The Parliament of Sierra Leone has on Monday 28th May 2018 commenced debate on the Presidential Speech delivered by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament on Thursday 10th May 2018, to mark the commencement of the First Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic, following the First Sitting of Parliament after the conduct of the 2018 General Elections on Wednesday 25th April, this year.
In view of the contributions made by MPs during the ensuing debate, the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Abass Chernor Bundu clarified in the interests of national cohesion and development that “the APC established the Treasury Single Account (TSA), and the SLPP Government is responsible for its vigorous implementation under the watch of President Bio”, whilst calling on MPs to be factually accurate in their submissions in respect of our international development partners who have so much interest in the operationalization of the TSA.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Chernor R. M Bah had informed the Speaker that himself and the Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mohamed Sidie Tunis, will keep a register of Ministers and Deputies that are witnessing the Presidential Debate, with the aim of getting firsthand information of the issues raised by MPs during the course of the debate. Therefore, Ministers and Deputies, including professional heads and senior administrative staff, are encouraged to attend and on time.
Seconding the motion, Hon. Francis Amara Kai-Samba of SLPP thanked President Bio for the Speech he graciously delivered in Parliament as constitutionally required, with the view to explaining his policies and programmes as contained in the “New Direction”. Speaking on the bleak economy inherited by the Government of President Bio, he made reference to corrective measures that had been initiated to tackle the economic malaise such as the operationalization of the Treasury Single Account, the ban on timber exports and tax exemptions, and the payment of salaries, without recourse to bank overdrafts. Applauding President Bio for separating the Education Ministries, he decried the past APC regime for failing to recruit qualified teachers and following “ghost teachers” throughout. He also acclaimed President Bio for boosting the morale of teachers who had taught for ten years and above, in respect of their siblings to access free university education, opening access to Government’s Grants-in-Aid and Student’s Loan Scheme. On health, he called for an inquiry into the handling of Ambulances purchased during the Ebola epidemic, and decried the poor management of the FHCI, resulting in a lot of maternal deaths. He criticized the much trumpeted road constructions, with bloated contracts without quality and value for money. He also reminded the Government of President Bio to do the roads in Kenema, which was deprived for being the stronghold of SLPP, whilst speaking on the need for improved and sustainable energy supply, coupled with strengthening the decentralization and devolution process, and the need for tackling water crisis, through an integrated management system.
Reacting, Hon. Abdul Kargbo said that the APC is committed to promoting the ideals of Sierra Leone and promised that they would bounce back to power after five years, whilst speaking on partnership in governance. He referred to the Speech as an attempt to demoralize former President Koroma and the reputation of the APC. He also said that “the debts incurred by the past regime were widely used for development, citing the construction of the Matotoka-Sefadu Road”, when talking on debts distress and sustainability, from the perspective of the IMF. On revenue mobilization, he praised “former President Koroma for setting the infrastructure that has seen the operation of the Treasury Single Account”, and denied the APC using bank overdrafts to pay salaries, in spite of Ebola and the drop in Iron Ore prices in 2014. He also espoused that the “New Direction” aims “to promote primary and secondary education, with the view of strangulating tertiary education”, that is critically important for the development of the country.
Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara of APC decried the Speech for “not capturing the atrocious activities after the conduct of the general elections, saying that our democracy is under attack”. He also called for SSS4 to be retained as a means of compensating for a lost term and other activities in the academic calendar, whilst speaking on youth empowerment. Speaking on economic diversification, he also called on Government to “provide energy and food for ordinary Sierra Leoneans”.
Hon. Charles Osman Abdulai of SLPP also decried the inflated cost and quality of roads constructed by the past APC government. Also speaking on the Iron Ore boom in 2013, he blamed the APC “for not making hay when the sun shines”, but were rather engaged in excessive overseas travelling. He described President Bio as a “realist” who inherited a bad economy characterized by huge internal and external debts, whilst referencing corrective measures such as discipline, professionalism and delivery. On economic diversification, he spoke on the need of improving agricultural practices, which according to him was hugely neglected by the APC, through ineffective tractorization.
Adding his voice to the debate, Hon. Saa Paul Sam of C4C commended President Bio for his initiatives under the “New Direction” and promised to work with him, with the aim of achieving his objectives. In the area of agriculture, he lauded the past government for creating good policies but did not yield good dividends for the people of Kono; instead mining was the main livelihood of the people. He also called on the new Ministers of Education to recruit qualified teachers for the successful implementation of President Bio’s free education initiative.
Other MPs spoke to the motion.
Department of Public Relations
Parliament of Sierra Leone
OAU Drive, Tower Hill