President Koroma presents at African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)
His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s presented on the occasion of the review of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Forum, Country Review Report of Sierra Leone at the 16th Summit of the Committee of participating Heads of State and Government of the APRM in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 28th January 2012.
The APRM is an African-designed, owned and driven governance monitoring instrument established in 2003 with the expressed objective of encouraging voluntarily acceding countries to adopt , foster and implement good governance processes and practices in their countries . This innovative instrument assesses governance processes and practices in four governance thematic areas of political democracy, economic governance, corporate governance and socio-economic development. It’s a peer-learning and experience-sharing initiative.
Barrister Akere Tabeng Muna, the Lead APRM Panelist for Sierra Leone noted in presenting the Sierra Leone APRM Country Review that President Koroma should be highly commended in the Continent for his exemplary action in submitting his country for peer review in an election year especially, before elections.
He said that most times leaders will refrain from submitting their countries for review even when elections are remote in sight for fear of critical views on their governance system.
As such, he said, President Koroma has manifested selfless and unflinching commitment to promoting good governance and accountability, thus a respecter of alternative political views.
In responding to President Koroma’s statement at the APRM Forum, President Dr. Thomas Yayi Boni of the Republic of Benin and current Chairman of the African Union said that in spite of coming from an eleven year old war President Koroma has done remarkably well in working hard to eradicate poverty in his country. He openly endorsed President Koroma’s quality and well-thought out statement at the Forum, a view widely shared by other Heads of State.
Below is statement by His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, on the occasion of the presentation of the APRM country review report of Sierra Leone at the 16th Summit of the Committee of participating heads of state and government of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM forum), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 28 January 2012.
Colleague Heads of State
Esteemed Members of the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons
Distinguished Dignitaries and Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen
- I bring you New Year’s greetings, great wishes and many resolutions from the people of the Republic of Sierra Leone. I have also come here with a great sense of fulfilment and much delight to address this august assembly of colleague Heads of States and members of the African Peer Review Mechanism Panel of eminent persons.
- My Government’s commitment to the implementation of the APRM process in Sierra Leone has been unwavering since the assumption of the reins of government in 2007. Following the launch of the APRM process in September 2008, I went on to inaugurate the APRM National Governing Council (NGC). To ensure the autonomy, integrity and professionalism of this Council, its structure and mandate were tailored to make it technically competent, credible, free from political interference and an all-inclusive national exercise. My Government further provided budgetary support to the work of the NGC and Secretariat, which saw the successful and timely execution of the APRM national self-assessment process as well as the APRM Country Review Mission that visited Sierra Leone in May-June 2011.
- Mr. Chairman, the Government of Sierra Leone appreciates the efforts of the African Peer Review Panel of Eminent Persons (APR-Panel) in producing the Country Review Report of the Republic of Sierra Leone (CRR) covering a wide range of governance issues. The report is timely and necessary in assessing the gains made by Government in its developmental pursuits, as well as in shedding light on the challenges it has encountered, in the post-conflict era. The recommendations proffered by the APR Panel would certainly provide the basis for an improved governance landscape in the country, which is now a major preoccupation of the Government.
- Mr. Chairman, my Government notes with satisfaction the thoroughness, frankness and clarity of the observations, comments and recommendations of the APR Panel. As a Government, we have no intention to adopt a defensive posture but rather to look at the observations and recommendations critically and craft an appropriate roadmap for the implementation of the APRM National Programme of Action (NPOA). In that regard, we are encouraged by the observation of the APR Panel that the Country Self Assessment Report (CSAR) was completed within the shortest possible time and with the highest quality standards.
- The Government of Sierra Leone would therefore like to register its profound gratitude to the entire APR Panel for their helpful insights which we believe would go a long way in moving our country forward. We are particularly grateful to the Chair of the APR Panel, Professor Mohammed-Saghir Babe and the Lead Panelist for the Sierra Leone Review Process, Barrister Akere Tabeng Muna. Our final appreciation goes to the entire Sierra Leone Country Review Mission Team and Members of the APRM Secretariat for their dedication and commitment to the APRM process in Sierra Leone in particular and Africa in general.
- It would be useful to point out at the outset that a number of the developments that have taken place in Sierra Leone since the departure of the mission have actually addressed a lot of the concerns raised by the mission.
- Mr. Chairman, the findings of Country Review Report have raised a number of very important issues and challenges in relation to governance in Sierra Leone. However, while cognizance has been taken of all of them, the constraints of time would not allow me to respond to each and every one of them in this Forum. Consequently, I have selected some of these issues for my response and I now have the pleasure of presenting them.
- Mr. Chairman, between 1991 and 2002, the governance landscape of Sierra Leone was largely affected by a horrendous civil conflict that further undermined the smooth functioning of state institutions, destroyed infrastructure, led to economic and social dislocation, displaced a large proportion of the population, affected the capacity and professionalism of state security institutions, and tasked Government with a huge burden of reconstruction and rehabilitation costs. In that decade-long conflict, as in all other violent conflicts around the world, a common lesson was learnt that war is a business of immense loss, that even those who have come out of it with perceived victory have counted great losses in its aftermath. Mr. Chairman, for us in Sierra Leone, we have also learned in addition to the foregoing that never again shall we allow our existence as a nation to be threatened by violence.
- Mr. Chairman, on the issue of paramount chieftaincy, it would be helpful to put the institution in a historical context for a better appreciation of the challenges it faces. The colonial policy of divide and rule gave enormous political power to traditional rulers, fostering a culture of impunity.
- Today, with an increasingly enlightened citizenry, traditional rulers are more circumspect in the exercise of authority in their localities. Traditional Chiefs now regard themselves as partners in governance and are more inclined to engage their constituents on this level. The recently enacted Local Courts Act 2011 confirmed the role of Paramount Chiefs as arbitrators or mediators in the settlement of disputes. You would be pleased, colleague Heads of State, to know that we now have paramount chiefs with university qualifications, some with Masters degrees.
- Mr. Chairman, while it may be accurate to suggest that the period 1968-1992 was characterized by poor governance, it was certainly not the genesis of the problem. The emergence of poor governance in Sierra Leone should be traced as far back as 1964. In 1965, the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) led regime of Sir Albert Margai passed the now infamous Public Order Act 1965 which is currently the subject of intense criticisms by the media for muzzling press freedom.
- Mr. Chairman, we appreciate the effort of the Review Panel in refreshing our sub-conscious mind to our past which was characterized by poor governance as the basis of the decade-long war. We have since undertaken major transformational initiatives to redress that past. We have conducted three free, fair and peaceful multi-party elections and about to conduct the fourth one on the 17th of November 2012. We are working on passing the Freedom of Information Bill into an Act of Parliament. The debate on expunging the criminal libel aspect of the 1965 Public Order Act is on course. We have also empowered our National Electoral Commission and the Political Parties Registration Commission to conduct free, fair and peaceful elections as well as to enforce the electoral codes of conduct.
- Additionally, Mr. Chairman, a project entitled Transparency Sierra Leone (TSL) is in the process of being implemented in the country. This is a Government initiative aimed at redefining the way Government communicates, and provides information to the public on what Government is doing; creating an unprecedented level of openness in government and a novel in West Africa. The initial project introducing the TSL brand is the Transparency Sierra Leone Portal. The portal will give Government the opportunity to improve the quality of public debate by enhancing citizens’ access to Government information in registries, spanning the panoply of Government development projects.
- My Government is making frantic efforts to address the inherited distortions in appointment to public office. Appointment to public office is today made on the basis of qualification, experience and merit rather than on ethno-regional considerations. Every ethnic group, region and gender is represented in my cabinet.
- Mr. Chairman, on the issue of political and electoral violence, my Government has taken a firm stance against perpetrators of violence irrespective of their political affiliation. It is also noteworthy that several mechanisms have been established to ensure political tolerance among the various political parties. These include the All Political Parties Youth Association (APPYA), the All Political Parties Women’s Association (APPWA) and the All Political Parties Association (APPA) and the Political Parties Registration Commission.
- Mr. Chairman, the current 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone is now 20 years old and therefore in need of review and modernization. To this effect, as part of the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, I established the Sierra Leone Conference on Development and Transformation. The review and modernization of the Constitution is a key area of focus for the conference. This will give the people of Sierra Leone an opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations on constitutional government for the next 50 years.
- Mr. Chairman, the judiciary of Sierra Leone is committed to fulfilling its vision of bringing quality justice to the people of Sierra Leone, without which there will be no lasting peace and the maintenance of the Rule of Law. The Judiciary is also in line with the government’s agenda of improving the investment climate in Sierra Leone, attract investment and improve the socio-economic infrastructure of the country. In response to this, the judiciary has set up the Fast Track Commercial Court which became fully operational in May 2011. The court has three judges tasked with fast tracking commercial cases and clearing outstanding backlogs. The Judiciary’s Training Institute is also fully functional and various training activities are on-going regularly.
- Since the visit of the APRM Country Review Mission (APRM-CRM) in June 2011, the judiciary has recruited six additional judges, taking the strength of the bench from 18 then to 24, similarly five new magistrates have been recruited and the magisterial strength is now 23. This will improve the delays in trials and help clear the backlog of cases. The Legal Aid Bill has been finalized, and should be passed by Parliament soon.
- Mr. Chairman, the Local Courts Act 2011 (Act No 10 of 2011) has been passed and was published on the 27th October 2011. The Act now reintegrates the Local Courts into the Legal System, bringing it under the Office of the Chief Justice from the Ministry of Local Government where it was before. The Act makes provision for structures that will promote and protect human rights and enhance rights enforcement in rural areas, including provision for more research on customary law by customary law officers with a view of restating the customary laws and making them accessible and consistent in application.
- Mr. Chairman, in February 2008, the Government of Sierra Leone initiated a range of reform measures to transform the Public Service of Sierra Leone into a modern and efficient organization. A review of the Public Sector Reform Framework for 2008-2012 revealed that the functions of the Public Service Commission (PSC) in the ensuing years were envisaged to consist of “the development and application of policy frameworks as well as the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of these policies in the public sector in ICT, Recruitment and Selection, Training Policy, Public Sector Pay and Performance Appraisal’. To effectively exercise these strategic roles, the PSC undertook an internal review of its functions and mandates so as to first of all reorganize and strengthen itself. Outcome from the above was the preparation of a Management and Functional Review followed by the preparation of a 3-year strategic Plan 2011-2013 which is now in progress. The Commission at the same time has put in place a system of competency based recruitment which involves written entrance examination at sub graduate and graduate entry levels, followed by some elements of in-tray exercises. The process of reform continues.
- Mr. Chairman, it pleases me to inform this forum that mining in Sierra Leone is being guided by the new Minerals Act of 2009 and will be regulated by our robust Mining Regulations to be administered by the National Minerals Agency. As outlined in the Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies for 2012, a key focus of Government will be on improving transparency and accountability in the management of mineral and petroleum revenues to ensure that Sierra Leoneans realize the full benefits of the mining sector. The National Minerals Agency, which will be established in 2012, is aimed at improving governance in the mining sector. As a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, Government is taking measures to increase transparency in the mining sector. My government has also established an online repository located on the website of the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources that will contain details of all mining revenues to Government. The aim is to allow Sierra Leoneans to gain access to mining revenues information at all times.
- My Government certainly acknowledges the need for reforms that will boost economic growth and thus reduce poverty. Accordingly, my Government continues to implement a number of structural and institutional reforms designed to improve the efficient functioning of the economy. Thus, in addition to macroeconomic stability, Government is implementing Public Financial Management Reforms, including budget formulation, expenditure management, revenue administration, public sector accounting, recording and reporting, prompt internal and external audit.
- The global economic and financial crisis definitely had some impact on the economy in the form of reduced export performance and inward remittances in-flow, accelerated depreciation of the exchange rate and ultimately slower economic growth. However, my Government in collaboration with our development partners designed a macro response that was implemented in the third quarter of 2009. The short term counter-cyclical response consisted of a fiscal response and an accommodating monetary policy. Accordingly, the economy grew steadily, greater than the average for Sub-Saharan Africa. Economic growth rebounded in 2010 to 5.0 percent, also above the average for Sub-Saharan Africa of 4.9 percent reflecting in part on the huge investment in infrastructure and agriculture.
- My Government’s allocation to the social sectors has been growing significantly during the past four years despite the significant increase in capital expenditure to accommodate the infrastructure investment. However, as a Government we agree with the Country Review Mission regarding the adequate expansion of investment in social services. One of the key objectives of the 2012 budget is to continue to expand basic services in health, education and water. Total allocation to health and education in 2012 amounted to 6.8 percent and 8.5 percent of total budget respectively.
- My Government continues to implement reforms to increase the role of the private sector in the economy. As a result, Sierra Leone is ranked among the top ten global reformers in the 2012 Doing Business Report published by the World Bank. Government Budget and Statement of Economic and Financial Policies for 2012 clearly indicates that the National Commission for Privatisation has completed the preparatory phase of reforms and divestiture of public enterprises and is now moving to the implementation phase.
- Mr. Chairman, my Government agrees with the observation of the Country Review Mission in the area of broadening the tax base as an integral part of the National Revenue Authority (NRA) modernization plans. Government introduced the Goods and Services Tax in 2010, a form of Value Added Tax, which has proven to be a resounding success and has contributed towards the creation of fiscal space for Government spending.
- Mr. Chairman, my Government critically recognises how important it is for Sierra Leone to undertake adequate measures to mobilise domestic revenue and gradually reduce donor dependency. In this regard, serious efforts have been made by my Government and some development partners to enable the National Revenue Authority make tremendous strides to improve its effectiveness in collecting revenue to meet government fiscal target. The Authority’s revenue collection accounts for about 60 percent of government spending since 2009. This is the outcome of several reform measures on strengthening institutional capacity, integrating and expanding processes and operations and gradually shifting reliance on domestic revenue.
- Mr. Chairman, there are on-going efforts to revise Sierra Leone’s land legislation. In particular, the Provinces Land Act has been reviewed under the auspices of the Law Reform Commission. The work of the Law Reform Commission is being carried out in-tandem with the formulation of a new National Land Policy Document.
- Government has over the years been making serious efforts to address the youth problem. In November 2009, Parliament enacted the “National Youth Commission Act” which laid the foundation for the establishment and operationalization of the National Youth Commission which major policy objective is to provide an enabling environment for: (i) creation of employment opportunities for the youth and develop medium and long term strategies, (ii) Initiate youth development programmes in collaboration with relevant governmental and non governmental bodies.
- The National Youth Commission was formally launched on the 25th November 2011 with the special mandate to address Skills Training, Capacity Building and Empowerment for Sustainable Development. Accordingly, Skills Training and Capacity Building Centres are being supported by Government to ensure that youths are enrolled at these institutions to enable them acquire skills which will make them self reliant. Also, for the first time since Sierra Leone got independence in 1961, a separate Ministry called the Ministry of Youth Employment and Sports has been established to exclusively address youth problems.
- Mr. Chairman, there is need to put the records straight with regards the fight against corruption in Sierra Leone. There has been no political interference in the work of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC). This is evident in the high profile cases sent to court recently, a success that results from the strong anti-corruption Act that is now in place. This success in the fight against corruption has recently won the ACC international recognition.
- Mr. Chairman, it is true that electricity supply was abysmal in the country before the commissioning of Bumbuna in 2009. Old thermal plants were broken down and had been out of use in all District headquarter towns. Electricity production continued to drop from an estimated 245 million kwh in 2005 to less than half this amount in 2007. My Government’s intervention in a bid to address the growing energy crisis upon assumption of the reins of power in 2007 saw the putting in place of a number of short, medium and long-term measures. These include (i) a one-year emergency power generation scheme for the Western Area; (ii) completion of the Bumbuna hydro project; (iii) the Moroccan intervention to strengthen the transmission/distribution network; (iv) a 22.68 mw BADEA project; (v) a 10 mw JICA project ; and (vi) the envisaged BEKONGOR project. Furthermore, a rural electrification sub-project seeks to improve the utilization of educational, health, water and sanitation (WATSAN) facilities and community centres and enhance the viability of small agro enterprises by linking them with renewable solar power.
- Mr. Chairman, it is deliberate that I have chosen to end my presentation with a note on women’s empowerment. My Government is committed to implementing the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) that women’s representation in public office at decision-making levels be increased to 30%. I have now made several public pronouncements to this effect.
I thank you for your attention.
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