President Koroma’s Ebola Recovery Priorities Ending Without Success.

By Hassan Bruz (SLENA- Northern Bureau Chief)……

It would appear there could be no proper understanding on the President’s Recovery Priorities with regards what was slated for implementation, who are charged with the mandate to implement, where the implementation has occurred or if there is any positive impact on the lives of the targeted beneficiaries. Perhaps what is only in the public domain is that it is the second of two phases established as a more resilient foundation for the future of this country after the horrors of the Ebola outbreak. The first Phase which comprised Education, Health, Social Protection and Private Sector Development, ended on 31st March 2016. It gave room to the second Phase that is supposed to have an additional focus on Energy, Water and Governance. It is this second Phase that is actually expected to put the Country’s Economy on the path of full recovery. But has that been the case?

Ernest Yassah Conteh is the District Facilitator in Port Loko for the President’s Recovery Priorities. He said the mandate of his Team is to collect Data on Projects slated for implementation and Conduct Meetings on Capacity Building or Empowerment. He said in an interview with the Sierra Leone News Agency that, it is a 12 months Project aimed at strengthening the Health Sector to prevent future epidemics and save the lives of 600 Women and 5000 Children from dying. This Phase is to as well support over 4,000 Ebola Survivors across the Country and provide Cash Transfers to 47,000 Families in a bid to help them out of poverty. I gather it is further supposed to provide safe, affordable and sustainable water supply to over 700, 000 People in the Provinces and double access to electricity from 125,000 to 250,000 households. In the Northern District of Poet Loko, this Phase is to provide 6 Solar Powered Refrigerators in certain Chiefdoms and have an Ambulance deployed in each of the 11 Chiefdoms.

The Port Loko District Facilitator said a total of 9 Adolescent Friendly Centres are to be established in Sumbuya, Lunsar, Mana -Two, Lungi, Malal, Gbiti, Malekuray and Kambia –Makama. At least 3 Service Providers are to be trained in each Centre on Adolescent Friendly Health Services and another set of 3 persons trained on Life Skills Curriculum. Mr Ernest Yassah Conteh spoke of the 2 key result areas on the Education Sector aimed at improving learning outcomes, through the training of at least 40,000 Teachers in core subjects. Apart from the desire to reduce overcrowding in severely affected Schools, he said this Phase has plans to institute a Nationwide School Feeding for 1.2 Million Children in all Government and Government assisted Primary Schools in the Country. It is also in the specifications of this Phase that, 10,000 Agricultural jobs will be created across key value chain.

Ernest Yassah Conteh said these Projects were being monitored by the Communities and that 27 Classrooms have been arranged to address the issue of overcrowding, adding that over 4, 000 Teachers have so far been trained in the Port Loko District. But his claimed that the Port Loko District Council is very much involved in the Process and that Corruption has been highly minimised remained challenged. The general perception is that there is an element of connivance wherein some people are only busy enriching themselves at the detriment of community development. This is the apparent case in terms of awarding contracts either to implement a project or catering for a workshop. As a result of these perceived shady deeds, most awards often go unannounced and with no press coverage.

A brief look at some of the issues discussed at the most recent session of the District Recovery Forum suggests a series of gaping gaps. Take the Education Sector for instance where the District Deputy Director is said to be reluctant in ensuring the formation of Integrity Committee. It will interest you to know even the Situation Room Officer had to abandoned his office to work at the Voter Registration. It is worth mentioning that the School Construction at Maforki is yet to be provided with furniture. There is also the issue of Electricity supply at the Government Hospital in Port Loko which has become epileptic since the clumsy withdrawal of the Partners in Health –an NGO that used to provide reliable source of electricity supply at the Hospital. Well as was rightly observed by the representative of the Anti Corruption Commission in the District, the issue of the Fencing and Mortuary at the Government Hospital in Lungi is now too old to be spotlighted.

Therefore allow me to bother you with the observations of the Port Loko District Council Chairman- Ahmid Munirr Fofana over the inconceivable role of the Implementing Sectors regarding Cash Transfers Projects and Project Funds Activities. He made reference to the 5 Million Pounds in which the total funds allocated to Beneficiaries for both loans and grants is 65 percent, while the Institutional support to Implementing Agencies is 34.14 percent. In other words, the sum total allocated to Beneficiaries is 3, 292, and 800 while that which is believed to have been factored as Institutional support is 1,707,200.

According to Chairman Ahmid Munirr Fofana, Council has made repeated demands to access the list of Beneficiaries and Location to enhance effective verification, monitoring, and evaluation of Projects. He said World Vision has refused to provide any form of clarification and as a result, Council has not been able to conduct an impact assessment of the Projects on the living conditions of the Beneficiaries. What is surely to run in the minds of well meaning Sierra Leoneans is, how could these Implementing Agencies account in an event their work is found to be substandard or a foul play is detected after they shall have left. Besides are the authorities mindful of the fact that this Phase is bound to end in less than 10 weeks from date? Perhaps it is on that backdrop that Chairman Ahmid Munirr Fofana said, his Council would like to request the Office of the Chief of Staff to mobilise resources in order to enable both the Local and Chiefdom Councils carry out a Project Impact Survey- especially when the Phase 11 is required to impact on Health, Education, and the Private Sector. I therefore intend to provide you with details on my findings in subsequent articles as I go to seek the reactions of Stakeholders in the targeted Locations.