Towards the end of 2015, speculation was rife in the press that His Excellency, President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, would make some changes in his cabinet in order to reflect his desire to see his government deliver more on its 2012 election promises.
The surprise end-of-year reshuffle affected the former Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice. The message was very clear that the President wants more productivity from his ministers.
Of particular interest was the President’s bringing in of NERICA Rice technologist, Dr. Monty Jones, who was serving as a special presidential adviser at State House.
The fruit of his collaborative research has in the past decade completely revolutionized rice production in the whole of the Asia basin. Unfortunately, the Government of Sierra Leone has not capitalized on his innovation.
Agriculture is one area of development that the country holds great comparative advantage; thinking of the fact that in the 1960s, when the Ministry of Agriculture and the Sierra Leone Produce Marketing Board operated in full gear, this country was a net exporter of valuable cash crops such as rice, palm oil, palm kernel, ginger, pepper, coffee, cocoa, timber, etc.
Of interest too is the bringing in of the former head of the Anti Corruption Commission as the new Attorney General and Minister of Justice.
Will he be spearheading the investigation into allegations that the former Lands Minister connived with crooked cronies to sell off huge tracts of state lands? Will he now be better able to revolutionize a deeply corrupt and highly dysfunctional judiciary to add vim to the President’s zero tolerance for corruption?
Voted for overwhelming in 2007 on his pledge of zero tolerance for corruption, eight years on, President Koroma has a very difficult task of convincing the populace that it is not business as usual as the people openly see those he appointed into high public offices displaying affluence far beyond their means.
From the most recent Auditor General’s Report, grand corruption which takes away from the public coffers huge sums of tax payers and donor funds remains the number one enemy of the country’s financial and economic development.
The Audit Department alleges that over Le140 billion (the equivalent of about $25 million) cannot be accounted for by the MDAs audited.
With the State House release announcing that more changes are expected, panic is reported to have gripped many cabinet ministers who are not sure where the President’s axe would fall next.
Meanwhile, majority of the populace has since the revelations made last year about the theft of Ebola funds and the dubious way and manner in which the Minister and the Transport Ministry spent $12 million to buy one hundred buses from China think that the President is only scratching the surface of the problem.
A random vox pop conducted by this press revealed growing skepticism about President Koroma’s government’s ability to deliver the goods and services it promised the nation in 2012.
One Mariatu Kamara opined that the changes, like the previous ones, are only cosmetic in order to satisfy public clamor for a more responsible and productive state governance machinery.
“To me,” Mariatu said with much disdain in her voice, “it’s the same old political trick of putting seemingly new wines in old bottles.”