Corruption has always been seen as worse than prostitution. But while prostitution might endanger the morals of an individual, corruption invariably endangers the morals of an entire country. Let no one been fooled into believing that it is only African countries like Sierra Leone, which have monopoly on this dreadful state of affairs.. It is unquestionable that corruption is the greatest single bane of our society today. Our country ranks as one of the poorest in the world; not because we are inherently poor, but because of corruption. Corruption is the root of poverty; and end to corruption would mean an end to poverty, eh relatively.
Corruption, embezzlement, and fraud, are characteristics which exist everywhere. Whether we like it or not, it is regrettably the way human nature functions. But unlike developing and under-developed countries like Sierra Leone, what successful economies do is keep it to a minimum. No one has ever eliminated any of that stuff, but fighting corruption is not just good governance, but self-defence and patriotism. This is not an approval of the deadly practice, or a way of saying that it cannot be defeated. Corruption is like risk. We may not eliminate it, but together we can reduce it. Accountability is one of the means by which we can achieve this seeming impossible task.
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has reportedly invited 40 people in “connection with matters related to the management of Ebola funds and other matters”. President Koroma has called “on all sierra Leoneans to wait for the law to take its course: (and) vows he will not shield any official or institution found culpable in the alleged Ebola money embezzlement saga” (SEM, 17/02/15). The president further stated that “it was the procedure that the report be sent to parliament”. He appears to re-assure the public that “neither he, nor his government will interfere with Parliament’s work”. “If we were not going to give Parliament the authority it requires to get to the bottom of the case, we would not have empowered the Auditor-General to conduct the audit in the first place” (SEM, 17/02/15). These proclamations may sound like good music to the ears of well-meaning Sierra Leoneans. But as if on cue, and like Eunuch in “Things Fall Apart”, Honourable Ibrahim Bundu has gone a step further and publically advised the invited persons not to honour the invitation of the ACC. His argument is that, the intervention of the ACC in this matter and at this stage does not conform to procedure.
We know that in the past, the ACC has barked louder than it could bite. But it is the nearest we can come to pretending to tackle corruption. In the circumstances, it is our best hope of sanitising our criminally engendered DNAs. We have seen how high profile cases have gone to the courts, only for them to collapse for various reasons; ranging from insufficient evidence to procedural shortcomings. The ACC is a renowned and integral part of our society. It will require solid and seemingly impregnable evidences to drag its accused to court. To hear that a case has collapsed because of lack of evidence will leave a lot of unanswered questions, as to why it went to court in the first place if the ACC lacked such depth in evidence. No one is suggesting any arm twisting or political sledge hammers being thrown here. But some are inclined to think that Honourable Bundu’s attempt to publically undermine the authority of the ACC, is suggestive of the kind of under hand tactics of the dark arts that has seen many such high profile cases collapse spectacularly in the past.
By accusing the ACC of breaking procedure, is Bundu suggesting that the allegations cannot be investigated concurrently without parliamentary sanitisation? Just like our people used protective equipment like gloves and aprons against the Ebola virus, is Bundu trying to use the parliament as a protective clothing against the allegations for the Ebola fraudsters (alleged)? In his attempt to cast aspersions on the ACC, he seems to ask the people of Sierra Leone to trust the Parliamentarians to do a better job of dealing with this serious fraud allegations than the ACC. If Mr Bundu is seriously asking Sierra Leoneans to make that choice between the Parliament and the ACC, I have a five thousand Leones bet on who the public will trust.
In view of our record on corruption, to ask our Parliamentarians as our representatives, to investigate allegations of corruption will be like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. We know that when they call the roll in parliament, some parliamentarians do not know whether to answer “present” or “not guilty”. In his latest outburst, Mr Bundu has shown the kind of power-lust weed that grows only in the vacant lots of an abandoned mind. The case we have here is a matter of honour and the law. But when honour and the Law no longer stand on the same side of the line, how do we choose? These are the kind of situations which remind the public that politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles, and the conduct of public affairs for private advantage. It is all well and good to quote parliamentary procedures as protective clothing in dealing with the Ebola fraud allegations. However, in considering the emotive nature of the issue, many will see Mr. Bundu’s performance as insensitive, disrespectful to all those who lost their lives to Ebola and bankrupt of empathy.
The allegations are about $ 40 million that were meant to provide ambulances, treatment centres, burial Lorries, cater for hazard payments etc. have been misappropriated or simply vanished. It is about money that was generously and humanely donated but criminally subjected to some kind of illegal osmosis that we are talking about here. Even before these allegations are proven or otherwise, the catastrophic consequences cannot be over-emphasised. However, it is logical to conclude that the lack of adequate ambulances, treatment centres, and many other shortcomings contributed directly to the loss of lives. For example, there were some instances whereby families were quarantined for well-meaning medical reasons. But because someone siphoned the food supply they were entitled to use during that period, some family members were forced to break the quarantine conditions in search of food; and by so doing endanger the lives of others by cross infection.
I can still painfully recall the images of one Ibrahim on Channel 4 news (UK) as he lay outside his house, waiting for 2 days to be transported to a treatment centre after he had been infected with the virus. The call centre knew about him but the lack of a bed meant that he could not be saved. Viewers were left to painfully witness Ibrahim wriggling on the cold concrete as his life ebbed away. Imagine how many people died NEEDLESSLY because of these corrupt people. Imagine how many people would have survived today if only some people had shown a little bit more humanity?
An issue with such an emotive undercurrent is bound to generate some emotional fire crackers. For the Honourable Bundu to seek parliamentary sanitisation for the case is not only contextually insensitive, but morally bankrupt. You wonder why this guy is still masquerading as a parliamentary representative when he should have been stripped of that rare privilege he seems to abuse. Whose interests is he representing? You don’t need to answer that; too easy. This is the kind of behaviour that gives credence to the notion that “Diapers and Politicians SHOULD BE CHANGED, BOTH OFTEN FOR THE SAME REASONS. Unfortunately days these, we hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.
The last time I checked, this should be a criminal investigation. The “separation of powers” was a favourable topic for exams in my “government” class at school; even though I hated the subject because of my allergy to politics. We were taught that the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary were the main branches of a government, and were supposed to be SEPARATE to ensure good governance. The idea that any criminal investigations into this matter will require parliamentary blessing is in itself suspect of political gymnastics.
It could be seen by many as the artwork of previous and current governments to insulate its members from prosecution, by embedding such a clash of interests in the constitution. Why can’t we leave it to the ACC, CID and the police to investigate and prosecute these alleged fraudsters? Even the President has called “on all sierra Leoneans to wait for the law to take its course: The last time I checked, parliament is anything and everything but the judicial arm of our government. Since we have the Constitutional Review Committee in situ, can we bring this part of the constitution under some microscopic inspection? It might just save us from the kind of insult we are getting from honourable people like Ibrahim Bundu; who wants us to ask foxes to vote for the welfare of chickens. So the next time you drive your car without a licence, or steal a mango from Salad Gron, be ready to face the Member of Parliament you voted or not voted for.
It is no secret that our country has had its fair share of problems. We have barely recovered from our 12-year war of senseless destruction. The war was fuelled among other factors, by “BLOOD DIAMONDS”. It was “foreign partners” whose lust and quest for our minerals that provided the blood money as oxygen for our self-destruction. This time, the money that was meant to fight the war on Ebola was stolen by our VERY OWN; no partners required. And that is BLOOD MONEY; cough it up.
The President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has gone on record to promise us that “he will not shield any official or institution found culpable in the alleged Ebola money embezzlement saga”. Thank you for that and we will hold you to that. We will be watching avidly to see how this pans out. The Ebola epidemic has been viewed from different angles of the political prisms. It is easy to conclude that only these individuals are under the microscope and should be investigated for the alleged fraud. Far from that, the president, the APC party and the government of Sierra Leone is on trial here. The credibility of the government, the APC party and the President is at stake here. As Sierra Leoneans, we are all on trial here.
There is an imperative need to restore faith, confidence, and integrity within the International Community. We need to restore and regain that human spirit that has seen so many donate and sacrifice for humanity. These crimes against humanity should not go unpunished. With the general elections round the corner, I am sure that the government will not want it to be a referendum on the Ebola saga. We have a democracy, but we don’t want it to be about being allowed to vote for the candidate we dislike least; although some would make it illegal, if voting changed anything.
The President and the people of Sierra Leone owe it to all those who lost their lives in the fight against Ebola. Doctors like Martin Salia, who left the relative safety and comfort of his home and family in USA to help his people only to lose his life. We owe it people like William Poole, the British Nurse who survived the disease, only to return again to help our people. Over 100 doctors including Sahr Rodgers, Willoughby, Aiah Solomon Konoyima, Sheik Umar Khan, and many other health care workers and ordinary citizens have perished. If these people perished because some evil people had a different interpretation of humanity, then it is up to us all to see that justice is done and that THEY DID NOT DIE IN VAIN. For evil to prosper, it takes the good to do nothing.
Mr. President, you are on trial here: Give it your best shot; for history is made by people. History and Legacy will only be kind to you, if you intend to write it; so this is another opportunity: Please write it; if for nothing else, but for those who sacrificed their lives to save other lives. It is the least they deserve and may God rest their souls in PERFECT PEACE.
Don’t forget to turn the lights out before you leave the room.