Private partnership.


In Modern Management it is deemed that Public entities blended with Private Entrepreneurship is essential for quality output.


Was this conceptualised partnership effected before the critical date of August 11th 2007?


If yes, such an entity must be registered at the office of Administrator and Registrar General.


If no, then the intended Public Private Partnership was definitely not set up before the change of Government.


Further, the erstwhile Minister of Lands clearly expressed that the request for the land on which the school ( or proposed College of Science and Technology ) is situated, was made by the Ministry of Education Science and Technology.


Although conveyances are usually not drawn between Government Ministries, but it was confirmed that the land belongs to Government of Sierra Leone with Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MEST) as the beneficiaries.


It is not magical therefore to conclude that all buildings on this land must belong to the Ministry of Education Science and Technology.


Why these facilities remain un-utilised for the past two years on some Ghost School pretext or imagined misuse of funds, is beyond comprehension.  Dont tell me about locks and keys as these can anytime be changed/replaced. Our children woefully continue to fail the WASSCE, whilst the entity that was supposed to outreach to teachers and students by Distance Education remain closed.


What is clear is that these alternative entry points of the Attorney General and Team in search of misappropriation of funds, like the Sababu project, have also drawn a blank.


Months have gone by since the last sitting and the Commission is about to be regalvanised. However, it is now time for the APC Government to focus on the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry for quality provisions of this sector and gracefully fold up the Justice Semega-Janneh Enquiry into the Education sector.

 

His Excellency should use this opportunity to make tangible political gains by praising the erstwhile Minister of Education and his Team for a job well done in Supervision and Projects Management under conflict and post conflict conditions.


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