Living in a media-saturated and media-controlling world today, it is a folly for anybody to think that he or she has the monopoly to paint a totally false and misleading picture about another person or a situation. Though the whole world knows that President Ernest Koroma is the best Head of State to ever rule Sierra Leone since Independence in 1961, and that it took a grand and spectacular conspiracy of regime change orchestrated by the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone, Mr. Guy Warrington and the tribalistic Electoral Commissioner , Mr. Infa Allie Conteh , to steal the last election from Dr. Koroma’s All People’s Congress ( APC), the Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP ), since it was pitch-forked to power in March, has been doing its best to defame the outgoing President that he left a completely bankrupt economy and superficial achievements.
Well, using the same media the SLPP has been abusing to paint the wrong picture about him, former President Koroma has efffectively and efficiently demolished all the propaganda against his tenure in what has been described as a masterclass —-a 36-page handing over document that is now being circulated all over the social media and newspapers ( COCORIOKO NEWSPAPER ).
WE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING SUMMARY OF THE DOCUMENT FROM THE PRESIDENT’S MEDIA TEAM :
ABDUL MALIK BANGURA PRESENTS AN EXCLUSIVE SUMMARY OF WHAT FORMER PRESIDENT KOROMA TOLD H.E. PRESIDENT JULIUS MAADA BIO IN THE HANDING OVER DOCUMENT THAT IS NOW ONE OF THE MOST WIDELY ANTICIPATED DOCUMENTS EVER IN SIERRA LEONE*
I have received from my sources, a copy of the widely anticipated Handing-Over Notes which former President Koroma gave to H.E. President Julius Maada Bio last week Friday 11th May 2018. It is 36 pages long and after reading it carefully, I am so impressed with Statesmanship displayed in the writings by our former President. To me, it is a document written with humility but also it is quite frank. It can be a guide to the new President. I want to endorse the contents especially the following highlights by the former President:
1. Reminder of depths of social and economic despair when Ebola Outbreak and loss of Iron Ore income, brought Sierra Leone to its knees; with our economy ravaged to negative growth as low as minus 21.5% from positive growth of as high as 20.8%.
2. Despite economic shocks, Koroma’s prudent leadership through a twin approach of minimizing poverty amongst citizens as well as transformative policies to make the country more competitive on global stage, has ensured Sierra Leone is on course to achieve middle-income status by the year 2030.
3. Acknowledges the country has Debts, like all countries, but proudly reveals there is absolutely no high risk of debt distress because of the APC’s Debt Management Strategy and the annual Debt Sustainability Analysis.
4. Sierra Leone now has its Biggest Economy since colonial days. Despite devastating shocks, our Economy is now back on track and expanding in many sectors.
5. In 2007, the Annual Revenue generated within Sierra Leone was 500 billion leones; today it is 4 trillion (4,000 billion) leones.
6. Money brought in by private investments grew tremendously from Le288Billion in 2007 to Le5,000Billion (five trillion) now.
7. International reserves grew from dollar equivalent of less than 600 billion leones in 2007 to current amount which is the dollar equivalent of 4 trillion (4,000 billion) leones.
8. In 2007, the expenditure on direct development projects was only 60 million dollars per year. Ten years later, it has expanded and in just the single year of 2017 alone, the sum of 274 million dollars was spent on development projects. More than at any other time in history, our country has seen the largest amount of direct development projects in all sectors including both services and infrastructure; this covers roads, energy, health, education, communication, information technology, tourism and many other areas including legal safety net for indigents and vulnerables.
9. Minimizing Burden of Poverty, especially after the twin shocks, meant providing subsidies in rice, fuel, education, health, transportation, agriculture, electricity, sports, etc. etc. The new President now has to take a decision to keep or remove subsidies.
10. The APC Government never delayed to pay salaries and most importantly, contrary to recent misinformation, President Koroma’s APC Government *NEVER* borrowed to pay salaries. Payment of salaries was the topmost priority every month and there has been no month in recent times, when revenues raised was less than the monthly Wage Bill.
11. The former president diplomatically advised the new president to always double-check whatever information is given to him by public officials, especially the ones at Finance Ministry, before the new president makes public utterances based on such information given to him.
12. Sierra Leone is the most peaceful country in the entire region with democracy firmly rooted, human rights respected, a vibrant civil society, a very free press and an inclusive system of governance.
13. Sustained very high levels of religious tolerance and political tolerance through well-thought-out steps and inclusive policies.
14. Maintained perceived SLPP sympathizers in office even at the State House; all so as to weave a harmonious and all-inclusive governance structure that all citizens can trust and relate with.
15. Unprecedented empowerment of youths and women including supporting appointments of Sierra Leone women internationally.
16. Erstwhile APC Government of former President Koroma was the most transparent government in History of Sierra Leone; So transparent that the APC openly published on Finance Ministry website the amount of money raised and spent every month.
17. APC passed laws which made the Auditor General to be the most powerful the country ever had and also paid the highest ever salaries to staff of Audit Service. The annual wage bill for Auditor General and staff was almost Le22Billion. As a comparison, the annual wage bill for entire nationwide staff of the National Electoral Commission was less than Le13Billion.
18. Sierra Leone Government, under Ernest Koroma, was not perfect and could have done more but Sierra Leone is not the most corrupt country in the world. Marked improvement in the country’s global anti-corruption rankings.
19. Education was indeed a priority to APC as is evidenced by the increase in amount allocated to Education from a mere 3% inherited in 2007 to over 15% of National Budget as well as a concomitant massive expansion of education delivery nationally.
20. Automatic payment of 70% of tuition fees for all Sierra Leone citizens accepted into State-owned universities and colleges plus 100% full scholarships plus cash grants to categories of female students and successful students from low-income families.
21. Confirmed that the recent claim of Finance Minister J.J. Saffa that he/SLPP had secured 17 million dollars for Education from World Bank, was really just money already decided to be granted to Sierra Leone after a successful implementation of an earlier 17 million dollars. In other words, JJ Saffa took credit for APC achievement for that $17Million.
22. Highlights lots of successes in Health especially staff training, building infrastructure and service delivery.
23. Suggests for President Bio to pay attention to an innovative Maternal Deaths Surveillance & Response strategy which Koroma launched last year to help combat disparity between very visible improvements on health delivery and terrible international health indices.
24. Monumental success in electricity production saw a rise from a mere 47million kilowatt hours supplied from only 10 megawatts in 2007 to now hand over with a stunning 350million kilowatt hours produced from over 280 megawatts; restoring power, for the first time in over 30 years.
25. Amendment of laws so Electricity Generation got separated from Electricity Sales thus private investment in sector soared and expanded electricity supply especially in provincial areas.
26. Many Electricity projects now in pipeline including confirmed $53million funding for overhaul of Bo/Kenema Power Station.
27. Noted President Bio’s emulation of President Koroma who first appointed a Water Resources Minister on realizing need. As a result of honing in on water issues, the APC has now ensured an additional 1,300,000 Sierra Leoneans outside of Freetown have access to safe, clean water. An innovative approach has ameliorated Dry Season water shortage. From a feasibility report commissioned by APC, confirmation now exists that Rokel River can easily supply water to residents from Mamamah to Freetown.
28. It has been proven that investment in development grows the Economy. This is driving force behind commissioning Mamamah Airport City and concluding feasibility studies for a bridge across estuary from Freetown to Lungi.
29. Roads, roads, roads and even more roads is a tangible, bright success of the APC in North, South, East and West. Massive road network has not only been built in every single district but they are regularly maintained for sustainability and aesthetics.
30. Creating road gateways south into Liberia and north into Guinea, has been done to increase trade links with ECOWAS countries especially landlocked countries who will be lured into using the good international highways to access our sea ports.
31. Reminds of how it was former President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah who first advised on using toll-system road to link Freetown to an area in province. So Koroma has passed same advise to Bio. Also gave clarity on so-called “roads” mentioned in Kabbah’s own handing over statement.
32. Massive expansion and enhanced security makes sea and air ports transformed with Water Quay spectacularly improved upon in the last ten years since 2007. Also, the Waterfront at Kissy Ferry Terminal is being transformed and will soon be a beautiful Tourist spot with sailing boats and hotels. Lungi is destination for 12 international airlines with more set to commence flights.
33. Tourism transformation is simply unrivalled in the last several decades all due to incentives and attractive policies. Lumley Beach now enhanced with beautiful infrastructure. Aberdeen is no longer a ‘village’ but a bustling metropolis so the “Aberdeen Village Dance Troupe” was strategically relocated to Mabala Village to maintain rural cultural identity, eliminate persistent encroachment and land disputes as well as facilitate further expansion of Arts & Culture.
34. APC implemented wide-ranging reforms in the management of Sierra Leone financial resources like a transparent Government Payroll with ongoing biometric registration of all civil servants so as to combat ghost workers. Efforts have yielded fruits. For example, Education Ministry saved 57 million dollars in past ten years through removal of non-existent employees from payroll.
35. APC increased Minimum Wage for employees from ridiculous sum of Le21,000 in 2007 which could not even buy half a bag of rice, to Le500,000 currently.
36. The recent publicized 300 billion leones raised in last one month is not fresh revenue but is already-existent government revenue moved from statutory institutions to the consolidated revenue fund (CRF) through an Act of Parliament signed by former President Koroma just before he left office. H.E. President Bio is merely enforcing directives already given by the former president.
37. Former President Koroma says the creation of 2 New Districts, a New Province and De-amalgamation of Chiefdoms is amongst his greatest prides as it solved age-old injustice of unfairly low social service delivery to the North that was inherited from colonial days.
38. Special mention of relationship with Qatar which the former president developed and handed over to Bio. Relationship resulted in commitment for Qatar to build 2,000 social housing units and to also include Sierra Leone as a destination spot for Qatar airlines.
39. Other points mentioned were Koroma’s policy of ‘Country First’ in dealings with international partners and investors; Positioned Sierra Leone to now have a larger-than-life image on the global front which surpasses its geographical size; Vigorously promoted agriculture especially in productivity and value addition; Protected things that grew the economy; Displayed an attitude of working very hard as an individual so as to inspire citizens.
40. Accepts APC Government was not perfect and he could have done better than he did overall. He wishes President Bio a great Inauguration, a happy birthday and also used the chance to appreciate and commend the Statesman role played when Bio left his PhD studies in United Kingdom during the Ebola outbreak to come home and help combat the spread of the disease.
41. Recognises the 36-paged document is not a comprehensive dossier and so advises all concerned, including President Bio, to go read his total of twelve Presidential Addresses to Parliament especially the valedictory addresses he gave at the dissolution of Parliament in 2012 and again in 2017. He also informs that his Ministers and other APC Government functionaries have already prepared in-depth Sectoral Handing-Over documents for the new Bio/SLPP Team which Koroma urges President Bio to find time to peruse them all.
*It has been a PRIVILEGE for me to be the first journalist to get an exclusive copy of the 36-paged Handing-Over Notes, before any other news outlet. I have enjoyed reading what is a fascinating document. It is worth reading all 36 pages. I endorse the work of the former president and I hope that when the full document is finally released for public consumption, all patriotic citizens will join me in endorsing the Handing Over Notes of the former president to our new president. Congratulations to Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma for a job well done Sir!*
Abdul Malik Bangura
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Sunday May 13th 2018.