Chief of Staff in the Office of the President at State House yesterday assured the people of Sierra Leone and investors of government's commitment to make public all reviewed mining and lease agreements signed between the government and mining companies operating in the country.
Dr. Richard Konteh said the new strategy is to ensure transparency, accountability and credibility in the mining sector in order to serve as benchmarks to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which - for the past years - has put the country in a bad light for lack of transparency in the collection of mining revenues.
The Chief of Staff was speaking while receiving a document on civil society's reflection on Sierra Leone's EITI Third Reconciliation Report for the year 2011. The document was prepared by the Natural Resource Governance and Economic Justice Network (NaRGEJ), a civil society outfit that exclusively works on natural resources, including solid minerals.
Dr. Konteh said a lot of progress has been made over the years for Sierra Leone to become an EITI compliant country, and that they have been working closely with civil society to achieve their objective, especially when most of the mining communities are faced with lots of challenges, adding that it was timely for civil society to have prepared such a report so that collectively they can discuss the issues and chart the way out for the development of the country.
"I have extensively discussed these issues with the President and he has given me the authority, as Champion of SLEITI, to ensure that all reviewed mining and lease agreements with various mining companies operating in the country are published," disclosed Dr. Konteh. "One of the things that has come out clearly is that, we are making fantastic progress in the mining sector. The government will continue to provide the leading role and commitment to ensure that Sierra Leone is EITI certified. However we cannot do it alone, but collectively as a country, we can move the process forward."
The State House chief pointed out that mining companies are in the country to make money but that government will ensure that proper mechanisms are put in place to ensure mining proceeds benefit the entire populace.
Giving an overview of the report, the Executive Director of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD), Abu Brima - who also doubles as chairman of NaRGEJ, said civil society is always concerned about issues dealing with natural resource governance and how the sector can benefit the people, which was the more reason government included the natural resource sector under the 'Agenda for Prosperity'.
"This group has been engaged very much in this all important sector and we therefore want to complement the effort of government to achieve their objectives in the natural resource sector," said Mr. Brima. "Civil society acknowledges the efforts of the Sierra Leone Multi-Stakeholders Group, through the leadership of the Chief of Staff as Champion, to clear the unmet requirements 11-13-14 and 15 on the 2008-2010 SLEITI report within the limited available period."
He added that government should ensure the Extractive Revenue Bill, which is in its drafting stage, establish an enhanced fiscal framework for the nation's extractive sector.