Sierra Leone Telegraph: 25 August 2016
Two ministry of social welfare personnel are now at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), helping with investigations regarding an alleged corruption syndicate involving senior public officials, uncovered at the ministry.
Sources at the ACC have this afternoon confirmed that they are both persons of interest. One of whom is the permanent secretary of the ministry – Mr Momo Bockarie Foh – the younger brother of the country’s vice president Victor Bockarie Foh.
It is understood that the other individual in ACC custody, is the chief accountant of the ministry – Mariatu Harding.
Yesterday, the permanent secretary at the ministry of social welfare in Sierra Leone, was caught red-handed attempting to withdraw thousands of dollars from an account held at the commercial bank in Freetown.
The scam was exposed in a secretly recorded audio conversation sent to the Sierra Leone Telegraph yesterday.
Sierra Leone’s ministry of social welfare is believed to be one of the most corrupt and chaotic ministries in the country, which the former editor of Awareness Times newspaper and now minister in charge of the embattled ministry – Dr. Sylvia Blyden was appointed early this year by president Koroma to bring under control.
But there are massive structural and administrative problems crippling her efforts.
More that 70% of Sierra Leone’s GDP or wealth created in the country, is consumed by the country’s public sector, with very little finding its way into the private sector for investment and job creation.
This cannot be good for tackling poverty in a country that is classed as one of the poorest in the world.
With most of the country’s GDP which is estimated at $4 billion, supporting the payment of public sector wages and salaries, the delivery of essential services and the running of government, opportunity for corruption and misappropriation of funds is astronomical.
Analysts say that yesterday’s corruption scam exposed at the ministry of social welfare is just the tip of the iceberg.
Dr Blyden was brought in, to head the ministry of social welfare so as to make sweeping changes in the way the institution is being managed; bring sanity to the ministry and address the immediate priorities and needs of vulnerable children and women in the country.
But since taking up the job, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that she is being frustrated by the poor conduct and treacherous behaviour of senior colleagues, including the deputy minister.
Rather than being allowed to focus on addressing the plight of the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children and women in the country, she is forced to be spending her time chasing thieves and corrupt officials in the ministry.
Last month – July 2016, Dr Blyden told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that, since her appointment as head of the social welfare ministry in March this year, she had been gathering evidence involving allegation of a network of businessmen and public officials, conspiring to defraud the state of hundreds of thousands of dollars, meant for the installation and operation of computer systems across children’s services in Sierra Leone.
Based on her findings, she had asked the Sierra Leone police to investigate and prosecute those responsible for this serious crime.
“Armed with that information I had quietly gathered, on Friday 15th April 2016, exactly one week after I took office, I decided to undertake a whirlwind nation-wide tour of the entire country in order to elicit the reasons why a Multi-Million Dollars Donor-funded project to, among other things, provide VSAT Internet service to all district offices, was not functional despite the contract signed by Afcom SL Limited with the Ministry to provide such 12 months internet service at cost of $182,400 (One Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand, Four Hundred U.S. Dollars) alongside provide another totally different supply of Call Center equipment and configuration at $17,600 (Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred U.S. Dollars) for a grand total of $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars),” says Dr. Blyden.
Those allegations are still being investigated by the Sierra Leone police, whom many are accusing of dragging their feet. One of the accused at the centre of that case is believed to be an associate of vice president Victor Bockarie Foh.
So what happened yesterday? (You can listen to the audio recording below).
This is a letter leaked by an unknown source, that was written by the minister of social welfare – Dr Sylvia Blyden, to inform her staff at the ministry about what took place yesterday:
“My Dear Staff of MSWGCA,
“Some of you might have learnt of the act of criminality that the Permanent Secretary Momo Bockarie Foh (Photo: Mr Momo Bockarie Foh) was caught in today involving a secretly duplicated Hajj dollars account at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank.
“Mr. Momo Bockarie Foh in connivance with other persons including the long since retired former finance clerk, MR. ABDUL GEGBAI were all caught red-handed today trying to steal $3,000 (three thousand dollars) of Government money.
“Many of you know the frustrations that I have been facing in trying to lead a Ministry that was long since wired to be corrupt.
“God saw my heart. God knows what I mean to do for my President as His Excellency serves our vulnerable people and today, the powerful God I serve, decided that enough was enough and exposed Permanent Secretary Momo Bockarie Foh for the criminal that he is.
“The audio you will hear accompanying this update is of PS Foh as he speaks to Hon. Mohamed Alie Bah, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office and Alhaji Sheka Shekito Kamara, the Special Assistant to the President on Social Issues. The audio speaks for itself.
“The fraudulent letter (see below) attempting to steal $3,000 is also going to accompany this update. This is for staff members of MSWGCA to better understand what unveiled in your ministry today.”
“The audio and letter speak for themselves – unauthorised transaction from a secretly held account in the name of my ministry supposedly for Hajj activities.”
Listen to the secret recording: Grand corruption at the ministry of social welfare exposed – Mr Momo Bockarie Foh is the younger brother of the vice president Mr Victor Bockarie Foh.
There are fears that $14 million donor funds being set aside to help promote the welfare of young girls and vulnerable women in the country is at risk, as senior officials in the ministry are already scheming to embezzle the funds. (Photo: Vice president Victor Bockarie Foh. He is responsible for presidential oversight of the management of the country’s Hajj programme. How much does he know about this scam?)
In 2014, Sierra Leone’s ministry of health was marred by a massive corruption scandal, in which over $12 million of funds meant for the fight against the deadly Ebola virus were stolen.
Despite a parliamentary investigation into the Ebola corruption scandal, no one was charged to court. The Anti-Corruption Commission was quietly stopped from bringing legal action against those responsible for the theft.
Will the new Anti-Corruption Commissioner – Mr. Ady Macauley be allowed to step into the ministry of social welfare to put an end to the corruption syndicate that is now consuming the ministry and the lives of vulnerable children?
Mr Macauley must go where ever the evidence of malfeasance and corruption leads. He must be allowed by president Koroma to conduct a thorough investigation without State House or parliament’s interference, and ensure that those responsible are charged to court. (Photo: Mr Macauley welcomed by president Koroma to the ACC).
An attempt to steal $3,000 from the account of the ministry of social welfare may be regarded as a petty crime, but speaking recently to the editor of the Sierra Leone Telegraph, the head of the country’s Anti-Corruption Czar – Mr Ady Macauley said:
“There is nothing petty about petty corruption. For the most vulnerable and poorest in society, there is nothing petty about the proportion of their already stretched income that goes on bribes to access the services they desperately need – health, education, power, water and law and order.
“Nor is it petty when they are deprived of these services because they do not have the money to bribe – it means children do not get the education they need to build a better future for themselves and our country; and the sick die because they are denied life-saving treatment or vital medication.”
Over to you Mr Macauley – the poor and vulnerable children and women of Sierra Leone need you to clean up this mess.