The Chief Minister, Professor David Francis has said with the Commissions of Inquiry, the government will make use of the UK Serious Fraud Office and World Bank Stolen Assets Recovery Program to recover stolen funds and assets.
He made this disclosure during a press conference held yesterday at State House to update the media about the status of the Commissions of Inquiry.
He maintained that the Commission of Inquiry is here and a reality, adding that it is no longer a speculation.
He recalled in June presenting the Government Transition Team (GTT) Report to President Bio and among its recommendations are for the investigation of public assets, forensic audit and governance issues.
He thanked the Attorney General and Speaker of Parliament for enacting the constitutional instruments for the formation of the Commissions of Inquiry.
The Chief Minister stressed that President Bio is committed in drawing a line under corruption, democratic governance and fight against impunity, while warning that it is not only about investigating past government officials but also the ones currently serving as the intention of this government is to make this one the last Commission in Sierra Leone.
He maintained that President Bio in his campaign manifesto promised to ensure that all funds and assets acquired inappropriately are returned to the people of Sierra Leone.
He said since they came to power they have been able to pay public sector salaries without external budgetary support, while at the same time recovering stolen assets, adding that about 68% of revenue generated is used to service debt.
He assured that the Commissions of Inquiry is not a witch hunt against officials of the past regime; that is why they are putting proper systems and processes in place as a way of recovering stolen funds and assets.
In her remarks, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Pricilla Schwartz, threw light on some reasons for the delay in getting the Commission up and running including the dilapidated Special Court structures and facilities, need to set up a secretariat, appoint judges and other structures put in place.
She disclosed that government could not provide the astronomical cost of Le 811 billion earmarked for the rehabilitation of the Special Court and as such had to look for other cost effective alternative places like the Bank Complex.
She however stated that after going back and forth on the issue of a suitable venue for the holding of the Commissions of Inquiry they finally settled to make use of some containers at the Special Court after renovation.
The Attorney General also disclosed that government has allocated a little over Le 6 billion for the operations of the Commission for a period of between 3 and 6 months, adding that the containers would be ready by the end of this month for the commencement of sittings in January 2019.
She also explained that the Secretariat will be housed at the Law Officers Department – Guma Building.
The Minister of Justice said among other things that the Commissions will investigate lawful and unlawful acquisition of assets and properties, whether past government officials were living within their earnings, if they were corrupt and those who collaborated with them.
Among those to be investigated are former President, Vice President, Ministers, heads of Parastatals and Commissioners, while assuring the security and safety of those to be investigated and witnesses.
She concluded by saying that those to be investigated have right to expertise representation and informed members of the public who have any information that will aid the work of the Commission to go to the Secretariat, while those living in the provinces to call the specially announced lines for that purpose.