Commissions of inquiry update – hearing continues into use of government bank as piggy bank

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 February 2019:

The commissions of inquiry resumed sitting yesterday, Tuesday February 19, after the long weekend that was climaxed by a public holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day. Cross examination of witnesses and presentation of evidences characterized the day’s proceedings.

In Court 1, State Counsel Oladipo Robbin-Mason produced witness CW7 Ibrahim Swaray who had earlier on Tuesday February 12 testified in the commission that required the presence of the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation Mr. Sadiq Kapuwa.

The judge asked Mr. Sadiq Kapuwa if he had read or heard CW7 Ibrahim Swaray’s testimony, and whether he had any qualms with it. In his response, Mr. Kapuwa said he had heard the former’s testimony the week before and had no questions for him.

The judge then asked State Counsel Robbin-Mason to produce Mr. Sadiq Kapuwa to take the witness box and testify.

Mr. Kapuwa in his testimony said he was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and took up office on April 1, 2014. He said as Permanent Secretary, he was supposed to be vote controller and administrative head of the MOHS.

He disclosed that at the outbreak of the Ebola, a new structure was created in the MOHS known as the Emergency Operations Center or EOC that virtually subsumed all of his roles as Permanent Secretary.

He narrated that the EOC took major decisions that were only communicated to him for execution, and that his statutory role as Permanent Secretary was made virtually ineffective after the creation of the EOC.

He divulged that when he started working at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation he met three gentlemen with the minister Madam Miatta Kargbo (Photo) who were effectively the people she would listen to as they were her confidantes and advisers.

The former Permanent Secretary said that he engaged the minister once on ironing their differences and allowing him to play the role he is supposed to play, but was brushed aside, and things continued the way she had designed it.

Continuing his evidence, Mr. Kapuwa said the 20 ambulances that were procured by the MOHS at the height of the EVD had nothing to do with him as the decision was taken by the EOC and filtered to him for implementation.

He disclosed that he only met the contractor at the PSU, and was instructed to prepare documents for him. Even the Kerry Town Treatment, he was isolated from. He did not take part in the site visit neither was in briefed fully about the work, divulged. The Architectural Services Manager at the MOHS a Delphin Caulker (now late) was the one who informed him about the Kerry Town Treatment Center and how the contract had already been awarded.

Mr. Kapuwa produced a memo from Delphin Caulker instructing him to pay the sum of Le 1, 760,000,000 (one billion seven hundred and sixty million Leones) to the Kerry Town Treatment Center contractor. He said he in turn, sent the request to the minister for her consent before he could proceed with the payment.

The former Permanent Secretary now Paramount Chief of Nongowa Chiefdom produced another document in the court that was sent to the MOHS by the National Public Procurement Agency or NPPA, that basically set the rules for procurement during such emergencies, with one paragraph dealing extensively on eligibility for contract during such periods.

Before cross examining the witness, lawyer for former Minister of Health and Sanitation Yada Williams said they only got the CW11’s statement in the morning just before proceedings started and that he would need time to read the document and get in touch with his client.

He however quizzed the witness Mr. Kapuwa, but pivoted most of his questions on the grave humanitarian crisis at the time and how there was need for emergency procurement to be done as in the case of the ambulances.

Lawyer Williams asserted that the Kerry Town Treatment Center was very necessary at the time because the only treatment center in the country was in Kenema and it was over 300km from Freetown. Transporting victims from Freetown or any other part of the country to Kenema was cumbersome, hence the need for the Kerry Town Treatment Center.

In response to a question posed by Yada Williams on the completion and operations of the Kerry Town Treatment Center, Mr. Kapuwa said he was aware of the commencement of the work but cannot vouch for the completion and operationalization of it.

He said his role was basically reduced to payment whenever such issues arose and that every major decision was taken at the EOC which comprised local and international partners.

The judge stood down the witness and asked him to make himself available to day Wednesday February 20 for further questioning.

The next witness to take the witness box was Mr. Christian Collins O. George who works for an accounting firm BDO. He said their duties were basically to provide fiduciary services for the management of the Ebola funds.

Mr. George disclosed that their firm entered into contract with government of Sierra Leone in November 2014, after KPMG had terminated their contract with GoSL for provision of same services. He said their contract ran out in December 2015, and they produced a report which was tendered in evidence. He was also stood down and asked to report today Wednesday February 20.

Another witness Mr. Abdul Rahim Mujtabah from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank took the witness box and expounded on the politically exposed persons who took unsecured loans from the bank up to the tune of Le 7, 892,810,408 (seven billion, eight hundred and ninety-two million, eight hundred and ten thousand, four hundred and eight leones), which eventually was written off by the bank.

Mr. Mujtabah disclosed that SLCB had to contract a credit recovery agency to retrieve some loans for them and that they succeeded in recovering Le 2, 426, 505, 920 ( two billion, four hundred and twenty six million, five hundred and five thousand, nine hundred and twenty Leones).

He disclosed that a loan taken from the bank but not serviced after 12 months is categorised as a loss to the bank. If after another 12 months it is not recovered it is written off no matter the amount involved, Mr. Mujtabah explained.

He was also stood down and told he might be called upon again. The court adjourned to today February 20.

Court 2 and 3 continued cross examination of witnesses Messrs Hydara Sheriff and Vincent respectively in relation to the procurement of NPK fertilisers and purchase of land.

The inquiry sessions continue today Wednesday February 20.

Source Credit: Outreach Coordination Unit, Ministry of Information and Communications.

5 Comments

  1. I hope and pray that President Trump won’t have the opportunity to view or read about how the APC party treated taxpayers and their monies during their 11 years in power, because he will definitely use that as an example to justify his derogatory statement he made that “ Africa Nations as SHITHOLE countries”.

  2. Sometime after the overthrow of APC in 1992,a booklet came out entitled APC TRAGEDY,introduced by Sheka Massaquoi. The subtitle is AS TOLD BY MOHAMED SORIE FORNA.

    Here is what Sheka Massaquoi wrote : “the APC’s red sun shone for 24 years.For most of the period it emitted intense heat on our soil,a heat so scorching that it turned a paradise into a desert land.This sun must set”.

    If the above quotation does not summarise who APC are I don’t know what does.Current events should help the nation as a whole to understand that APC are not only violent but destructive as well.This became the the centre of their culture in the Stevens years.

    Once Siaka Stevens became supreme leader of the nation,like Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia, after annihilating all opposition through assassinations and fabricated charges of treason,he essentially subjected the country to a free-for-all – take what you can when you can.

    The country lost its balance in every sector.If you wanted to become rich overnight you joined APC. It is this culture of APC that has been haunting the country ever since whenever the party is in power.

    Therefore what Earnest Koroma and his gangsters were doing to the nation’s bank should be only a surprise to those who do not know Sierra Leone’s contemporary history.

    The unwelcome exposure which APC are now facing at the Commissions of Inquiry reveals their level of intelligence.They are stuck in the Siaka Stevens era mode as the country and the rest of the world move on with the latest in technology.They were arrogantly sure that turning the country’s bank into a piggy bank would never see the light of day – but see the light of day it has.

    We all know the saying that when a fish wants to gobble up its young it muddies the waters and that’s what is emerging at the various government ministries.Permanent Secretary Kapuwa, for example,was sidelined at the Ministry of Health because the Minister wanted her evil team in place to steal Ebola funds while people lay dying in the streets.

    Paramount Chief Kapuwa must now be one of the happiest people in the world for having been shoved aside by his minister who must now be going through one of her worst moments since she was born.

  3. It does not surprise me that APC folks would loot Commercial Bank at a rate unprecedented in history. Corruption, graft and the destruction of institutions has always been the modus operandi of the APC. Yet supporters of this nation-wrecking political party, in covering the evils of their party, would draw a false equivalency between the APC and the SLPP by saying that the APC and the SLPP are the same. Truth is, they are not.

    Ernest Koroma is a clone of Siaka Stevens. Both men raided the national treasury at a rate unprecedented in history. And it was the predatory accumulation of the Stevens’ era that led to the civil war. Ernest Koroma was just as bad by presiding over an era of unchecked corruption, deadly diseases, mudslides and an uptick in armed robbery. The question is, why do calamities always befall Sierra Leone when the APC is in power?

    The APC has a reputation for using violence and vote rigging to win elections. But when it comes to governance, the party cannot be trusted with power. The party is bereft of a moral code that stimulates good governance.

    President Tejan Kabbah inherited a failed state with a war economy. But he left Sierra Leone a debt-free nation. Enter APC’s Ernest Koroma and the downward spiral was set in motion.

    Sierra Leone is again on an upward trajectory under the SLPP. But this progress would only continue if it is not interrupted by the APC. Give the APC power again and Sierra Leone will again come to be associated with violence, disease and blatant corruption and graft.

    My late Father of blessed memory always voted for the APC. I inherited everything else from my father save the APC.

    • Truth is, APC and SLPP are Sierra Leoneans are they not? And if what you say is to be believed, the SLPP were never participants in corruption? What planet do you live on with such logic?

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