Sierra Leone’s new Attorney General starts work today

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Sierra Leone Telegraph: 16 April 2018:

Mr. Charles Francis Margai who last week was appointed as Sierra Leone’s new Attorney General and Minister of Justice, has today taken his oath of office, witnessed by the president – Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio.

This is the first time in the country’s political history that a minority government in parliament is taking the office of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, after Julius Maada Bio’s SLPP party failed to win a majority in parliament but succeeded in winning the presidency. (Photo: Far left – the outgoing AG – Joseph F Kamara; and third from left – the incoming AG Charles Margai).

Charles Francis Margai is a highly experienced lawyer and a veteran politician who resigned from the SLPP he now serves in 2005 to form the Peoples Movement for Democratic Change (PMDC).

He contested the 2007 elections and polled about 12% of the votes. He then entered into coalition with the Koroma led APC to help Koroma win the 2007 elections and form a government.

But today Margai is serving the newly elected SLPP government as  Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and becomes Chief Legal Advisor to President Julius Maada Bio.

Although all newly appointed ministers will not be sworn-in until after they have been scrutinised and approved by parliament which opens this Thursday, 19 April, the Constitution states that as Attorney General, Charles Margai does not require parliamentary approval.

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Speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph this afternoon, the outgoing Attorney General and Minister of Justice – Joseph Franklyn Kamara said: “It’s all in the beauty of the Profession. As erstwhile, Attorney-General, I attended the swearing-in ceremony of my colleague – Charles Francis Margai.

“It’s a symbolic gesture of support and togetherness in the promotion of justice for the betterment of our country. And as Sierra Leoneans, we owe it to our people and ourselves, to manifest a common platform on issues that are germane to development. As always, my mantra is ‘together we can make it happen’.”

Unconfirmed reports from the SLPP government say that Charles Margai’s priorities for the next three months will include: Establishing an informal public investigations room, where the public will send in information and evidence about former ministers, heads of parastatals, former first lady, Ernest Bai Koroma and other government office holders, with effect from today, Monday 16th April 2018.

It is understood that Margai will also create a special court – parallel to the High Court to deal with all those that will be prosecuted by end of June 2018; involve ECOWAS and the international criminal court to investigate all politicians in Sierra Leone that are alleged to have laundered the country’s public funds and deposited or invested abroad, for immediate prosecution; and the arrest and deportation of those that have left the country; and investigate all claims of illegal properties held by former president Koroma, his wife and ministers and seek to return these to their rightful owners.

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But supporters and officials of the outgoing APC are calling on the Bio government to respect the rule of law and due process.

Watch Charles Margai taking his Oath of Office:

The state of the economy inherited by the Bio government has prompted serious cause for concern, as Sierra Leone faces one of its worst financial crises in decades, because of poor governance and corruption.

There are reports that the SLPP government has inherited Le 160 billion in overdrafts that the Koroma government took from various commercial banks; an external debt of $2 billion; domestic debts with banks, utilities, etc – valued at Le 4.9 trillion; hundreds of billions of Leones in unpaid and unfulfilled public contracts; with several Ministries, Departments, State Agencies and parastatals running significant budget deficits that are now threatening to cripple the newly elected Bio government.

In April last year – 2017, there were reports of massive corruption at the National Revenue Authority (NRA), following the publication of the Auditor General of Sierra Leone’s Report on the Koroma government’s accounts for 2016.

The Audit Report found serious discrepancies in the amount of revenue collected by the NRA and deposited in the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account.

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According to the report, over 539, 946,60 million Leones deposited in the transit account at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank by NRA could not be traced in the CRF Account. This amount is monies said to have been collected as court fines by the NRA. (Photo: NRA Boss – Haja Kallah Kamara). 

The Auditor General also recommended that the commissioner for non-tax revenue should in collaboration with the Director of Banking at the Bank of Sierra Leone, provide documentary evidence to confirm that the 539, 946,60 million Leones was indeed paid into the CRF, within 30 days of the receipt of the report, otherwise the fund would be considered misappropriated.

Former radio talk show Journalist – David Tam Bayoh, who is now a politician in the defeated APC,  in his Saturday 29 April 2017 Monologue Programme, had called on President Koroma to order an enquiry into the missing billions of Leones  at the NRA.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed that the Transition Team formed by president Bio to carry out an audit of all public assets managed by the Koroma government, is currently investigating the affairs of the NRA.

The inauguration ceremony of President Julius Maada Bio will take place on Saturday 12th May 2018 at the Siaka Stevens Stadium.

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