Page last updated at 19:05 GMT, Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Sierra Leone leader lambasts 'corrupt' ministers

Ernest Bai Koroma
Ernest Bai Koroma was elected on an anti-corruption ticket

Sierra Leone's president has lambasted some of his top officials and ministers for being corrupt.

Ernest Bai Koroma detailed a long list of allegations - including claims that a Sierra Leonean passport can be bought by any African for $250 to $500.

He warned officials that they must stop conniving in corrupt activities or they would be sacked and prosecuted.

Mr Koroma pledged to tackle corruption when he was elected in 2007 - and last year sacked a cabinet minister.

Correspondents say corruption is seen as one of the reasons for the outbreak of civil war in the country in the 1990s.

'Betraying confidence'

Mr Koroma called a special meeting to dress down his officials - among them the ministers of justice, internal affairs, top police officials and the mayor of Freetown.

The BBC's Umaru Fofana, in Freetown, says Mr Koroma's characteristically smiling demeanour was transformed and he became red with rage as he berated the officials.

A statement from the president's office quoted him as telling the officials: "There seems to be some collaboration within these institutions to undermine the effort of my government.

"Any minister or institution caught will be dealt with accordingly not only by losing the job, but we will take the appropriate legal action for betraying the confidence of the people."

He accused immigration officials of selling passports to foreigners, police of fleecing passengers at checkpoints and the marine resources ministry of allowing energy firms not to pay fees.

When culprits are brought into the justice system they are bailed, he said, "with the purpose to share the loot".

He added: "This is done with the knowledge of people sitting in this room."

The statement said Mr Koroma did not wait for a response from the officials, but left the room immediately after he finished talking.

Our correspondent says the speech has been well received on the streets of Freetown, but there are questions over why the apparently corrupt officials are still in their jobs.

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