Assets declarations are done immediately one takes up office or before that. That has not been the case of President Ernest Bai Koroma who declared his assets Monday after taking close to a year in office.
It was the President himself, immediately after ascending the throne who told the BBC in an interview that in two weeks time he will declare his assets. The two weeks became two months, two months to six and finally almost a year.
That was the time President Koroma faced series of criticisms for not either declaring his assets or honoring his word to declare it. Again, when he was a host at a BBC programme, he was asked that question why he did not declare his assets. The answer he gave was that he was waiting on the Anti Corruption Commission to draw up the asset declaration form. That was where he said Sierra Leoneans knew about his assets, his shares, house and so forth.
But the asset thing dragged on until when, the new Anti Corruption boss was appointed by which time it was muted that the declaration forms were prepared by the ACC and presented to the President where he said Parliament had to look at it before he should declare his assets. I want to believe that the earlier form might have contained some strong legal ramifications.
Be it as it was, the declaration form was never sent to parliament and it took the President so long to fill it and to declare his assets. That might seem indicative to one that the length of time in declaring assets was enough for a President to enable him acquire some wealth and the delay by the President is suspect to others in several ways like his real commitment in fighting graft.
I do not see it wrong for the President if he’d declared his assets from the onset of his pronouncement of doing it. I have always argued with a friend that President Koroma was not going to declare his assets so soon. The reason being that the circumstances that he went through, the turbulent periods in the APC Party to become their leader, the numerous court cases and finally the spending spree during the general elections. All these President Koroma did not get so cheaply. And I definitely will not be easily convinced that what he has now declared even though he did not make it public, but according to his BBC interview he said his assets ran in to hundreds of thousands of dollars he had them prior to becoming President.
Again better late than never like the late decision on the suspended Minister of Transport and Aviation Kemoh Sesay, President Koroma stands to be the first President of Sierra Leone to have gone through such a process by declaring his assets to the Anti- Corruption Commission. This has not been the norm for a country that was and is still infested with corruption and bad governance and where former Heads of state will leave office either recklessly or in an unchecked manner. But the Koroma led administration came with a semblance of accountability as it was evident during the transition period and the handing over notes by the former officials to the present.
Let us not take it that this asset declaration is new, it is only new for the President but other appointees like ministers and others declare their assets in Parliament. And by the way why was it that the President did not declare his assets along side his vice President? Does Sam Sumana want to add up some months to declare his?
Former President Kabbah once spoke of assets declaration some few months to the general elections at the NASSIT awards at Miatta conference hall. It might be possible that President Koroma got the inspiration from there. NASSIT was awarding those who contributed to its success, President Koroma being one of the proud beneficiaries that day as opposition leader received his certificate from Kabbah. Before Kabbah handed him his certificate for being one of the pioneers to set up NASSIT, Kabbah gave a short explanation about his stay at the UN, the countries he had served like Tanzania when Julius Nyerere was President. He explained an event that dealt with corruption and how he said he wished the next President will see it necessary in declaring his assets.
It was like Kabbah was admonishing President Koroma because his fingers and his head were directly towards him and President Koroma’s response was a beaming smile.
Unfortunately, Solomom Berewa was also a proud recipient that day, but he was absent- so he was not addressed and he did not become President.
What the public will be more happy about is if the ACC will make the asset declaration forms public for posterity sake and also let it be in the law books that it is mandatory for any public official to declare assets.
A good step anyway President Koroma but if I may again ask how much exactly do you have and can you order the ACC to make your declaration form public? Having hundreds of thousands of dollars is not specific your Excellency.