|AFRICAN PEER REVIEW MECHANISM (APRM)|
AFRICAN PEER REVIEW MECHANISM (APRM) STATEMENT BY HIS EXCELLENCY DR ERNEST BAI KOROMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF SERRA LEONE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE PRESENTATION OF THE APRM COUNTRY REVIEW REPORT OF SIIERA LEONE AT THE 16TH SUMMIT OF THE COMMITTEE OF PARTICIAPTING HADS OF STATE AND GOVERNMENT OF THE AFRICAN PERR REVIEW MECHANISM (APR FORUM), ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, 28TH JANUARY 2012 REPUBLIC OF SIERRA LEONE
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
11. 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.
13. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
17. 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.
21. 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.
22. 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.
24. 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.
25. 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.
26. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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:
30. 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.
31. 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.
32. 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