$12 million Busgate scandal – ACC speaking to persons of interest 

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 July 2015

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First there was vouchergate. Then came timbergate. Now the poor people of Sierra Leone are facing another possible corruption scandal, with the latest $12 million fiasco, referred to by the Sierra Leone Telegraph as the ‘Busgate’ Chinese procurement affair.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph has been reliably informed by a senior source at the Anti-Corruption Commission, that they have started conducting an investigation into the purchasing of the 100 buses by the ministry of transport.

The editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph was told that the ACC are now questioning persons of interest in their investigation. “We are looking into the matter and persons of interest are assisting the ACC,” sources confirmed.

In particular, the ACC are interested in finding out whether there has been a breach of any of the provisions of the country’s Public Procurement Laws; whether anyone can be charged with abuse of office, misappropriation of public funds, bribery and corruption.

corruption3But sceptics believe that so called ‘powers from above’ – a euphemism for those occupying presidential office, may decide to thwart the ACC investigation, if the ACC Commissioner attempts to expose any wrong doing that may have serious consequences for the minister of transport  – Balogun Koroma.

Last week, the transport minister in an attempt to explain how the $12 million was spent, revealed how seriously the sums do not add up or make any sense.

This is a transcript (in English as the interview was conducted in Krio) of part of the transport minister’s interview with a local radio station:

Minister Koroma: “The president brought up the suggestion to acquire 100 new buses. So we pursued that relentlessly. It took us a very long time. The buses were manufactured. After the manufacturing then Ebola struck. It took us almost six months to acquire a visa for the inspection team to go and inspect the buses.

“After clearing that hurdle, we had another hurdle of trying to find a ship that was willing to transport the buses to Sierra Leone.  We have gone through all that and finally the buses are here.

Radio reporter: “There are reports on social media that the buses are not brand new and that the cost of purchasing the buses is too high”.

Minister:  “In regard to whether the buses are new or old, journalists can go and inspect the buses, the engines, the manufacturing dates, and the interior, to confirm whether they are new or old buses. As far as I am concerned they are brand new buses.”

Reporter: “What about the costs involved in purchasing the buses?”

Balogun Koroma3Minister:  “The money involved was $12 million, of which 30% was spent on machinery and equipment for replacing the old road transport workshop, costing over $3 million; 10% of the $12 million was spent on purchasing three years worth of spare parts – costing about $1.2 million; 10% which is about $1 million spent on training of staff, rebuilding of the training centre, and capacity building; 5% of the $12 million spent on travelling and miscellaneous expenses; and shipping and insurance cost was $10,000 for each bus.

“Then you have the cost of borrowing the $12 million at 4 years interest, which will cost 50% of the total cost of the 100 buses.”

Do these figures add up? No Mr. Minister Balogun, they do not add up.

Critics says that by persistently failing to publish all of the documents relating to the purchasing of the 100 buses, including the invoicing and bank payment documents, the transport minister has exposed the government to ridicule, accusation of unaccountability, impropriety and corruption.

Early this year, the ACC commissioner took steps to conduct an investigation into the missing $14 million Ebola funds. This was vetoed by president Koroma, who then went on to politicise the investigation, by asking his parliamentary cronies to instead conduct their own investigation.

The parliamentary committee responsible for conducting the investigation into the missing Ebola funds, failed to involve the Anti-Corruption Commission and the police, before publishing its report that has left far more questions unanswered.

Since the publication of the parliamentary report, no one has faced justice for their crimes in the missing $14 million Ebola funds.

And as the international community today contemplates handing over almost $1 billion to the government to help Sierra Leone recover from the impact of the Ebola crisis, questions must be asked whether they can trust the Koroma government to manage such vast sums of money.

Hence, independent observers believe that president Koroma will be doing himself and his international image a great favour, if he can simply allow the ACC commissioner to get on with the task of conducting his investigation into the $12 million Busgate scandal, without hindrance, fear or favour.

Meanwhile, as questions continued to be asked as to whether the imported buses are indeed new or second-hand, after several were abandoned on street corners last weekend due to engine failure, the road transport authority has released this statement:

“The attention of the SLRTC has been drawn to the postings on social media of a bus engine purporting to be that of one of the newly acquired 100 buses and a diesel spill on the ground at the rear of the bus.

“The SLRTC wishes to unequivocally clear the air and clarify that the engine shown is an attempt to damage the effort of the government and the SLRTC in particular, knowing full well that the engine shown is a car engine and not any of the world renowned USA Cummings engines that are on the buses.

“Secondly, the diesel spillage shown on the ground is from the bus’ rear and not the front where the engine is located on the red bus in question.

Broken down bus1“The much talked about red bus not being able to climb Savage Street was as a result of the driver engaging the wrong gear, whilst negotiating the slow traffic that caused the fuel tank to gravitate to the back end, preventing the flow of fuel to the engine.

“The public is confidently assured that it was not mechanical problem as has been wrongly reported by negative social media agents.

“In view of the above, and to assure every tax payer of the government’s prudential investment of the nation’s resources, the general public is hereby invited to view the 100 brand new buses, and you are encouraged to feel free to inspect the open bonnets while you take a good view of the engines  at the national stadium, starting from tomorrow Monday 13 July 2015, until they are deployed for regular service nationwide asap.

“We wish to further inform the public that it was anticipated by SLRTC that the process if insuring and licensing of the buses would have been completed by Friday last week. Unfortunately due to unusual large number of buses, the process can only be completed this week beginning Monday 13 July.

“As such we are craving the indulgence of the public to exercise patience whilst we complete the process, And be rest assured that the opportunity will be made available asap with a new date to be announced to our devoured public.”

corruption2Concerned that a bus carrying dozens of passengers could automatically malfunction because the driver simply engaged the wrong gear as alleged by the SLRTC, is if true, very dangerous to passenger safety and could render the bus permanently unroadworthy.

As a result of this concern, the Sierra Leone Telegraph put this statement to a handful of highly experienced motor mechanics operating in the UK for comment:

“The much talked about red bus not being able to climb Savage Street, was as a result of the driver engaging the wrong gear, whilst negotiating the slow traffic that caused the fuel tank to gravitate to the back end, preventing the flow of fuel to the engine.”

Not a single one of the mechanics spoken to, could understand how the fuel tank of a brand new bus can gravitate to the back end, preventing the flow of fuel to the engine, thus causing the bus to malfunction.

Also not a single one of those mechanics questioned could understand why a brand new bus could be losing so much oil, simply because the driver engaged the wrong gear.

Are these 100 buses brand new and made to specification based on road and climate conditions in Sierra Leone?

How much did the government pay for each, and could they have bought them cheaper elsewhere?

Why did the government fail to go out to competitive tender in order to obtain value for tax payers’ money?

Is RITCORP – an insurance company partly owned by the state, with president Koroma owning a very large share capital in the company, responsible for insuring the 100 buses? If so, is this not conflict of interest?

Who provided the $12 million loan for the buses and at what rate of interest?

These are just some of the questions the Sierra Leone Telegraph is expecting the ACC to put to the minister of transport this week, in their investigation into the Busgate corruption scandal.

7 Comments

  1. This must be a super scandal and an embarrassing situation for the Koroma Government- or has the government become complacent over such behaviour by some of their ministers? This is a joke.

    Does the Transport Minister think Sierra Leoneans are so poor and desperate to the extent that they wouldn’t know the difference between old buses and new ones?

    This is a serious insult to the intelligence of the nation. I also think the track record of the Koroma Government on corruption will greatly affect their ability to convince the electorate of Sierra Leone to vote for them in 2017.

    Those in position of trust should understand that this is not their private enterprise, and it belongs to the Sierra Leonean people.

    It is a disturbing sight to see a handful of ministers deciding to do things on their own accord without fear and any sense of responsibility. This is wrong and it is beyond my imagination.

    The amount of $6-7 million could have bought the Minister up to 100 new modern tropicalized buses if it would have gone out to competitive tender in order to gain good value for tax payers’ money.

    Where is the parliamentary committee for tenders and procurement? This a regulatory body that should monitor and supervise the procurement of most government goods and services. Why such big responsibility was left in the hands of few corrupt blokes of government?

    I think this act needs to be investigated and charges brought against anyone who break the law.

  2. Sad to tell you that by now you should have given up your simplicity and understand that nothing will result from this. Go on to another story that will entertain or inform. This is all too predictable – stir the waters with a threat, then allow everyone to forget.

    Perfect scenario plan executed – done deal and the beat goes on. AHha!!!!!!!!!! poor citizens – suckers for punishment of suppression.

  3. Of course President No. 1 is going to try to impede the ACC’s investigation. If there has been corrupt activity, he is more than likely the largest beneficiary of it. It is clear that Ernest Koroma has lost the moral authority to lead Sierra Leone and is a cancer and blight in the lives of ordinary Sierra Leoneans.

    Time and again, he has proven that he views Sierra Leone as the personal piggy bank of himself, his family and cronies. In his pursuit of lawlessness, Ernest Koroma mistakenly believes that everyone can be bought as cheaply as he can.

    It is an undisputed fact that no commercial transaction moves forward in the country, whether in the procurement arena, infrastructure, renewable energy, mining, oil and gas, etc., without receiving presidential backing.

    And presidential backing always comes at a financial cost. No. 1 always has his hand out for more and more and more.

    There is a strong rumour that he is refusing to release the Auditor-General’s second interim report on the management and use of Ebola funds.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Non-Partisan’s comments. Sierra Leoneans need to mobilize around the anti-corruption issue. Social media is a powerful tool providing the previously voiceless with a platform to express their views. Each of us has a role to play in our own small corner to root this cancer from our society – once and for all.

    We should petition the development agencies and donors to put more stringent anti-corruption measures in place and demand accountability from No. 1 and his kin (and where necessary, suspend or terminate development programs that primarily benefit a select few). We should lobby the investment community and shame companies like Sierra Rutile into doing the right thing.

    The current narrative on Sierra Leone in the Western media centers around the Ebola crisis. The narrative should actually center around corruption which is a much bigger killer and is impeding the effort to curb Ebola.

    The international community also needs to put its money where its mouth is. If it is serious about fighting corruption in developing countries, including Sierra Leone, it should support the nascent anti-corruption movement we are seeing – in the actions of Concerned Sierra Leoneans all over the globe, who are demanding answers as scandal after scandal is uncovered; and the reporting of Sierra Leone Telegraph and Umaru Fofanah.

    And finally, Thomas Koroma, John Sisay and the rest of the corrupt infrastructure which allegedly exists to serve as a conduit to funnel money that rightfully belongs to the people of Sierra Leone to No. 1, should be held accountable for their part and should be tried by the people of Sierra Leone.

    May I live long enough to see that day and to see justice for Sierra Leoneans prevail!

  4. If a GATE is a Gate, BUSGATE should lead to the BOSS of government to go. But we have witnessed FERRYGATE, and many other gates left ajar. Why?

  5. Why has a Chinese team relocated to Freetown for the sole purpose of maintenance of the buses and yet $1 million has been spent on training staff…..Sierra Leoneans I guess?

    Why does the minister see the need to duplicate roles?

    $1 million is a hell of a lot of money to train staff.

    When the buses break down do the Chinese technicians go to the site of the breakdown?

    I think local staff to be trained for all maintenance work on these buses and create much needed jobs.

  6. This is why I am encouraging people to use social media and to also email officials from the governing bodies of the organizations providing funds to the GOSL.

    I don’t think it’s as easy for them to misuse UN funds or other organizations that have closer oversight, but I do believe they are getting too many loans for bogus purposes. They were supposed to provide lights within a very short time of taking office. No lights and what happened with all the money spent? I’m sure there were plenty kickbacks.

    The government’s debt was forgiven again, so now they’re busy racking up more. Other countries are paying the cost for this corruption. The average citizen is poorer, living a shorter life, and having a hellish life while here on the earth. The average politician in Sierra Leone has gotten fatter while sucking the people bone dry.

    These explanations are the worst nonsense. It just shows the evil that can reside in man toward his fellow man. The most unfortunate thing is that the opposition in Sierra Leone has rendered itself useless. Instead of organizing with the single goal of uprooting this cancerous plague from the society, their only goal is endless infighting. It’s a real tragedy.

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