Amin Kef: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 February 2019:
It could be recalled that whilst poor innocent Sierra Leoneans were dying in their hundreds every day during the Ebola outbreak, government officials entrusted with funds for managing the emergency health crisis were playing fast and loose with the funds that were vital for containing the spread of the deadly virus.
What was amazing but deplorable to a majority of Sierra Leoneans, was the Parliamentary Accounts Committee’s lackadaisical attitude towards the adverse report on the gross mismanagement and misuse of the Ebola funds that it was presented with.
Now with the matter of misuse of funds during the reign of the former government a subject of investigations by three judge led Commissions, the former procurement officer in the ministry of health and sanitation – Ibrahim Brima Swaray, the former permanent secretary – Sadiq Kapuwa, the two successive ministers at the time – Miatta Kargbo and Dr.Abu Bakarr Fofanah, as well as other health ministry officials are facing intense questioning.
Dr. Abu Bakarr Fofanah, Madina Rahman, Dr. Bash Taqi, Alfred Palo Conteh and Kawusu Kebbie from the Ministry of Finance are being questioned about a range of misdemeanours, including the purchase of ambulances and an unaccounted Le14 billion.
Questioning of the former ministry of health procurement officer started on Monday and continued yesterday Tuesday, regarding the fraudulently overpriced purchase of ambulances which were desperately needed to help fight the Ebola outbreak.
Evidence presented by the Office of the Attorney General is from a real time audit that was conducted between November 2014 and April 2015.
What emerged clearly from the questioning by the judge was that all the named health ministry officials responsible for handling funds, were if not criminally culpable, grossly negligent in their monitoring roles; with the former procurement officer denying that he knew little or nothing about how the ministry procured and issued contracts for fighting the Ebola outbreak.
In another related development at the Commissions, as the inquiry unfolded, evidence was also presented to the Commission about the fraudulent manner with which fertilizers were purchased by the ministry of agriculture and poorly distributed to the disadvantage of farmers, which also affected the achievement of the government’s much vaunted quest for food security.
The State alleges that about $16 million allocated for fertilizer was mismanaged.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission Archivist has tendered the asset declaration forms of 338 officials that served in the former Government from 2009 to 2018 as Ministers, Deputies and Heads of MDAs.
What is gradually emerging from the evidence being presented before the Commissions of Inquiry is that, the former APC government is being haunted by its Parliament and Executive’s failure to follow up stringently on the adverse findings made every year by the Auditor General, during their eleven years in power.
The former government failed to take appropriate institutional and legal remedial and punitive actions that were needed to curb waste and mismanagement of public funds, as well as deter greedy, selfish and unpatriotic public officials that were entrusted with funds from continuing to mismanage and misappropriate public funds with impunity.
The Inquiry continues.