From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, SDI, NPPA lecture on Access to Information
By Dauda Koroma
Jun 4, 2010, 17:12

In a bid to ensure awareness on the relevance of public access to information, the Society for Democratic Initiative (SDI) in collaboration with National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) on Thursday 3rd 2010 initiated a 2-day training workshop for civil society activists and media practitioners at the Council of Churches Hall, Kinghaman Road in Freetown.

At the launching ceremony the NPPA Chairperson Mrs. Alice M. Onomake mentioned that over the years human rights issues and freedom to information have been ranked high among other priorities.

In spite of uncountable bottlenecks she stressed that significant developments have been realized in the new procurement system in Sierra Leone over the years since the enactment of the public procurement legislation in December 2004."The National Public Procurement Authority has ensured that procurement responsibilities are carried out by appropriate structures such as procurement committees and procurement units within the procuring entities," she said, adding that those structures are required to ensure strict compliance with the technical guideline and regulatory instructions issued by the NPPA. She maintained that the national public procurement authority has an open door policy for institution engaged in the dissemination of information to the public on issues relating to public education on procurement matters.

She disclosed that the 2 days training exercise will address the issue of freedom of information and how such information should be appropriately utilized for national development."Media houses should learn in order to be well positioned to disseminate correct information to the public," she entreated, insisting that government institutions especially should always freely give access to information to the media for public digestion.

Head of procurement unit Dr. A.H Kandeh in his statement said SDI in working with NPPA to see that access to information is well established as according to him government sometimes hide information from public knowledge. He therefore endeared that government and other institutions should be open to the media for access to information."Freedom of information is very important in society but it is sad to note that certain institutions do not allow access to information."This brings about misinformation, so there must be access to information if only to ensure that everything goes well."

Executive director of SDI Emmanuel Saffa Abdulia disclosed that they have launched the contract monitoring programme watch on the 3rd June 2010 at the Christian Health Association Headquarters at Kinghaman Road. "The purpose of the monitoring programme is to provide an independent account to government as he put it 'service providers' businesses are conducted in secret and thus prone to excesses and abuse.'

He added that Contract Watch will also monitor some key bilateral as well as multilateral donor funding which involves the award of contracts for construction, delivery of service and other contracts awarded for the benefit of Sierra Leone. He displayed the Contract Watch bulletin which he said covers various procurement processes currently under investigation by the Anti Corruption Commission, including those of NASSIT, NaCSA, the Maritime Administration, Immigration Department and many others. Corruption is embedded in procurement and awards of contracts," ha said, adding that there is no way government can reduce corruption without procurement monitoring for which Contract Watch and the civil society have roles to play.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.