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.