By KABS KANU :
Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Mr. Bockarie Stevens, has authoritatively disclosed that Sierra Leone is still on track for the Millennium Challenge Corporation ( MCC ) Compact Award.
Speaking exclusively to COCORIOKO in an interview centred on the recent press report that the country has failed some benchmarks of the Compact Award and therefore was set “to miss out on vital funding, which has now been deferred”, the ambassador described the report as “Arrant nonsense ” and stated that the MCC has not made any statement saying that Sierra Leone has missed out of the award.
AMBASSADOR BOCKARIE STEVENS SAYS THE REPORT THAT SIERRA LEONE HAS MISSED OUT ON THE MCC COMPACT AWARD IS ARRANT NONSENSE
“The MCC Board will be meeting in December to discuss the recent scorecard for aspiring countries “. Ambassador Stevens said . “There is nothing to show that we have been deleted and we are still part of the Compact and our MCC Unit at State House is still functioning “, The Ambassador stated with authority , describing those spreading rumours that Sierra Leone has failed the MCC Compact Award as “Useless and unpatriotic elements who do not want to hear anything good about their country “. He described it as a shame for people to be perpetually wishing evil for their motherland.
Last weekend , precisely on November 9 2013, a Sierra Leone online newspaper , NEWSWATCH carried a misleading headline : SIERRA LEONE FAILS MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE COOPERATION ( MCC ). Though the word Corporation was wrongly spelt in the heading, some other Sierra Leone online and print newspapers failed to catch any cue, and jumped on the story and republished it, though many of them corrected the wrong spelling.
Probably because the NEWSWATCH newspaper used the blue MCC logo to go with the story , many of our journalists concluded that the report was from the MCC . As usual, they failed to verify their story by calling the MCC and the appropriate authorities and soon they all carried the news report , without attributing it to NEWSWATCH, creating the impression inadvertently that the report emanated from the MCC . Social media and Sierra Leone online forums were soon awash with the report, leading to heated debates and arguments , with anti-government agents taunting the ruling government that it had failed to win a very important award that would have fetched the nation millions of dollars in development aid.
Once again, it was obvious that it was not the government that had failed but journalists and social media and online forum commentators and debaters who failed to carry out one of the cardinal principles of responsible journalism, ” VERIFY YOUR STORY ” .
As things stand presently, the MCC has not made any public statement that Sierra Leone has failed to win the award. Interestingly, not even Liberia , the country that people were using to measure Sierra Leone’s alleged failure , announced anywhere that they had won the Compact. The usually virulent Liberia media were silent on the story because though their country had passed the key corruption benchmark, there had been no official statement from the MCC about the country’s prospects for the Award. And why was that ? Because their country too failed some benchmarks and the MCC has not made any determination of the country’s chances.
Ambassador Stevens was very direct : “The hullabaloo that Sierra Leone had been denied vital funding from the compact selection process is arrant nonsense. This was advanced in an online paper. The reality is that Sierra Leone remains a compact eligible country and the PROCESS IS STILL ON COURSE. At no time did the MCC come out with the so – called attributed statement. Yes Sierra Leone did not meet the benchmark for the Control of corruption index but it passed eleven out of the twelve slated benchmarks.” The Ambassador asked, “Is that not something worth celebrating ? ” .
Ambassador Stevens said that in passing 11 of the 20 benchmarks ,Sierra Leone in fact scored higher than her Mano River Union neighbours.
Ambassador Stevens said that Sierra Leone will not be thrown out of the Compact Selection process. Rather, a country that fails the corruption benchmark is given the opportunity to correct the anomaly , with the worst case scenerio being probably a one year delay but even then with the measures President Koroma is putting in place to accelerate his war on corruption, Sierra Leone will have no problem passing the benchmark the next time round. People failed to realize that we only failed the corruption benchmark by 3 points , Ambassador Stevens argued.
The Ambassador however pointed out that Sierra Leone’s score in the corruption benchmark , in contrast to what some other West African countries received as final score , would be surprising to many stakeholders and political observers because Sierra Leone is fighting corruption more robustly than these countries . Mr. Stevens emphasized that the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission has more teeth and has carried out more arrests and prosecutions than these countries. The Ambassador said the people should not forget that the institutions, organizations and agencies that prepare the corruption index often use misleading and unfair statistics and yardsticks , at times based on exaggerated articles in some biased anti-government news outlets and the internet.
THE AMBASSADOR WILL BE DEALING WITH THAT IN PART 2 OF OUR INTERVIEW WHICH WOULD BE PUBLISHED TOMORROW.