His Excellency the President Julius Maada Bio (G.C.R.S.L.), President of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces on the occasion of the State Opening of the Second Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone in the Chamber of Parliament Building Tower Hill, Freetown On Thursday, 2nd May, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members of this august body, I committed in my maiden address to this body on May 10, 2018 to transforming the economy, creating the ecosystem for investment and private sector growth, investing in human capital development, and making wide ranging institutional and governance reforms.
The backdrop to my maiden address in 2018 was a weakened economy, withdrawal of development partners, and a palpable loss of faith in the good governance of the state. At this State Opening of the Second session of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic, we stand on the threshold of renewed hope and confidence for our citizens, investors, and development partners.
National Development Planning
- Speaker, Honourable Members, to restore planning, coordination, monitoring, and evaluation of public investments funded by Government, development partners and NGOs, we have successfully divorced the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development from the Ministry of Finance. The former leads in planning capital projects whilst the later handles all fiduciary matters as provided for in our National Constitution. The new Ministry of Planning and Economic Development has produced a series of development policy documents including the Child Poverty Report; the Population Policy, and the Development Cooperation Framework (DCF) and is at an advanced stage in the preparation of the country’s first Public Investment Policy. The DCF provides rules and regulations for the operations of NGOs in Sierra Leone.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the aspirations of my Government have been formally articulated in the Medium Term National Development Plan, “Education for Development”. The total cost of the Plan is US$8.15 million of which US$4.5 million will be mobilized from domestic sources and foreign commitment with a projected financing gap of US$3.65 million.
- The Plan, which shall henceforth inform the Annual Budget, defines 8 clusters as follows: human capital development; diversifying the economy and promoting growth; infrastructure and economic competitiveness, governance and accountability for results; empowering women, children, adolescents and Persons Living with Disabilities; youth employment, sports and migration; addressing vulnerabilities and rebuilding resilience, and the means of Implementation.
- The Ministry has also formalised guidelines for development operations at national, sectoral, district and community levels titled National Development Planning Guidelines. The Ministry has conducted an assessment of all district planning offices and will establish and strengthen these offices to plan and coordinate development activities at the district level. My Government has also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with external financing organisations to develop bankable projects that will be used to mobilise resources not only from traditional sources but non-traditional sources including the private sector.
- The National Monitoring and Evaluation Department has been created in the Ministry with a mandate to create an effective national institutional policy framework to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the Medium Term National Development Plan and other Government and donor funded projects.
Human Capital Development
- Speaker, Honourable Members, you would recall that human capital development which we consider as both a means and an end of development is the central pillar of my administration. This includes education and training, health care and social protection. Our primary objective as a government is to increase access to quality pre-primary, primary, secondary, technical and vocational education and training as well as university education that will enable our citizens to engage in meaningful and productive economic activity.
Basic and Secondary School Education
- Speaker, Honourable Members, in fulfilment of our electoral promise, my Government launched the Free Quality School Education (FQSE) programme in August 2018. It benefits 2.14 million pupils in Government-owned and Government-assisted pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools. The planning for the programme was informed by data from a National School Census collected with the support of DFID and the World Bank.
- To demonstrate our commitment to education, my Government has increased and sustained budgetary allocation to education to 21% in 2018 Supplementary Budget and 2019 Budget.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, as promised 12 months ago, Government established a Multi-Partner Fund to mobilise additional resources and ensure effective coordination of support of this programme. A High Level Inter-Ministerial and Partners Group (IMPG) on Free Education comprising relevant ministries and partners was set up to provide strategic guidance to the planning and design of the programme, mobilise resources, and oversee implementation. A Technical Group (TG) on Education comprising professionals from the relevant MDAs and partner agencies was established to design, coordinate and monitor the implementation of the programme. The Technical Group will report to the High Level Inter-Ministerial and Partners Group.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, for the first two terms of the implementation of this Programme, I am very pleased to report that Government has paid a little over Le 66 billion as subsidies to over 4,007 schools. Government has also provided teaching and learning materials to all schools. In addition, Government has developed a book distribution and handling policy that actively involves Local Council and District Education Offices.
- Government has also invested in school infrastructure and feeding. A total of Le 3 billion was provided for the provision of furniture to 90 schools most in need and another Le 3 billion for the rehabilitation of 50 schools. Additionally, 210,000 pupils in Koinadugu, Falaba, Kambia, Pujehun and Tonkolili are currently benefitting from the National School Feeding Programme and Le 69 billion is allocated for the remaining 11 districts.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the 2019 budget provided for the recruitment of 5,000 additional teachers. By the end of December 2018, 2,202 teachers retired and are now being replaced with new teachers, of whom 1,432 teachers have received pin codes and 1,112 are now on the payroll. The Teaching Service Commission has received and is processing 12,000 applications for recruitment and over 1,075 have been recruited.
- Additionally, Government has paid backlog for all public examinations including NPSE, BECE and WASSCE, successfully conducted public examinations with increased numbers of candidates sitting and passing, and funded the hosting of the 67th Annual (International) Meeting of West African Examinations Council (WAEC).
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the design of the FQSE Programme recognises the role of school inspectors in monitoring and supervising teachers and ensure effective learning. To this end, Government is recruiting over 150 school inspectors who shall be provided mobility and fuel support to visit schools as frequently as possible. Additionally, Government has established District Education Committees and Ward Education Committees and strengthening Boards of Governors of Secondary Schools and School Management Committees to support school and education governance.
- I am also pleased to inform you that, in fulfilment of our electoral promise, the 6-3-4-4 system of education has been abolished and replaced with the 6-3-3-4 system and the two-shift system is being eliminated in schools.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, our bold move to initiate the Free Education Programme has impressed development partners and put Sierra Leone on the global agenda for education. The World Bank has endorsed Sierra Leone as one of the early adopters of human capital development and both the Ministers of Basic and Secondary School Education and Finance are being invited to global platforms to share experiences. Mrs. Melinda Gates publicly acknowledged my government as a champion for human capital development during the World Bank/ IMF Annual Meeting in 2018 in Bali, Indonesia with the theme “Investing in Human Capital Development”.
- Consequently, there has been considerable support for the programme and we anticipate that our partners will do more. Within 12 months, a total of US $ 17.2 million was secured from DFID through the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and implemented by UNICEF. The European Union 11th EDF Project implementation costing 29 million Euros has commenced. By June this year, the World Bank will submit to its Board for approval the sum of US$70 million for the Free Quality School Education. BADEA will also submit to its Board in June this year, a project costing about US$45 million for the rehabilitation of 4 government senior secondary schools (Kenema Government Secondary School, Prince of Wales, Government Secondary School, Bo Government Secondary School and the Magburaka Government Secondary School for Boys); 2 teacher training colleges (Milton Margai Teachers College and Bunumbu Teachers College); and the construction of a multi-storey headquarter block.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, initial assessment of the Free Quality School Education is very positive. Enrolment at primary level increased by at least 90,000 between 2017/18 and 2018/19 and nearly 10,000 at Junior Secondary School. This indicates the programme is providing opportunities for persons who would not have gone to school in the absence of such a programme. The programme has also reduced household spending on education and the subsidy to schools and the elimination of school fees provides savings for families which they can now use for consumption or investment. To put this in context, imagine a family that spends Le 500,000 on school fees and learning materials for 3 children, this family now saves Le 1.5 million a year, which is more than start-up capital for some small businesses.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, we fully recognize and we will address the concerns of teachers. Government is committed to raising the morale and productivity of our teachers. The Teaching Service Commission (TSC) is now fully functional. We have completed the transfer of teacher management functions to the TSC, transferred teacher payroll management function from the Accountant General’s Office to the TSC, and we are rolling out the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) in the TSC. A Teacher Records Repository has been established at the TSC and the TSC has completed the symbolic commissioning of TSC District Offices in all 14 districts. The TSC is now working on the recruitment, re-assessment and replacement of teachers as well as teacher reassessment and promotion. The TSC has also developed policy guidelines for registering, licensing, and managing teachers. The Commission has also conducted baseline study on characteristics of teacher training providers and developed Performance Management and Standards for teachers.
- The Ministry is working with the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) to commence the THE BEST TEACHER award for the most innovative, ingenious, and dedicated teachers at national and district levels. The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education will automatically award grants-in-aid to a maximum of 3 children of a teacher who has taught for at least 10 years.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, we are committed to increasing the salaries of teachers. Government awaits the outcome of the ongoing negotiations between the Sierra Leone Teachers Union (SLTU) and the Ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social security for increase salaries and improved conditions of services for teachers.
- Speaker, Free Education has increased demand for school places. In anticipation, we will continue to pursue the policy of One-Administrative Section-One Primary School, One-Electoral Ward-One Junior Secondary School and One-Electoral Constituency-One-Senior Secondary School. Additionally, my Government will construct new classroom blocks in urban towns to reduce congestion in schools and eventually eliminate the two-shift system in the next few years.
- We also remain committed to addressing the huge cost of transportation for school going children particularly in Freetown and other urban towns. I am also pleased to report that part payment has been effected and the final inspection of 50 school buses has been done and the buses are expected soon. These buses will be managed by the local councils and will be run on a cost recovery basis.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, improving education governance is critical for the success of the New Direction in education. To this end, my Government has reviewed the Education Sector Plan and aligned it with the national development priorities. Government is also strengthening Education Management and Information System (EMIS) to support informed strategic decision-making. We have also commenced the development of a robust policy and legal framework for Public-Private-Partnership in the education sector.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the amounts of public spending on fee subsidy for university education is unsustainable. Whilst we will improve on the management of the Grants-in-Aid policy, my administration will introduce a Students Loan Scheme that will provide loans to deserving students to access higher education. Already, a Cabinet Paper has been prepared for discussion.
Technical and Higher Education
- Speaker, Honourable Members, in the first year of my Government, we delivered a key election promise by establishing a separate Ministry of Technical and Higher Education. This new Ministry, among other things, provides effective oversight of tertiary, technical and vocational sectors of the national education system for effective service delivery in the country.
- Despite the huge challenges of starting a new Ministry, a comprehensive assessment of all existing facilities has been carried out and we are in the process of providing equipment for these facilities. To this end, Government has secured a US$20 million loan from the World Bank for supporting Skills Development in both the formal and informal sectors. The main objective of this project is to increase access to demand-led skills training and build the foundations for a demand-led skills development system in Sierra Leone. It will focus on increasing access to quality skills provisions that will contribute to improving Sierra Leone’s economic competitiveness and the promotion of sustainable and inclusive development. The project will target selected training institutions that wish to improve the relevance and quality of their training programs and to introduce new short courses for out-of-school unemployed and underemployed youths, with a focus on girls. It also aims to improve access to demand-responsive TVET programs focusing on Formal TVET and Informal TVET, through among other things: (i) upgrading of curricula;
- purchasing learning resources; (iii) training of instructors; (iv) providing industrial attachments; (v) twinning arrangements; (vi) providing career counselling and internships; and (vii) conducting training needs assessment and tracer studies. It will also target businesses in the productive sectors (agriculture, fisheries, mining, construction and tourism) that need to address the skills gaps to expand their production and markets, or to upgrade their production process to climb higher up the value chain, including co-financing short- to medium term training aimed at upgrading the skills of current and potential employees. The Ministry will also establish at least one Functional Literacy Centre using existing school facilities.
- In the ensuing years, Government will vigorously pursue the development of a national apprenticeship scheme which can provide internship for trainees of TVET institutes and at the same time provide direct training for youth, develop a more robust Public-Private-Partnership framework to increase private sector participation in TVET training. Also, Government is committed to establishing in every district capital one institution that will be fully equipped with modern tools and equipment for technical vocational education and training in areas with high potential for job creation.
- The Ministry of Technical and Higher Education has improved the governance in the technical and higher education sector, developed their capacity and their effectiveness through continuous quality assurance, negotiated partnerships that improve research, science, technology, and innovation and also finalised bankable projects to develop infrastructure.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government has demonstrated more political will than any Government in support of tertiary education by disbursing a total of Le49 billion for just Quarter 1. The management of our tertiary institutions has been challenging. Before the establishment of a separate Ministry for Technical and Higher Education, oversight of these institutions had been weak. Despite Government budgetary allocation to these institutions, some do not even pay PAYE tax to NRA or workers contributions to NASSIT and even benefits to retired workers. These institutions have hired staff without consideration to budgetary provisions. Often, the payment of staff salaries is not prioritised. This has resulted in frequent strike actions. To address this, Government is now integrating salaries and compensation of staff of tertiary institutions with the central payroll system. As in the case of the schools where Teacher Service Commission manages the payroll, payment management of staff of the tertiary institutions will henceforth be transferred to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC). All staff payrolls will now be processed along with general payroll.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government waived off the fees for university and tertiary institution application forms from 2018/2019 academic year. This was estimated to cost Le5.6 billion and total target beneficiaries of about 15,000 students who applied to tertiary institution for admission.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the Ministry reserved automatic Sierra Leone grant-in-aid award to newly admitted students reading Agriculture, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Engineering at the University of Sierra Leone, Njala University, Ernest Bai Koroma University, Eastern Polytechnic, Milton Margai College of Education and Technology and Freetown Teachers College. Female students in STEM disciplines will also be automatically awarded grant-in-aid.
- In order to reduce budgetary pressures from fee subsidies, Government is finalising details of the Student Loan Scheme following a multi-agency study tour to Ghana, Tanzania and Malawi to study best practices in peer countries. Stakeholder consultations are underway and a draft Bill will be presented to Cabinet and subsequently to Parliament for enactment.
- We continue to benefit from external scholarships from various countries. The Ministry recommended 256 candidates for international scholarships offers in various countries. In addition, 11 women beneficiaries are in the Barefoot College in India, undergoing training for the Rural Women in Solar Electrification and Rainwater harvesting.
- My Government has concluded negotiation for a loan for the establishment of a Centre of Excellence for ICT education on Bonthe Island to provide world class ICT training to Sierra Leoneans and other nationals. Already, a 15-acre plot of land has been secured for the construction of the centre. The loan agreement will soon be discussed in Cabinet and submitted to this House for ratification.
- The Universities Act of 2005 has been reviewed and draft Act will be presented to Cabinet and subsequently to Parliament. The Act aims at strengthening the governance of our Universities. Government strongly encourages and welcomes internal institutional reforms at various tertiary institutions that will make those institutions more effective.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, you would recall that the strategic objective of health in the New Direction is to transform the under-resourced, ill-equipped, dysfunctional and inadequate health infrastructure and healthcare delivery system to make it high quality, efficient, reliable, cost-effective, affordable, and sustainable.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, my administration increased budgetary allocations for health to 10% of public expenditure in 2019 from 6% in 2018. Additionally, my administration has given concurrence for the hiring of 4,000 additional health workers of all critical cadres to address the challenge of human resource gap in the sector. Out of this, 1,500 were recruited before March and 2,500 will be hired before September 2019.
- Under the health system strengthening programme, supported by Global Fund, Ministry of Health and Sanitation will upscale 200 State Enrolled Community Health Nurses (SECHN) to State Registered Nurses (SRN) and 20 SRN to Nurse and Midwife Tutors. Selected candidates have commenced training on the 4th March 2019. Also, Under the health system strengthening programme, supported by the World Bank, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation will upscale 200 certificate Midwives to Diploma Midwives and select 50 of those for 1 year training as Tutors in Nursing/Midwifery
- Speaker, Honourable Members, Government has introduced three types of allowances to compensate clinical workers for remote locations, on call duties, and occupational health and safety concerns. This is expected to motivate our health workers to work in remote areas and in clinics.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government has launched the National Emergency Ambulance Services with 167 ambulances being repaired. So far, a total of 58 ambulances have been distributed and are actively used, plus one spare ambulance per district.
- To enhance vaccinations, 220 solar-powered fridges have been installed nationwide and 235 items of drugs worth US$2.9 million have been distributed to every public health facility in the country and additional procurement for beddings and uniforms for all public facilities and health workers.
- On health care infrastructure, in the last 12 months, my Government has upgraded the Connaught hospital with the completion and opening of a new emergency triage, the construction of the Maternal and Children’s Hospital at Hangha Road Hospital, Kenema, and the completion of the Makali Community Health Centre (CHC) that is provided with ultramodern equipment and a solar-mini-grid system.
- Ministry of Health and Sanitation has strengthened disease prevention, surveillance and control through the launch of the One Health Approach. For instance, in 2018, Marburg Virus was effectively controlled through effective surveillance. A total of 293 motorbikes have been distributed across the country to enhance the surveillance function of districts and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has obtained 14 acres of land to build the West African Tropical Research Institute, which will ultimately be part of the National Public Health Agency. Also, I have directed that all monies recovered by the Anti-Corruption Commission will be used as seed money to construct a National Diagnostic Centre which has recently been approved by Cabinet. Government is now mobilising additional financing for constructing and equipping the centre.
- In the coming years, we will scale up our efforts in health care development focusing particularly on health governance, health financing; human resource; free health care; disease prevention and control, and service delivery.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, youth (persons 15-35 years) account for about 33% of the country’s population and representing about 63% of the economically active population of which 67% are unemployed partly because they are untrained for the job market and due to limited job opportunities in the narrow private sector. This was the explanation for the adage in 2008 “global” and now “dae gron dry”. It is imperative that we robustly address the challenge of youth unemployment.
- During the past 12 months of my administration, some of the initiatives of the Ministry of Youth to create jobs include the following: Firstly, the Ministry trained and certified 510 young people in different live skills programmes and commissioned 200 youth corps to facilitate national cohesion and support programme delivery to all regions and districts across the country. Secondly, through the Livelihood Skills Programme, the Ministry has started the construction of ten car wash centres across the Western Area (Rural and Urban) and intends to roll it out to other districts. Thirdly, with support from the ADB, SALWACO recruited youth plumbers who have received refresher training in SLOIC and Eastern Polytechnic to actively undertake service connections for domestic and public consumers. Fourthly, we have launched the Career Advisory and Placement Service Centres in Eastern Polytechnic and the Ernest Bai Koroma University of Science and Technology (EBKUST). With support from the United Nations Development Programme, the National Youth Commission piloted this project at the University of Sierra Leone and Njala University with the overarching goal to empower university students and alumni to achieve lifelong success through seamless access to transformative global experiences, comprehensive and holistic career services that will improve the pathways from universities to employers. Fifthly, the African Development Bank is supporting the Government of Sierra Leone to implement a three year Youth Entrepreneurship and employment project with funding from the Fund for African Private Sector Assistance (FAPA) and the Transition Support Facility (TSF). The specific objective of this pilot project is to provide career guidance and counselling to 2,400 youths; train 20 TVET instructors; enhance supervisory skills of at least 100 graduates in collaboration with private sector partners; train 150 youth in three selected priority trades needed by the private sector and be linked to employers or capacitated to become entrepreneurs; support 60 youth to start and manage businesses through mentoring; and to enhance the image and attractiveness of Technical Vocational Education and Training.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, the practice of providing handouts to our youth is not sustainable and cannot change the lives of our youth. My administration has commenced concrete action to promote youth entrepreneurship. Through the Ministry of Youth Affairs, we have initiated consultations with youth entrepreneurs from Belgium, Sweizzy, Lumley, Makeni, Bo, Kenema, Kono and other places and started the design of a National Programme on youth entrepreneurship. The logic of this programme is to provide capital to our youths and empower them to import goods of their choice and eventually owed and manage shops. We anticipate that the first batch of youth entrepreneurs will leave Freetown within the next six months.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, in the New Direction, we shall continue to view youth unemployment as a human capital development and security challenge and will adopt a holistic, integrated and coherent approach to create jobs. Whilst we shall continue with the Free Quality Education to increase access of youth to secondary education, provide both grant-in-aid and loans to our youth in tertiary institutions, provide technical and vocational education for youth who have little or limited education as well as those that cannot enter university, we will soon launch the Youth Empowerment Fund to promote youth entrepreneurs and non-farm activities. Regarding youth in agriculture, we will support youth through provision of tractors, training and extension services, improved seedlings and farm implement and post-harvest support in every chiefdom in the next 4 years to enable them establish youth farms.
Women, Children and Persons Living with Disabilities
- Speaker, Honourable Members, a fight against poverty means a fight for women’s empowerment, child protection and social protection for persons living with disabilities.
- In terms of promoting female entrepreneurs, Government in partnership with ECOWAS through support from the Spanish NEPAD fund has commenced the Business Incubator for African Women Entrepreneurship (BIAWE) in Sierra Leone targeting the most vulnerable women particularly women in agro-business. Government has allocated the sum of Le 2 billion as part of the capital budget for the Women’s Development Fund for female Entrepreneurs in the 2019 Budget. The aim of the Fund is to provide seed capital for female traders and entrepreneurs to enable them start small businesses.
- The Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy has been drafted awaiting Cabinet approval. This policy will lay the foundation for the establishment of the National Gender Affairs Commission and the affirmative action quota of minimum 30 percent representation in governance at all levels as mentioned in the State Opening of Parliament in May 2018.
- Government through the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs has concluded the drafting of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BDPfA) +25 Country assessment report and the deadline of May 1, 2019 submission date was met.
- With respect to disability, the Ministry is now finalising the first country report on the status of implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD); demonstrating compliance with treaty reporting obligations. Additionally, the Government of Sierra Leone and the Government of Guinea has signed Memorandum of Understanding on the socio-economic and cultural development of persons with disabilities in both countries. Also, the National Commission for Social Action has now expanded the Social Safety Net Programme (Cash Transfer) to cover persons with disabilities.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, efforts in the area of child support has been largely in the area of policy and legal framework. Specific accomplishments cover the following: First, Government has reviewed and increased budgetary resources for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act of 2012. There is now a public emergency on rape and sexual violence. Second, Cabinet has approved the revised Sexual Offences Act 2012 to appropriately deal with issues of rape and sexual violence country wide and this will be tabled to this House for ratification. Third, Government has recently launched the National Strategy on the Reduction of Adolescents Pregnancy and Child Marriage and the Child Welfare and Alternative Policies. Implementation of both the strategy and policies are underway. Fourth, Government has also developed a Medium-Term Plan to combat the increasing spate of human trafficking and smuggling in country, and as part of this plan a revised Anti-Human Trafficking Bill has been drafted. A Rapid Response Plan involving nationwide awareness raising and training of professionals is being implemented. Government has so far provided psychosocial support services (including counselling) to over 1,000 returning migrants. Furthermore, Government has commenced the review of the Adoption Act of 1989 and ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption.
- Additionally, to strengthen capacity of the Ministry and Local council, the Ministry has conducted Human Resource Capacity Gap Analysis to strengthen the capacity of both the ministry and local councils in social service delivery.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, it is embarrassing to the state to see our disabled brothers and sisters running after us in vehicles begging for handouts. It is even more emotional to see teenagers who are supposed to be attending school carrying our disabled brothers and sisters around. The boys often a time resort to thieving, and drug abuse, and the girls are sexually abused. Undoubtedly, addressing this problem is quite challenging. Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, my administration has decided to start now. We are now designing a Livelihood Programme for this category of vulnerable persons. This programme which will be initially funded from the budget as pilot will provide basic skills and finance to Persons Living with Disabilities and also create opportunity for the many teenagers who carry them around to attend school.
- In the coming years, Government will focus on implementation of the policies and enforce the laws relating to women, persons living with disabilities and children. Specifically, making public facilities disabled friendly, providing special incentives for Teachers in Special Needs Institutions, health care for the physically challenged and the aged and livelihood support to persons living with disability for economic empowerment.
Fighting Corruption and Improving Accountability
- Speaker, Honourable Members, fighting corruption and improving accountability is the hallmark of my administration. Over the last 12 months, we have changed the leadership of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), amended the Act to strengthen the civil powers of the ACC and make the Assets Declaration Regime more manageable, efficient and effective and to increase the penalties for serious corruption offences, established a special court for corruption cases with special judges to try corruption offences speedily and efficiently. Prosecutions are now moving faster and investigations covering all spheres of public life with no room for impunity with 100% conviction rate. The ACC has recovered over Le 12 Billion (Over $1,500,000.00) of funds lost through corruption and corrupt practices. Le 6 Billion to be recovered at the completion of investigations in the next 6 months will be committed to the provision of social services. This recovery rate within one year is almost equivalent to what the ACC has ever collected in its 18-year existence as a whole.
- Government launched the three Commissions of Inquiry which are presently investigating former officials of the previous government in a bid to ensure democratic accountability. The work of the Commission is progressing satisfactorily and it is now clear it was never intended to be a witch hunt contrary to what our detractors have been saying.
- Additionally, Government has conducted special audits of all arrears in Government and technical audits of 4 sectors -telecommunications, roads, energy and social security. The Ministry of Finance has estimated that a total sum of US$ 1billion was missing. Whilst Parliament will continue with its discussions of the Report, the ACC has started investigations of financial impropriety. The results of the technical audit can also be helpful to the Commission of Inquiry. I have also directed the Ministry of Finance to work with respective institutions to implement the structural recommendations with a view to restoring efficiency in the sector.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, Sierra Leone passed the Millennium Challenge Corporations’ Control of Corruption Scorecard from a failing position of 49% in 2017 to a respectable pass of 71% in 2018. Afro Barometer Corruption Perception dropped from over 70% in 2015-2017 to an all-time low of 43% in 2018. Similarly, according to Afro Barometer Corruption Perception survey of 2018, Citizens’ belief in government’s effort in the fight against corruption jumped from an all-time low of 40% to over 66% in 2018. Generally, the citizens’ confidence in the fight against corruption and the results being produced by the ACC is at an all-time high under the New Direction.
Strengthening Democratic Institutions
- My Government remains committed to strengthening democratic institutions including the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Independent Media Commission (IMC), National Commission for Democracy (NCD), and Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC).
- We continue to be committed to restoring the autonomy of these institutions and creating the necessary enabling environment to execute their statutory mandate and to serve the people of Sierra Leone well. The ongoing work on the review of the laws and policies guiding the functions of democratic institutions will be fast tracked in order to develop the capacities of democratic institutions through adequate funding, qualified and competent human resources, as well as efficient and effective systems and procedures.
Fourth Estate and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)
- The Media and civil society have become the bedrock of modern governance. In Sierra Leone, the media and CSOs are at the forefront in holding state actors accountable. In early 2000, Government set up the Independent Media Commission (IMC) and charged it with the task of regulating and monitoring media institutions to ensure that they operate in a way that promotes the public good. However, the IMC has failed to enforce its own ethics and like most democratic institutions, it has not escaped political interference from past Governments. Government has restructured the leadership of the IMC with a view to improving on delivery of its mandate.
- In 2009, the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) was transformed into a national broadcaster and renamed the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation. Its mandate enjoins it to be impartial and to provide equal opportunities to all political parties. My Government is committed to ensuring that the Board and staff meet the corporation’s original mandate.
- Speaker, Honourable Members, we are still committed to repealing the seditious libel law. Consistent with the pledge to repeal the obnoxious Section of the Public Order Act 1965, which criminalizes defamation and seditious libel, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has held consultations with key stakeholders including the Law Officers Department, and the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists amongst others to adopt the appropriate strategy. The draft cabinet paper requesting the amendment of the Public Order Act 1965 has been submitted to the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for her concurrence.
Rule of Law, Promoting Justice and Human Rights
- Speaker, one of the key priorities that the Government committed to last year is the advancement of the “Rule of Law, Promotion of Justice and Human Rights.” We stated that our “New Direction Government “will as a matter of utmost urgency undertake an overhaul of the judiciary and the justice delivery system in the country with a view to restoring public confidence in its independence and impartiality and make justice accessible and available for all”. We promised to facilitate a national dialogue on justice systems to ensure impartiality, availability and accessibility to all, enhance the services of legal aid and work with stakeholders to enhance effective and efficient Judicial service delivery. We have also elaborated our commitments to justice more clearly within the National Development Plan. Here are some of the steps we have taken in the past year to address our commitments to justice.
- Speaker, for the first time in this country we hosted a Justice conference in October 2018 that brought together several Justice Ministers from United Nations member-states, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to deliberate on how we can accelerate the delivery of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 to ensure equal access to justice for all our people. My government through the Attorney-General’s Office is providing the global leadership that is required to realize SDG 16 by Co-chairing the Task Force on Justice to develop the “Justice for All” Report; an initiative to accelerate delivery of the SDG 16 targets for peaceful, just and inclusive societies. Work is ongoing with our local communities and stakeholders, on continuing the dialogue on how we can provide justice systems alongside our formal Justice institutions, that empower them to recognize and take action to tackle their justice problems. How best to make services available to them that are less expensive, speedy and efficient and that will be responsive to their justice needs.
- Speaker, we consider that protection of Human rights is an antidote to injustice. We have therefore moved quickly to constitute five new commissioners as provided for by the Law ensuring the representation of women and the regional balance that is required. I can also report that there has been a progressive increase in the number of complaints received by the commission suggesting an increase in public confidence in the institution. We further demonstrated our commitment to protection of human rights for our investors and our people, by hosting a Side-Event at the United Nations General Assembly for the first time in our country’s history, to identify ways to leverage a rights-based approach to business in Sierra Leone. The recommendations address how we can promote and protect foreign investment, end exploitation of our people and corruption and bribery in business through effective, accountable, and transparent institutions. And we have constituted the policy and legal framework for this around an Investment Board.
- On Legal Aid programme, we have increased the number of persons that have access to justice. Since we took over the Government in 2018, a total of one hundred and six thousand, six hundred and fifty-five (106,655) people benefitted from the scheme indicating an increase of twenty three thousand, six hundred and two (23,602), compared to 2017, when eighty-three thousand and fifty-three (83,053) people benefitted from the scheme. Through this scheme, we demonstrated our concern to protect the vulnerable especially women and children so a total of thirty thousand and nine (30,009) females and thirty-nine thousand, eight hundred and thirty-four (39,834) children benefitted from the scheme in 2018. As promised, also, a Curriculum and Training Manual has been developed for the Training of Paralegals’ in Sierra Leone, and the Judicial and Legal Training Institute is soon to commence the legal trainings that is desired to enhance their services.
- With respect to overhauling the judiciary, Mr Speaker, we have approved the appointment of several judges for the High Court, Appeals Court and Supreme Court and administered by a new Chief Justice. We aim to ensure an efficient system of delivering justice that is fair and impartial and accessible to service the people of Sierra Leone.
- In the Criminal Justice delivery system, Mr Speaker, the state completed a total number of eight-hundred and sixty-five (865) cases country-wide, securing convictions of seven hundred and twenty-three (723), a profound increase from the previous year. But we also inherited overcrowded correction facilities that do not speak well for the human rights of the convicts. I want to assure this house that my government is working with the relevant stakeholders to address this issue. We have already taken immediate action in a combination of measures to reduce the high number of the remand inmates.
- Speaker, maintaining the rule of Law also applies to the protection of legal redress for government interest when individuals and businesses institute legal actions against the state domestically and internationally, or in the fight against corruption. We have successfully defended several actions ranging from land disputes, commercial disputes and human rights dispute in the ECOWAS Court, and have avoided huge financial cost to the government running into millions of dollars. We have also instituted three Commissions of Inquiry running concurrently with sole commissioners to address the impunity of corruption and enhance accountability in governance.
- We will continue our efforts to ensure the observance of the rule of law, protection of human rights and to provide for our people a system of justice that is impartial, accessible and available for all; one that is efficient and responsive to their justice needs and that is based on continuing “justice dialogue’ with our people, communities, justice delivery stakeholders and our donor partners, in line with the National Development Plan