Ministers of the government anxiously waiting for announcement of the new cabinet were not the only ones who became victims of the dangerously malicious and envious press media attacks that were aimed at influencing President Ernest Bai Koroma from re-appointing them. Another Sierra Leonean victimized by the destructive journalism of Sierra Leonean media practitioners was the newly-appointed United Nations Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on sexual violence in conflict, Mrs . Zainab Bangura.
When news broke out that millions of dollars allocated by the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) programme that has been supporting Sierra Leone for immunization services (ISS) and Health System Strengthening (HSS) since 2001 has been misappropriated, Sierra Leonean newspaper writers and internet media commentators began defaming the former Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mrs. Zainab Bangura, without first trying to find out whether the story was true and if true, whether the alleged misappropriation happened during her incumbency. All kinds of nasty stories were written against her , many of them targeting her new high-profile job at the UN. A Sierra Leonean even had the gumption to write a letter to the UN Secretary General accusing Mrs. Bangura of being corrupt and asking that she be fired from her job. Why Sierra Leoneans like to target the dream jobs of their fellow countrymen and women is puzzling but it is a known fact that some of our journalists are susceptible to expatiating the worst kinds of envy and malice for their more successful compatriots.
The writer of the e-mail to the UN Secretary General fails to realize that Mrs.Zainab Bangura is not only representing herself but the nation at the UN and that whatever smear campaign that Sierra Leoneans engage in against her will only harm the reputation of Mama Sierra Leone.
Now, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has exonerated Mrs. Zainab Bangura. We bring you the press statement released by the Ministry today :
GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE
MINISTRY OF HEALTH AND SANITATION
REACTION TO NEGATIVE PRESS REPORT ON GAVI
AUDIT CASH SUPPORT TO SIERRA LEONE
Freetown, January 2013
The attention of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has been drawn to allegations being peddled on the internet and tabloids by some anonymous writers that the erstwhile Minister of Health and Sanitation, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura had presided over alleged misappropriation of funds allocated by the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) programme that has been supporting Sierra Leone for immunization services (ISS) and Health System Strengthening (HSS) since 2001.
Whilst the GAVI team is expected to visit Sierra Leone in January 2013 to discuss the draft findings in order to finalize the audit report and discuss the way forward that would address any indication of misuse of funds, the Ministry would like to state the following;
- That the Ministry of Health and Sanitation would like the public to know that whilst the present GAVI support for Sierra Leone covers the period from 2008 to 2011, the released Audit Review Report covers the period from 2008 to 2010;
- That allegation of Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura to have presided over alleged misappropriation of GAVI funds was false since she effectively took up office as Minister of Health and Sanitation in January 2011;
- That the letter written to Mrs. Bangura notifying her about the audit mission was dated 12thNovember , 2012, two months after she had left to take up her assignment in New York;
- That the Ministry of Health and Sanitation deliberately did not contact nor inform Mrs. Zainab Bangura of the draft audit report because it covers a period prior to her assumption of office as the Honourable Minister of Health and Sanitation;
- That the Ministry of Health and Sanitation views the anonymity and the circulation of internet messages with request of informing the Secretary General of the United Nations and associating the name of Mrs. Zainab Bangura with financial impropriety as a calculated attempt by few who want to tarnish her hard-won credibility both locally and internationally;
- That the Ministry of Health and Sanitation continues to be grateful to erstwhile Minister Zainab Bangura for the commitment , probity and accountability she brought to the Ministry to the pleasure and admiration of staff and international health development partners;
- That the Ministry appeals to internet peddlers and members of the Fourth Estate to always cross-check with the Public Relations Unit in the Ministry before going to press.
THE PRESS RELEASE BELOW FROM GAVI CLEARLY SHOWS THE PERIOD UNDER REVIEW AND IT DOES NOT FALL WITHIN THE TIME OF INCUMBENCY OF MADAM ZAINAB BANGURA :
GAVI reviews health system support to Sierra Leone
In-depth review of health system strengthening support launched.
The GAVI Alliance has recently discovered indications of misuse in its health system strengthening (HSS) cash support to Sierra Leone, following a Financial Management Assessment conducted by the GAVI Secretariat’s Transparency and Accountability team.
Given these concerns, GAVI subsequently launched an in-depth review of HSS support to the country for the period 2008-2009 and is discussing preliminary findings with the Government of Sierra Leone. Further information on any misused amounts will be published once the review is completed.
The Alliance takes all suspected and confirmed cases of misuse of funds very seriously. When GAVI suspects misuse of a grant, all cash disbursements to the relevant programme are halted.
As a result of this discovery, GAVI is holding back payment of the last undisbursed tranche of HSS support to Sierra Leone – totalling approximately US$ 530,000 – and no new HSS funding will be disbursed to the country until the matter is resolved. GAVI support for vaccines, however, remains uninterrupted to ensure that Sierra Leonean children continue to benefit from life-saving immunisation.
GAVI’s HSS support contributes to resolving major constraints to immunisation delivery; increases equity in access to services and strengthens civil society engagement in the health sector.
HERE IS ANOTHER DOCUMENT THAT EXONERATES MRS. ZAINAB BANGURA