TO: The Minister of Information and Communications
Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa
February 23, 2015
Ref: PRESS CONFERENCE ABOUT EBOLA FUNDS -2/21/2015
Dear Hon. Minister,
This letter is in reference to your February 21, 2015 Press Conference at the Youyi Building in Freetown, Sierra Leone about the Auditor General’s report on the alleged mismanagement of Ebola Funds. Your surprising and unexpected comments on the audit of the Ebola Funds in which you stated that it “was baseless, fallacious and a distraction to government’s effort in defeating Ebola” was rather unfortunate, misleading, and politically disingenuous. It comes at a time when our nation needs a strategic and visionary thinking in planning for a post Ebola recovery phase especially when the infection rate, though fluctuating, is significantly reducing.
Indeed, such insidious remarks, Mr. Minister, do not only jeopardize the considerable progress that our nation has made against the fight of the EVD, it is a serious violation of the tenets of our transparent democracy – a fundamental practice that promotes the principles of good governance, a credible financial management system and better public accounting standards. This further goes, Mr. Minister, to discredit your moral and political standing to millions of patriotic thinking Sierra Leoneans including our international donor partners, who are impressively supporting our efforts to defeat and contain the Ebola Virus Disease.
Mr. Minister, your damning assessments and opinions of the Auditor General’s report is, indeed, the most “unpatriotic” and “reckless” comments ever expressed by a single public officer in a generation. This is a travesty to all those who believe in accountability and transparency as the main governance remedies to many of our national challenges – infact, the cornerstone to a sustainable democratic future for Sierra Leone. And that February 21, 2015 Press conference, Mr. Minister, was a sad day for a grief stricken nation that has been ravaged by a silent and deadly disease that has cost so many innocent lives and disrupted our national economy.
Hon. Alpha Kanu, your summative analysis in addressing such nation issues typically exposes the arrogance of power by your government, its lack of strategic foresight in handling public debates and your outdated self-centered doctrines of “offensive propaganda” in the national media. No patriotic Sierra Leonean will dismiss a constructive audit document that calls for the strict adherence of transparency and accountability on the management of Ebola Funds after several indications from previous Audited Reports by the same office on the management of our country’s resources. No Sierra Leonean with a good moral conscience will obstruct the primary objective of bringing fiscal sanity and ethical competency into our public financial management system.
It is therefore unpatriotic and morally irreprehensible to trivialize a credible document that seeks to build a new order of public duty to those whom we have lost and to those whom we are obligated to serve. To describe the Audit report as “baseless” and “fallacious” is to say that the eleven (11) seasoned and experienced doctors, including nurses and nearly 3,000 of our citizens who perished to this deadly disease were some kind of worthless human beings. This analogy also goes to the Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu; whose premature and incendiary statements on the local radio (98.1 Radio Democracy) was another serious betrayal of public trust.
Mr. Minister, at a time when technology is dominating the world, where instant information floods the social media, your ominous and “miscalculated remarks” clearly show the gross insensitivity and social neglect of your government to the unbearable plight of our people. It is also telling of how the APC government lacks the moral legitimacy and collective vision to govern our nation. The information released from your Press Briefing maliciously undermines the reputation of one of our finest patriotic and professional citizens – Mrs. Lara Taylor Pearce – who has been a coalition of conscience to many Sierra Leoneans yearning for good governance and the restoration of public trust in government.
Today, Mr. Minister, facts and evidences are dispersed immediately on the social media, both to the international community and the people of Sierra Leone. People are intolerant to corruption and mismanagement while times are changing even in rural Sierra Leone. To therefore categorically attack a valuable piece of document that is constitutionally the work of a giant patriot of Sierra Leone (Mrs. Lara Taylor –Pearce) is an affront to the very existence of our founding principles and the desire to build a secure and prosperous nation. It is therefore appropriate that you immediately tender your resignation to the President and offer a sincere apology to the Auditor General, the bereaved families of Ebola victims and the people of Sierra Leone.
Mr. honorable Minister, let me now turn my attention to your comments on the most important social service sector: EDUCATION. I shall not mention the fact that our children are being asked to go back to school and take public examinations, just one week after their return. I will leave that with the parents and teachers to ponder about. But, how did your government arrive at such a hasty decision when school children have been away from organized teaching for nearly nine months as the EVD raged throughout the country? Did your government think this through before making such public policy? Was this a political decision or where you advised base on the condition of school readiness?
Nonetheless, I shall focus my next attention on your comments last Thursday (2/21/2015) regarding another serious issue of public health and sanitation. Consciously or not, you used the most serious situation of our children’s health and sanitation in your bid to debunk the Audit Report on the management of the Ebola funds. That your government is releasing the amount of 139,000 USD FOR THE PROVISION OF BASIC SERVICES BEFORE THE REOPENING OF SCHOOLS IN LESS THAN THREE WEEKS TIME, as we all hope the EVD would have completely disappeared by then. But I am sorry to say, Mr. Minister, that it was definitely counter- productive as we still have open questions about the honesty and integrity of such unrealistic on-going projects.
Mr. Hon. A.B.S. Kanu, you strategically calculated that by saying you would pay for the examination fees of pupils, our citizens would be impressed with what your government has failed to do all these eight years or so that you have been in power. Not at all, because, Sierra Leoneans are tired of being fooled over and over again. Ebola and the mismanagement of local and donor funds will surely define your government’s legacy in many generations to come. History will be unkind to your government – as you continue to make poor decisions that do not serve the general welfare of our people. The APC always responds to challenges in a militaristic way by targeting the vulnerable and uneducated with their propaganda promise that means nothing and do nothing.
Also, you mentioned about the construction of nearly three thousand wells, two thousand seven hundred and fifty-four to be exact, (2754) for the provision of safe drinking water to private and government schools. And why not pipe- borne water in this era of the new water purification system anyway? Yet you talk about safe drinking water from wells after we have buried so many victims who have succumbed to the Ebola disease. I could not help but ask myself few questions like what was the situation in all those schools before the outbreak of Ebola. Wouldn’t such conditions even create an environment for cross contamination with a high level of new possible infection?
Furthermore, Mr. Minister, when you outlined the fact that approximately two thousand seven hundred and twenty-six (2726) schools were without toilets and basic facilities in these schools, I was convinced that your government was guilty of contributing to the Ebola outbreak by failing to provide better sanitary and hygiene conditions for our children. That our children were coming together on a regular basis for classes without water for drinking and washing their hands up until the closure of schools in July of last year. How did you feel to mention about the lack of decent sanitary facilities in this day and age? Yet you have the audacity to say that the audit report was baseless and that it was: “a distraction to government’s effort in defeating Ebola.”
Mr. Minister, for God sake, do you want us to believe that these basic public health facilities that our children have been deprived of all these years will be provided in three weeks when you disburse ($139,000) One hundred and thirty – nine thousand dollars – to be spent without ensuring accountability? Hon. Minister, if you think that by saying all these so-called “propaganda words” during a press briefing at a time when the whole world is discussing the mismanagement of the Ebola funds in Sierra Leone, people would take you seriously, you are in for a big surprise come 2018. Do you want us to believe that in three weeks you would provide all these facilities?
Honorable Kanu, do you want to spend money again frivolously when proper procedures are not followed by your government in managing money provided by tax payers, local donors and our International development partners? Infact, Mr. Minister, before deciding on calling any school entity or a place of learning, I would imagine your government should have policies in place to govern the identification of school locations. BASIC FACILITIES OF WATER AND TOILET SHOULD BE IN PLACE AS WELL AS SPACE FOR ALLOWING THE CHILDREN TO EXERCISE REGULARLY. This is why I am convinced that there was a serious break down in the educational system even before the Ebola outbreak. And your government continues to show a systemic pattern of failure in dealing with the Ebola crisis and now the post recovery period of our health emergency.
Mr. Minister, the emphasis of any government that is committed to quality education as a preparation of our country’s future human resources should be on educating each child in a safe, secure and clean environment. Your press conference revealed that the APC-led government cannot be trusted with the education of Sierra Leone’s children. Mr. Minister, our citizens can no longer take this politics of “bait and switch.” Our citizens are tired of being misinformed with the old offensive tactics of diverting people from the real issue to something that may never come to fruition. Today, we know what works for the people and what does not – since your government woefully abandoned the hopes and aspirations of so many young voters.
Thus, I would like to recommend the following for the good and wellbeing of our nation:
• That, your government be fully committed to supporting the deliberation of the audit report in Parliament and the work of the anti-corruption commission in an effort to hold those who misappropriated the Ebola funds to the fullest extent of the law. This is the expectation of every Sierra Leonean and the International donor partners as well.
• That your government shows a sense of patriotism and respect of public interest in addressing the governance issues that Sierra Leoneans want to see in their elected public officers by resolving all the recommendations of the past and present Auditor General’s reports since 2009 on the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDA’s) of the government of Sierra Leone.
• That your government postponed the reopening of schools 90 days after March 30, 2015 to complete the installation of toilet facilities and pipe borne water in all 2,754 schools and to give the children more time to read and study for their upcoming school examinations.
• That your government provides triage or emergency services in schools according to school districts when suspected Ebola cases are identified for immediate intervention and transportation of suspected patients to holding and treatment centers.
• That your government looks into increasing about 4% the teacher salaries with an adjustment on the living income standard to encourage and incentivize them to perform their jobs effectively and efficiently after such psychological and social traumas that many of them experienced either due to the loss of family members or former students.
Mr. Minister, it is my sincere and fervent hope that you will accept the patriotic and positive spirit of my open letter as a medium to enhance constructive engagement for the ultimate good of our beautiful nation without malice or prejudice and to understand that our common interest dwells in the shared vision and opportunity to build a safer and more prosperous Sierra Leone for everyone and even generations yet unborn.
Mohamed C. Bah
Former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) Presidential Aspirant
TO: The Minister of Information and Communications