From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Politics
John Benjamin Commends IPRP, ACC and Judiciary in Sierra Leone
By Awareness Times
Mar 12, 2010, 17:32

John Benjamin, Leader of the country’s main opposition SLPP party has commended the efforts of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), the Independent Procurement Review Panel (IPRP) the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Sierra Leone Judiciary for what he described as “the successful prosecution and conviction” of the country’s former Minister of Health & Sanitation, Mr. Sheku Tejan Koroma on three-count charges of Abuse of Office, Abuse of Position and wilfully failing to comply with laws and procedures and guidelines relating to procurement, tendering of contracts and management of funds, contrary to sections 42(1),43 and 48 of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. Koroma was yesterday March 11th 2010 sentenced by Justice Mary Sey to a term of 5 years imprisonment or in the alternative to a fine of Fifty Million Leones for each of the three counts to be paid immediately.


According to Benjamin, the NPPA, IPRP and ACC were institutions set up under the erstwhile SLPP-led Government to ensure probity, accountability and transparency in Governance so he expressed happiness that the SLPP’s creations were now acting as checks and balances which ensured punitive measures were taken against corrupt ruling party officials. He also cited the strengthening of the independence of the Judiciary under the erstwhile Kabbah led SLPP Government as an essential pillar of a democratic state.


“It is clear that Justice Mary Sey was allowed to exercise her independence and come to a conviction of a key ruling party politician and senior Cabinet Minister. This is good for the image of the Judiciary which the SLPP had rebuilt from the compromised Judiciary of yester-years,” Benjamin observed adding that the SLPP stands ready to support all democratic institutions.


“Sierra Leone suffered decades of corrupt governance during the 24 years of corrupt APC rule and so when the SLPP took up office, one of the visions of former President Kabbah was to institute measures to combat corruption. This is why we set up the NPPA, IPRP and the ACC and as Opposition Party Leader, I can assure these institutions that they can continue to rely on very strong support from our party, the SLPP as they execute their duties under the law,” the Opposition strongman said.


John Benjamin however warned of “some worrying signals lately that the Judiciary and other independent institutions left in a strong state of independence when SLPP handed over power to APC, might be having their current independence compromised”.

 

He particularly called for the ACC to work without any political considerations from any quarters.


“ACC's unfettered prosecution of the Minister is a step in the right direction. The trend should continue. We hope the current trend will not be interfered with because of any sacred cow as the independence of the ACC should not be compromised under any circumstance,” John Benjamin insisted.


When asked if he was making reference to the ongoing investigation of the Fisheries Minister in which some have accused President Koroma of interfering with the ACC’s investigations, Mr. John Benjamin was adamant in his denial.


“No. I am not referencing the ongoing Mrs. Afsatu Kabba issue as it is not clear what she is being investigated for right now. I will not comment on that issue until I get better clarity on what is going on with it. What I am referring to is what I am very clear on and that is the NASSIT ferries issue, the Indian Rice Multi Million Dollars Scandal, the Illegal Tax Waivers for Harmony, the Prado Jeeps bought, the nepotic Catering contracts, etc. etc. are all issues that are yet to receive the same attention as this one concerning Sheku Tejan Koroma,” Benjamin opined.


Meanwhile, it will be recalled that the IPRP initially conducted a professional investigation into allegations that the former Minister abused his office by awarding a contract for the supply of hospital reagents to a less responsive bidder in breach of the country’s procurement act. After perusing the investigative documents forwarded them by the IPRP, the ACC proceeded to charged the minister to court and he was arraigned before the High Court presided over by Justice Mary Sey on three count charges on November 4 2009.


Five witnesses from the prosecution and three from defence testified in High Court whilst Koroma had pleaded not guilty to all counts but was convicted yesterday when the learned Justice Sey said she found him not to be a credible witness.



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