Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio Delivers his State Opening Address, talks on Private Sector Growth, National Cohesion and Fighting Corruption and Illicit Financial Flows

Parliament Building, Freetown Thursday 28 May 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has recounted, among other things, the progress in private sector growth, efforts at national cohesion and policies to fight corruption and illicit financial flows in his 28 May 2020 State Opening of Parliament address.

“Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, my Government is committed to upscaling Sierra Leone’s performance at Doing Business Reforms. Government has set up a technical committee comprising policymakers and development partners. A tracker tool has been implemented to help the Government monitor the implementation of investment climate reforms. There is also focused cross-ministry and cross-sectoral work on improving benchmarks, whether in areas of demurrage time, tax holidays and weekends, and downward reviews of duties on essential commodities.

“My Government has identified sustained entrepreneurship development as a key driver of the economy. The Ministry of Trade and Industry will further seek to explore the benefits of market access and linkages provided for in trade agreements, including the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act of the United States (AGOA) and the new Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement. To that end, the AGOA Response Strategy, The ‘Made in Sierra Leone Strategy’, the SME strategy, and the National Trade Facilitation Strategy have been developed.

“I am pleased to announce that SONOCO, a Guinean based Company, is targeting to invest over 20 Million USD in establishing a Flour Mill in Sierra Leone with a capacity of 2,500 metric tonnes a day. They also have a long-term goal of setting up a factory to manufacture machinery for baking. We will simplify border procedures in collaboration with neighbouring countries in order to facilitate cross-border trade in basic commodities up to products by emerging tech-based companies. The Mano River Union is a niche market of 45 million people. We will utilize this niche for the benefit of our people.

“With regard to the regulatory environment, Government has launched the Corporate Governance Code, and ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Cabinet has also approved the National Trade Facilitation Committee. My Government is currently reviewing relevant regulations to facilitate business and maximize our competitiveness in doing business,” he said. 

The President, however, noted that without peace and cohesion private investor space would be limited and promoting inclusive and accountable justice institutions would be hard to achieve.

“My Government engaged a representative stakeholder group at the Bintumani 3 Conference. The Communique called for the establishment of a National Commission for Peace and National Cohesion in Sierra Leone. Citizen engagement is underway, and a draft bill will be tabled for the establishment of the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion,” he said, adding that public safety was also a necessity for peace, stability and governance.

“We have improved the accountability framework of the various directorates and service delivery institutions of the Sierra Leone Police. We are committed to the reinstitution of the Coroner’s Office,” he said.

President Bio assured that the fight against corruption would be sustained because it was good for governance, for business, and for the image of the country.

“Sierra Leone continues to perform exceptionally well in all global scorecards. We have passed the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s indicator for corruption from 49% when I assumed office to 71% at the end of 2018 and a further 79% in 2019. Today, Sierra Leone is one of the top ten performers in the Lower Income Countries scored. The Transparency International’s Global Corruption Ranking Report 2019 published early this year has seen Sierra Leone register its highest ever score since the establishment of the Global Corruption Perception Survey. We have similarly continued to do remarkably well in other global corruption perception indices like Afro barometer, The Mo Ibrahim Index, and Freedom House.

“The Anti-Corruption Commission continues to pursue corruption investigations vigorously with a very high conviction rate. It has also recovered nearly Le 21 billion in the past 18 months under the Non-Conviction Asset Based/Asset Recovery under my Leadership. In 2019 the Commission recorded recoveries of total over Le 11 billion. This is more than the total sum ever recovered by the ACC in a single year and it eclipses the previously highest recovery in 2018 (again under my leadership). These total recoveries, within a period of less than two years, remain higher than all recoveries ever made by the ACC in its entire 18-year existence.

“I am grateful to Parliament for supporting my call to make Corruption a High Risk and Low Return Venture and for passing the Anti-Corruption Amendment Act 2019 to which I quickly assented.

“Sierra Leone remains fully committed to its national and international obligations to interdict illicit financial flows in all sectors and will continue to support the work of Audit Service Sierra Leone in verifying and attesting reports submitted by Government agencies on the EITI process. In addition, my Government will continue its strong support for the full scope of work of Audit Service Sierra Leone as part of its accountability framework.

“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, as you are all aware, the Commissions of Inquiry Reports have been formally submitted to Government and the Government intends to take further action within the period permitted in law,” he said.

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