Seven Civil Society Groups over the weekend launched the Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) at the Hill Valley Hotel to help improve budget processes. The Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Search for Common Ground, WABEAN, Christian Aid, Action Aid and Campaign for Good Governance are the seven civil society organizations that have formed BAN to help government in improving the budget process. The Chairman of the ceremony and also chairman of BAN, Tennyson Williams said budgets were fundamental instruments of poverty reduction and that all that were needed to alleviate poverty should be included in the budget. He recognized the efforts of civil society groups over the years and made reference to 2005 when the global action against poverty was launched. Civil society on behalf of government did a lot to the point that by 2006, the country benefited from debt cancellation. Tennyson Williams stated that BAN was formed to look ahead of the country’s debt relief and to do that, the budget was very necessary and important. What BAN was set out to do, he explained “is to help government and all of us to be more accountable. If you look at the budget process, one of the questions you will ask is where does accountability fall? He pointed out that one of the things they would be doing was how to get people like the Accountant General, how to get the Auditor General, how does parliament operate and how the public and private partnerships operate together with the issue of the commitments of the donors. The Deputy Director of Budget in the Ministry of Finance and Development, Tasima Jah also recognized that budget was a very important instrument in driving the economy forward. He called for an inclusion in the budgetary process, elements of transparency and participation. He emphasized that since 2001 the budgetary process has improved as they were able to carry out budget sensitization up to the point of establishing Budget Oversight Committees whilst establishing the national policy hearing. Pietro Taigo from DFID referred to the process as an important initiative which he foresaw as rewarding. He said since the war ended, government has made strides to improve public finance management. He also added that he believed that external scrutiny improves public performance. The Parliamentary committee chairman for finance and development, Hon Dr. Moses Sesay opined that there were times when budgetary system was a secretive affair until 2001. He stressed that if the ordinary man does not participate fully “then we are wasting our time”. Dr. Sesay further said budget preparation should be translated to the aspirations and wishes of the people and not to be an academic thing. Statements were also made by the Principal Finance Officer, Dura Koroma and Neneh Daboh from the Anti- Corruption Commission. Samuel Brima from the Economics Department, Fourah Bay College did the launching.
Kenema BKPS Staff’s Fingers and Toes Copped off…Compensation Delayed
Scores of Kenema residents are currently in great solidarity with an injured BKPS Staff whose compensation issue is yet to be settled. The Kenema Civil Society in particular is following up the matter with great interest.
Back in October 2008 Mr. Mohamed Lahai Siaka was electrocuted while fixing a faulty line at Mano Juction. The accident chopped off his two fingers, two toes and left him unconsciously dangling on the pole by his belt.
Narrating his ordeal on that fateful day Mr Lahai told a meeting of Civil Society at the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) office in Kenema, he explained that he is a Technical staff at the Bo – Kenema Power Service (BKPS). That he joined BKPS as a Distribution laborer and is now a staff attached to the mechanical and technical wing assisting on the lines.
Mohamed said that on Sunday October 20, 2008 he was on late duty when they got information that the transmission line from Goma in Dodo chiefdom to Kenema city had developed some fault which led to power break down. They then got a call from their headquarters in Bo that they should go and amend the problem immediately. Later, he and his Supervisor Mr Joseph Sankoh took off at 5 pm on a motor bike since there was no vehicle at the station.
They got to the Mano junction electricity opening point to trace the fault. While there he said their Superintendent Juana Fangawa advised that they hold on until they get clearance that the lines were all off.
Mr. Fangawa later called and confirmed that the line was completely off and that they should trace the fault. Joseph Sankoh, Mohamed’s Supervisor then asked him to climb up the pole and go ahead with the work.
It was while Mohamed was connecting the lines that a return current shocked him. He added that at that same moment there was lightening. He further explained that when he regained consciousness he found himself on the government hospital bed, where his colleagues explained to him that he was dangling on the electric pole by his belt for sometime before he was removed.Two of his fingers and two toes had been chopped off and he had a deep cut on his leg.
Mohamed told the meeting that his office BKPS took care of his medical bills until he was discharged on December 12, 2008. His office in Kenema later wrote a letter to the Personnel and Training Manager of BKPS head quarters in Bo about his plight after his colleagues in the office in Kenema protested about his welfare. After some time the Head Office in Bo gave him two million Leones as compensation. While at the hospital the personnel and training manager Brima Banya went with the National Insurance Company form which was filled by Mohamed and taken to Bo. Two months later the same document was sent to His Supervisor for him to fill the two blank spaces that was left out which he did and was taken again to Bo. Since then seven months have lapsed without any communication about the Insurance claim “from either my office or the NIC office.”
Mohamed said he had made several contacts to the bosses in Bo about the insurance claim but he was always told that they are making follow ups. Mohamed accused his office of paying lips service to his plight saying that his deformity will never be reversed. He is calling on the government and the civil society to intervene. The Kenema Civil Society have vowed to help pursue the matter until justice is done.
When Awoko press called up the Personnel and Training Manager Brima Banya in Bo on Mohamed’s Insurance issue he said he can not talk to Awoko or any journalist on the matter.