The First Lady of Sierra-Leone and a minister accused of corruption… Little by little, the pressure is mounting on Julius Maada Bio, however baptized “Mr. Clean”.
His image is badly damaged. Since the beginning of January, Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio has been plunged into an unprecedented political crisis. And his image of "Mr. Clean", due to his stated desire to act against corruption, is undermined.
At the start of the year, official correspondence and bank statements from the office of the President of Sierra Leone, published by Africanistpress, had opened Pandora's box. The travel expenses and daily allowances of President Julius Maada Bio and his wife Fatima Bio during the month of December alone were revealed, estimated at US $ 520. A historic record in this country, yet one of the poorest in the world. The figure might not have been shocking if the Sierra Leonean head of state had not tried to portray himself as an anti-corruption defender.
The revelations about the presidential couple's daily expenses prompted local media to investigate. The habits of President Bio were scrutinized, and journalists then discovered that other state officials had similar tastes for luxury.
The diplomatic trips of several members of the government, financed by the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), were paid for in foreign currency and largely over-invoiced. Under the guise of daily allowances and advances, billions of leones were disbursed by the state's national bank to the president's entourage.
For the period between August 26 and September 30, 2020 alone, President Bio has withdrawn, cumulatively, a million dollars for travel expenses, for a trip to Lebanon. Three-quarters of the amount in question was spent on chartering a private plane, paying the president's medical bill and daily subsistence allowances for the First Lady, Fatima Bio, and other members of the delegation. All the money was withdrawn by relatives of the president, and only $ 12 was returned.
Funds that mysteriously disappear
Other records have leaked, they demonstrate the involvement of Fatima Jabbe Bio. The latter has received, in two years since the inauguration of the president, double the budget allocations usually allocated.
Between January 15, 2021 and February 7, Africanistpress noted no less than three acts of embezzlement of public funds by the First Lady. Three million dollars were withdrawn in his own name. About $ 780 was spent on furniture, equipment, travel tickets and guest accommodation. Finally, more than 000 dollars, planned under the awareness campaign against rape “Hands off our Girls”, mysteriously disappeared.
In an interview with the BBC on February 4, Ms Bio denied the accusations of embezzlement, but she did not deign to explain the details of her expenses, which were all documented.
Further revelations showed that more than $ 3 million had been spent on the Prime Minister's travel expenses. And the latest bank documents revealed on March 7 pointed to a deficit of $ 6 million in Sierra Leonean pension and social security funds.
The president, Julius Maada Bio, did not react to these accusations. His last public appearances concerned the management of the health crisis and diplomatic trips to neighboring countries.