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Sierra Leone vows to retrieve funds ‘stolen’ under ex-president

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Sierra Leone vows to retrieve funds 'stolen' under ex-president
Sierra Leone’s Julius Maada Bio

Sierra Leone’s President Julius Maada Bio has pledged to retrieve funds worth tens of millions of dollars allegedly misappropriated under his predecessor, after a year-long graft probe.

Speaking at a news conference in the capital Freetown on Thursday, he said his government was “determined to draw a line” under corruption in the West African state.

Although Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, the former British colony remains one of the world’s poorest nations and is still recovering from years of civil war and disease.

The announcement follows the conclusion in March of an inquiry which Bio set up last year to examine graft allegations under former president Ernest Bai Koroma, between 2007 and 2018.

Bio succeeded Koroma as president in 2018 after a tumultuous election campaign in which he campaigned against corruption.

The inquiry’s findings, which AFP saw on Friday, highlighted a catalogue of instances of unaccountable spending and misappropriated funds under Koroma.

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Investigators found that the education ministry was unable to account for $23 million (19.7 million euros), and accused the minister responsible of running “a cartel and criminal enterprise”.

In another example, the youth ministry awarded a contract to a farm-equipment supplier worth $950,000 (817,000 euros), but “without any supporting documents or any verified supply of any farm equipment”.

Investigators also noted glaring spending irregularities in Sierra Leone’s Ebola response agency, justice ministry, and mines ministry, among others.

Bio said Thursday that he would oblige implicated officials — which include Koroma and other former ministers — to return the money.

“Public officials must serve with integrity and they must be above reproach at all times,” he said.

Although Sierra Leone boasts huge mineral and diamond deposits, the former British colony remains one of the world’s poorest nations and is still recovering from years of civil war and disease.

[AFP]

Vanguard News Nigeria.

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