In what appears a response to increasing calls for relocation of Pa Demba Road Correctional Services, SLPP (Sierra Leone People’s Party) government is set to construct a new prison at Songo village, 49 kilometres away from the nation’s capital, Freetown.

Government may be deceived to think that the prison is being constructed for former government officials who are currently chased everywhere for corruption offences. The proposed prison, according to a senior official of the correctional services, will be expanded every year to increase its capacity.

By such expansion, the new prison can even hold up to 5000 or 6000 inmates. Several international human rights reports have been quite critical of the Pa Demba Road correctional centre.

Congestion of inmates is one factor that attracted major criticism. United States Human Rights Report, 2019 indicated that about 1, 500 inmates were found at the prison during their visit. The correctional centre, according to the report was built for just 300 inmates.

The government is capitalising on those reports which they use to justify the prison relocation. These officials hardly think that they are constructing the new prison for themselves. A great number of SLPP government officials have cases to answer when they leave power.

They are sure to face the nemesis. This article examines some of the matters that would land them in their new jail. The officials would be hunted for the corruption offences they are committing now with impunity.

Former Chief Minister who now sits as Minister of Foreign Affairs would be the first to land in the new jail if he fails to pay back money illegally spent on foreign travels as well as media consultancies without following procurement procedures.

A recent Africanist Press Report showed how former Chief Minister stashed away Le34.2Bn (more than USD300, 000) in less than three years. The report indicated that this money was spent on travel per diems and for procurement of goods and services that do not undergo official competitive bidding process with open request.

The expenses, according to the report, do not include airfares. Africanist Press report further indicated that Chief Minister’s office financial records show that hundreds of millions of Leones was sent to foreign media agencies and technology companies in Europe, China and the United States. Theses transfers were purportedly for consultancy services, public relations operations and information technology products.

According to the report, none of these services or products were advertised or put on an open bid. It is clear that records of these huge monetary transactions were non-compliant with Sierra Leone’s public finance laws and public procurement regulations.

“The laws require that all expenditures from the country’s Consolidated Revenue Fund, the government’s central treasury accounts be based on each procuring agency or department’s approved budgetary and procurement plan as approved by parliament for each specific year,” the report reads in part.

The report also notes that section 18 of the Public Procurement Act of 2016, one of the laws that regulates public procurement in Sierra Leone provides that goods and services procured by a ministry, department or agency must be included in the prior approved annual procurement plan for that entity.

A procurement committee must also be in charge of a procurement process. Evidence obtained by Africanist Press shows that procurement of goods and services were mostly undertaken on an ad hoc basis in ways that openly violated public procurement regulations.

The report stated that these procurements included, for example, a total of Le1, 876, 061, 250 (about US$185, 000) that was paid directly during the last quarter of 2018 to Salman Motors in Freetown.

These funds included the alleged purchase of three Toyota Land Cruiser Prado Vehicles for the newly established Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI).

Evidence reviewed by Africanist Press Shows that an unusually high advance payment of Le1, 200, 000, 000 (about US$120, 000), more than 70% of the contract value was made to Salman Motors on November 26, 2018 ahead of the supply of three vehicles that were supposedly purchased for DSTI staff. No evidence exists to support this transaction.

“Apart from the lack of evidence of a bidding and tender process, there is also no evidence that an advertisement notice inviting other suppliers to compete for this contract was ever made…” the report emphasised.

A split invoicing process, the report noted, indicates a deliberate pattern of payment used to avoid required thresholds of Le60, 000, 000 (sixty million Leones) and to justify the lack of competitive bidding.

Africanist Press also discovered an outgoing SWIFT payment of Le212, 720, 750 (about US$21, 000) to the Lebanon-based media group, Beyond Words Studio to arrange international public relations and image building for the Bio administration.

Apart from corruption scandals of the former Chief Minister, the hand of First Lady Mrs Fatima Bio was also caught on the loot. Though leaked financial records, Africanist Press showed that Mrs Bio received US$3M since 2018.

It was also reported that the country’s First Lady got US$5M in a state-funded account although the move is against the law.

Corruption in the Office of First Lady is naked so much that ACC (Anti-Corruption Commission) boss, Francis Ben Kaifala went after her.

The investigation was a complete sham as Ben took sides with Mrs Bio. ACC did no justice to the ends of justice and the people of Sierra Leone in the investigation of the First Lady.

ACC boss started with the wrong footing at the outset.

When the red flag about Mrs Bio’s cavalier attitude towards state funds was raised, ACC Boss told Sierra Leoneans that he would begin the investigation from former First Lady, Sia Nyama Koroma.

It was a complete travesty of justice for which Kaifala himself should not go free. The report also shows that top ministers and government officials serving Bio’s administration embark on grand corruption.

This corruption is one of many ways that has expanded government’s expenditure. Office of the President is also named in the corruption spree. The report just added weight to allegations of corruption made against the government by a consortium of civil society organisations.

Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Christian Aid and Restless Development were organisations that accused the President’s office as the third most corrupt public institution in Sierra Leone.

Corruption crimes are not the only ones that would land PAOPA officials in the new jail, but the rampant spate of killings throughout the country.

Brutal police and military crackdowns took place at Pa Demba Road Correctional Centre in Freetown, Lunsar town in the north, Tombo in the Western-Rural, Rosengbe village also in the north and the northern capital of Makeni.

The killers at Pa Demba Road prison were said to be soldiers guarding the presidency. A leaked audio from SLPP Women’s leader, Fatmata Sawaneh implicated herself, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, Lahai Lawrence Leema and the former Chief of Defence Staff.

Sawaneh made it clear in the audio that she and the other officials were present when the killers killed. They however took no action to stop them. They too will be held accountable for those killings.

No matter where they go and where they hide, the long arm of the law would reach them. No hiding place will be there for them as the screws will be tightened.

The crimes they allegedly committed are crimes against humanity and sovereign states now remain ever united to confront those crimes.