Commission of inquiry questions former ministers about missing $14 million Ebola funds

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.

13 Comments

  1. Madam Binta Conteh, I normally don’t respond to comments made against my inputs. I am a liberal person, so I honour other people’s opinions; whether for or against my perceptions to a debate in question. But, in this instance, I will venture to give an insight to your comments – if only this will shed light on the mystery of the missing millions that even journalists are not inclined to regress on.

    Perhaps, you would have to agree with me that the social fabric of Sierra Leone is stained with corruption, and this disease has already infected the present 10 months old SLPP government. Who knows what would happen in the next 4 years, or so, of this government’s tenure. It is too early to jump to conclusions; we have to wait and see how events are going to unravel.

    Yes, there have been commissions of inquiry before, but the present one though not inclusive, it is set on an unprecedented scale – because there are some ULTERIOR MOTIVATIONS attached to it.

    Most people in Sierra Leone are now aware of the missing US$18 million during the 1996 transition of government between the NPRC junta and the SLPP government of late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah. This case was also highlighted by Dr Samura Kamara in the past 2018 elections. If the present government is really determined and sincere on eradicating corruption in the country, why is it reluctant on bringing on board, this already widely documented case to the current Commission of Inquiry? On the other hand, why is the ACC not investigating this matter?

    The ball is on your court, Binta.

    • Mr. Alimamy Turay, in a democratic and scientific environment, legal proceedings are driven by evidence and not by baseless allegations. It is APC operatives of your ilk that are responsible for Sierra Leone’s retrogression. Folks like you have tried every trick in the book to throw a spanner into a genuine Commissions of Inquiry with baseless allegations and innuendos. Thank God the Commissions of Inquiry are now firing on all cylinders. The truth will come out and the culprits will be punished whether the APC operatives of the world like it or not.

      Ernest Koroma set a Commission of Inquiry in 2008. Why was Maada Bio not invited if there was any evidence that he had stolen $18 million in three months as Head of State? Moreover, why wasn’t any former SLPP official found guilty? And you are even open to referring to the integrity-challenged Samura Kamara as a source?

      So, after twice wrecking the nation (1968-1992 and 2007-2018), the APC should be celebrated with some dubious and useless suggestion that $18 million was missing on Maada’s Bio’s watch or that the government of Sierra Leone is now conducting a witch hunt?

      Where were the defenders of the APC nation wreckers when Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank were taken to the cleaners by APC Ayampis or when Sierra Rutile was auctioned off on the altar of pervasive corruption and graft?

      Mr. Turay, I come from a minority ethnic group in Sierra Leone and still cannot decipher how an investigation into blatant corruption and graft rises to the level of tribalism or how such an investigation can be carefully hidden under the canopy of ulterior motives as you allege. What can be so ulterior about exposing a coterie of thieves dressed in suit or agbada?

  2. Frankly, everybody should be given credit on their comments on this topic. I have some question for everyone who have commented on this topic to answer if they have information or clues to the missing money. The questions are – Are there documents that can prove $18 million dollar was donated to the Government of Sierra Leone at that time? secondly, was the said amount squandered by some unscrupulous politicians or government officials? Do we know which country or organisation gave the aid? And do we know what project the aid was given for?

    If this amount was donated and there is proof of mismanagement of the said sum, then all those involved will one day be brought to justice. The proof will solve the mystery in any given time. The documents will never rot away. We should not forget that men or leaders come and go but the state or country remains.

    We should not forget what happens when a new government comes in. Some governments tend to slack on corruption whilst some like the government of President Bio is taking corruption very seriously. This topic definitely will not go away.

    Another government one day(not SLPP) might pick the $18 million issue up and everything will come to light. That is why everyone should support the present commission to set an example. So, if someone presently in president’s Bio’s government is engaged in any corrupt financial practices and thinks he or she will get away with it, then he or she should remember that there will be a commission of inquiry one day whenever the government changes.

    Commissions of inquiry will now become a routine whenever government changes from one party to another or one administration to another. Let us be clear that there are no guarantees that commissions of inquiries preceding 2003 will not be established in the future by other governments. The only thing is that , it should not be regarded as a witch hunt.

  3. The commission of inquiry is good for the ordinary Sierra Leoneans and the state. Keep it up Mr Kaifala. Anyone involved in corruption, let he or she face the full penalty of the law.

  4. Good morning Mr During. Do you know there were commissions of inquiry under both kabba and EBK govts. If so why there was no conviction for the said amount and what was the essence of COI at that time. It puzzles me when people keep measuring the said amounts in comments, because it means the judges at that time were not qualified to investigate those allegations. So no need to be lamenting on it since the past govts could hold that person responsible. Thanks

  5. Mr Seton During, I can’t resist to applaud your bravery and consistency. I have always admired your inputs, even though I had to read between the lines in order to get the gist of what you are really saying – because, they are so compact and rigid. You seem not to dilate too much. Nonetheless, I always endeavour to put myself in your wavelength.

    The whole episode of the Commission of inquiry in Sierra Leone, with all its rhetoric, epitomizes the old saying: ‘SET A THIEF TO CATCH A THIEF’. But, one day, the US$18 million you are referring to would come to light. Let’s keep the mystery alive.

    • Mr. Alimamy Turay, let’s get things clear. A thief can never be set to catch a thief. It is always the good guy that is set to catch a thief. The good guy presently occupies State House while the biggest of the thieves reside in a mansion in Makeni that was built with stolen government funds. I can’t wait for that mansion to be confiscated and given to the poor people of Sierra Leone.

  6. This issue about accountability for the missing $14 million US Dollars during the reign of the immediate past APC Government is exemplary valid; BUT! What about the missing US$18 Million donated to another SL Government preceding the immediate past APC Government which had still never been accounted for? No miscreants should be protected. Sierra Leonean etc. journalists at home and in the diaspora continue to be loudly quiet about this one!

  7. It is really, really disappointing for Sierra Leoneans to see past government pretend as if they love this country, but they do not.

    • Mama Salone belongs to all Sierra Leoneans. Any person that was involved in corrupt practice should pay for their mismanagement of their offices.

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