The Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs Madam Neneh Turay, yesterday November 2nd 2016, summoned this newspaper to what was supposed to be, in her words to me, over the phone, "a private discussion" but actually turned out to be the most bizarre and crazy press conference that I have experienced in my almost 12 years in media practise.
My Editor Abdul Malik Bangura, whose maternal grandfather used to be the immediate boss of Madam Turay, vehemently refused to accompany me to honour her invitation to her office as he said he does not trust her one bit. Malik said he finds her to be very dishonest and deceitful.
So I went there alone.
On arrival, I was informed it was not a private discussion but a press meeting "to contest Awareness Times article on Social Welfare Starved of Vital Funds". I immediately realized I owed Malik an apology. He was correct. The lady is dishonest.
Then the bizarreness started. I was asked to hand over all my phones and voice recorders because the press briefing will only allow journalists to take down written notes and "not to record the Deputy Minister's voice".
I almost walked away in disgust but however I decided to oblige because I was intrigued to see what unfolds. A few journalists from papers like the former VP Sam-Sumana's propaganda ragsheet FUTURE NEWSPAPER was present as was Hon. I.B. Kargbo's NEW CITIZEN NEWSPAPER. So we all handed over our phones and recorders to the ministry staff.
Then the joke started. What a joke it turned out to be. The deputy minister can barely understand English words. I had to be defining meanings of words like 'critical' and 'vital' for her.
Accompanied by one man called Foday Morris who said he was her "brother" working for State House, the deputy minister and some of the staff, made serious mockery of themselves.
Firstly they all accepted that the ministry had not received a single penny yet for all the vital directorates which had critical needs. They also accepted that there was a strange delay in financing the urgent and critical needs of women, children, disables, old people, Ebola victims, disaster victims.
So I then asked: where then was the "contest" of the very accurate report in Awareness Times newspaper?
The deputy minister and her "brother" Foday Morris reply that the Cabinet Minister had been financed by government to go on overseas trips.
I then educated them that our article was over refusal to finance critical operations despite the Honourable Minister herself had long since signed PETS Forms requesting funds to run her Ministry.
That was the time another officer acting like a clown and calling himself to be Accountant Ibrahim Sesay, made the allegation that the Minister Dr. Blyden only signed PETS Forms on October 26th this year so that is what caused the delay.
This newspaper can confirm that, whilst we have been unable to reach the Minister herself who is currently visiting Istanbul, Turkey, a friendly staff at the ministry, later confirmed to us that all what the Deputy Minister and cohorts were stating over the delay to finance the ministry, was untrue. Our source even released a series of interesting documents to this newspaper that detail the deep and nasty extent to which the ministry has been systematically refused any money for operations since Hon. Blyden took up office on 7th April 2016 on to today's date of November 3rd 2016.
We will be running these received documents in series.
For todays Edition , we are running one below this commentary. It speaks for itself as to the lies from the Deputy Minister and her cohorts that their boss, the Minister, only signed PETS Forms for the first time on 26th October this year. Today's published document is a signed response to a Query from the Minister over the delay in PETS Forms she had signed since August. The letter from Accountant Ibrahim Sesay is dated October 14th and it gives reasons (funny reasons) for the delay in honouring PETS FORMS to finance activities under His Excellency the President's nationwide Priorities in the Social Protection. The Accountant's response also promises Minister Blyden, in his written response that long-requested monthly Imprests will be soon made available and also long requested fuel for operations as well.
All of this as signed by Accountant Ibrahim Sesay on October 14th is in sharp contrast to what was said by him yesterday November 2nd 2016.
These are the characters embedded within that ministry.
It can be recalled that the Head of the Civil Service had threatened Hon. Minister Blyden that any minister who did not allow civil servants to get their way, will be made to fail. The threat was after the minister dutifully reported crooks at her ministry to the President, the Vice President, the Police and the Anti Corruption Commissioner. To date, no action has been taken. Instead the corrupt clique is still embedded in the Ministry frustrating the interest of children, women and other vulnerable citizens.
Awareness Times is continuing to keep a very close eye on developments in that very vital ministry that is now wickedly being starved of funds. Not a single penny has been disbursed. Even amounts as small as two million leones for monthly imprests for Directorates, have not been disbursed by the Government for such a critical ministry.