Dear President Bio,
Let me take this opportunity, on behalf of the management and staff of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, to formally congratulate you on your election as President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. It was an honourably earned victory and I wish you and your government a successful tenure over the next five years. I hope that you will remain committed to implementing your pre-election promises, and you can count on the leadership and staff of CARL to support your administration in achieving those promises. We welcome the announcement of the transitional team on governance, and hope that they will deliver on their mandate as soon as possible.
I am writing to raise a number of issues with you in the hope that your administration will grant them their due attention. I appreciate there are many pressing concerns facing our country, but it is my genuine conviction that attendance to the issues raised herein will provide a solid foundation to, and enrichment of, your programme for government moving forward.
I believe that there is a compelling need to draw your Excellency’s attention to the following issues:
a. Accountability: looking to rectify mistakes of the past for the sake of the future;
b. Women’s participation – resolving the dearth of female representation in public office in line with policy reforms;
c. Constitutional Review Process – reviving and renewing the reform process;
d. National Cohesion and Inclusive Governance – bridging divides and moving forward together.
Accountability: Your Excellency, there is a need for your administration to prioritize accountability for alleged financial and economic crimes under the previous administration as well as for those human rights violations that occurred immediately before and after the 2018 elections. While you were campaigning, you highlighted instances of financial mismanagement in government projects, public procurement, and misappropriation of funds meant for disaster response, among others. I urge you to investigate allegations of financial mismanagement and human rights violations under the previous administration with the view of recovering funds and prosecuting any crimes arising therefrom. The annual Auditor-General reports have repeatedly highlighted recurring problems of weak internal controls, cash management and procurement procedures. I urge your administration to put in place immediately a system to respond to the many recommendations that were ignored by the previous administration, and to launch an investigation with the view of establishing whether probable cause exists to hold public officials criminally liable for the huge amount of unaccounted funds. It is important to rectify wrongs of the past for the sake of the future.
Your Excellency, strong institutions breed good governance. Moving forward, I urge your administration to support the autonomy and authority of institutions of justice and accountability, including the judiciary, the Sierra Leone Police, Parliament, the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). The laws exist, but nothing will change until there are consequences for flouting rules, both for individuals and for ministries. Holding to account those who committed misdeeds in the past will convince the public of their government’s commitment to stop corruption, and ensure efficient resource management and disciplined leadership.
a. Women’s Participation: Resolving the Dearth of Female Representation in Public Office
The lack of female participation in governance remains a critical issue. Over the last decade, CARL has worked on issues pertaining to the protection of women’s rights, including enhancing access to justice for victims of gender-based violence, increased female participation in decision-making and leadership processes, and other empowerment programmes. Some progress has been made, but many challenges remain. CARL believes that increased participation by women in the public sphere, especially in the areas of policy formulation, and decision-making, is pivotal to advancing change. Women represent 52% of registered voters in Sierra Leone, though their representation across public sector institutions remains low. This does not bode well for the economic and development aspirations of Sierra Leone as a whole. Intervention is needed to narrow this disparity. Your leadership offers an opportunity to rewrite the current chapter on female representation in governance. To this end, we urge you to consider the inclusion of competent women in your cabinet and ministries, departments and agencies. Women have aspired to 30% representation, but it would be inspiring to exceed this threshold. Regrettably, the number of women in your transitional team falls below that threshold, and it is my genuine hope that your future appointments will have a more positive outlook in terms of women’s representation.
b. A Country of Progressive Laws: The Need to Resume the Constitutional Review Process
The foundation of any just society is law. Sierra Leone began a constitutional review process more than a decade ago. Despite the huge resources spent by the Government of Sierra Leone and its international partners, we are still without a new or revised constitution. Let me use this opportunity to register my organisation’s displeasure and disappointment at the mismanagement of the review process, mistreatment of the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC), and the ignoring of the Commission’s report by the All People’s… Read more