The Chairman and Leader of the Sierra Leone Peoples’ Party (SLPP), Mr. John Oponjo Benjamin has told newsmen that corruption within the ruling All Peoples’ Congress Party (APC) has become unprecedented to the extent that it was now far worse than during the corruption-ridden days of late APC Presidents Siaka Stevens and Joseph Momoh.
Addressing journalists at the usual party monthly briefing on unfolding issues yesterday at their Freetown National Headquarters, Mr. Benjamin said within just three years many APC members have been convicted of corruption in several court matters, citing the erstwhile Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources Haja Afsatu Kabba’s case as a striking example of how corruption is thriving under the APC.
“Afsatu was not doing it for herself but for the APC. As the Law Courts have uncovered from witnesses, Afsatu Kabba used public funds to support State House for APC’s Convention,” he said, while reiterating that in that case it is not Afsatu Kabba the person who is corrupt per se but the entire APC party itself which was a corrupt bunch in a corrupt entity. He opined that APC sacrificed Afsatu Kabba for their party’s personal benefit hoping to fool the international donors and the world that the APC was serious about fighting corruption but that the judgment of Justice Ademosu has shown that it was the entire APC party that was convicted this week as full of corruption and not Haja Afsatu Kabba alone. He said the APC party committed the crime of stealing from the people’s money to host their Convention but only Haja Afsatu Kabba was being punished for what she did not do for personal profit but to benefit State House.
The Chairman also told journalists that the APC was also corrupt in areas of awarding contracts, administration, political appointments and goods distribution. Citing another example, he said immediately the APC assumed power a contract was awarded for the supply of 25 vehicles for use by ministers at the market price for each vehicles of US$35,000 but corruptly inflated to US$47,000 (duty and tax free), adding that by the time of signing the contract, the number of vehicles was increased to 35 and later to 50. “Since there were no budgetary positions for that procurement, EU and DFID disbursements were used to pay for the vehicles at the expense of poverty-related expenses,” he informed.
He also noted that it was criminal and sheer corruption to award the contract for the construction of the Kenema-Pendembu Road to a company with Thomas Koroma, the President’s brother as the local agent when neither Thomas Koroma nor the company could meet the requirements as a result of which the Kailahun Road for which the SLPP secured funds has been stalled for the last three years in order to please the President’s brother.
“The site was supposed to have been handed over to the contractor by October, 2009 on the condition that the company provided a bid security of US$14million but not until one year later,” he went on, adding that the delay in handing over arose from the Government insistence to award the contract to the President’s brother’s dodgy company that found it difficult to provide the required US$14 million bid security.
Mr. Benjamin also cited the case of the President’s other brother, Sylvanus Koroma who benefitted from a million dollars tax waiver as cash refunded back to him after his partners pulled out. He said the same brother and Zainab Bangura the Foreign Minister colluded to fool Indian Government to send rice for Sierra Leone at lower prices only for the President’s brother alone to benefit from the commercial sales in his pockets.
Mr. Benjamin maintained the party’s stance on misuse of a whopping sum of 2.3 million Euros of public funds by the President’s cousin, Mr. Edmund Koroma, the current Financial Secretary of the Republic which were funds lodged with National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) to purchase a dysfunctional 30-year-old ferry at the time Koroma was NASSIT Director General but which has not served the public even for one single day.
“A nineteen-man team comprising the Minister of Labour and Social Security and the then NASSIT Director-General traveled overseas to purchase the Ferry,” he further disclosed, saying even the procurement was done without respect for procurement rules. John Benjamin also made the startling allegation that over 3 billion Leones additional to the 2.3 Million Euros has so far been spent in the last nine months alone to repair the ferry but the doomed mal-procured ferry was still not operational.
All of these various corruption acts he said have been perpetuated with impunity but that despite public calls for these matters to be investigated by the ACC, nothing has been done by the ACC.
Also speaking yesterday was SLPP Secretary-General J.J. Saffa and former NRA Boss, Dr. John Karimu as well as the indefatigable SLPP Spokesman, Lawyer Sulaiman Banja Tejansie Esq. We will publish their various views on three years of APC in Governance as the days go by and in the spirit of fairness, we will also publish any reaction that the APC might wish to make.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.