Former president Koroma’s government to account for over one billion dollars – say international auditors

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 3 April 2019:

Last weekend former president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, announced his surprised re-entry into national politics, despite promising to take a back seat as leader and chairman of his defeated APC party at last year’s elections.

But yesterday, as he resumed office at his party’s headquarters in Freetown, from where he will be directing the affairs of his opposition APC party,  he was greeted with a statement from the SLPP government’s ministry of finance, inviting the media to a press conference where details of an audit into the financial conduct of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) presided over by president Koroma will be revealed.

And by late afternoon, the extent of impropriety, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds became all too clear.

According to the technical financial audit conducted by a group of international auditors drawn from Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana, president Koroma and his heads of MDAs are to account for over $1 billion of public funds, misappropriated over a period of just three years.

Details of the international technical audit report into the grotesque corruption in high office presided over by the former president of Sierra Leone – Ernest Bai Koroma, are troubling and makes for sombre reading.

Sierra Leone is ranked among the poorest nations in the world, yet in just three years, corrupt public officials and ministers were able to spectacularly siphon over $1 billion of funds meant for the development of the country.

In four sectors alone, over $538 million was misappropriated by public officials in connivance with their private sector cronies, between 2015 and 2018.

According to the international technical audit report, which it is understood will now be the main focus of the three Commissions of Inquiry set up by president Julius Maada Bio and the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, the four main sectors used by ministers and senior public officials as gravy trains were telecoms, roads, energy and social security (NASSIT).

Mobile phone companies contracted to provide the country with 4G network were allowed by ministers and senior officials to defraud the state to the tune of more than $10 million in unpaid licence fees and taxes.

NATCOM – the telecommunications regulator, had entered into a contract with a company that did not tender a bid for provision of services, after the company had doled out nearly $1 million of donations to youth groups, as well as kickbacks to MPs and officials of the information and political affairs ministries.

The international audit report also found that, at the state-owned communications company – SIERRATEL, there were 74 million missing recharged voucher serial numbers and 109,000 customers used recharged vouchers not generated by the system, amounting to $245,000.

Two IT staff working at SIERRATEL ran their own personal point of sale terminal operations in their own names with total unaccounted revenue of Le33.5 Billion in January to Nov 2018 alone.

In January – May, more than Le 19 Billion collected as revenue for point of sale recharge couldn’t be accounted for, says the report.

Although SIERRATEL’s financial records show that almost Le 2.5 Billion was spent on the purchasing of vehicles, the audit report found no vehicles, yet they were listed in the company’s accounts as assets.

In the government’s agency responsible for rolling out internet cable network across the country – SALCAB, the international auditors found that more than $526,000 and Le2 billion were paid respectively to a company to provide services which ought to have been provided by SALCAB’s Board.

But those services were never performed by the company. The contract was bogus.

Large sums of money were transferred or withdrawn as cash from SALCAB’s bank accounts without the necessary supporting documents and without provision of services, amounting to $ 2.4 million and Le 1.6 Billion respectively.

No supporting documents for “Board Expenses” for the 2015 financial year amounting to Le386 million.

In addition, Le3.2 Billion of tax payers’ money were donated to former ministers and MPs without any policy for approving and processing such gifts. This is corruption.

At NASSIT, the NAPOS II software purchased for over $2 million is said by the international auditors as unfit for its intended purpose.

64 people were found to be listed as pensioners but without social security numbers. These people were paid over Le 409 million.

248 pension claims amounting to Le 5.4 billion were paid out without meeting the set criteria.

Billions of Leones were fraudulently paid by corrupt officials to people who had not reached the statutory retirement age.

There was total disregard for procurement procedures in the awarding of a $35 million contract for the construction of a multipurpose market and transport terminal in Bo (Sewa Grounds) through sole sourcing.

The original contract for the rehabilitation of the Bintumani conference centre by NASSIT was inflated from $8.2 million to $16.2 million.

Details revealed by the international auditors of the extent of corruption in the awarding of contracts for road construction are equally troubling.

These are just some examples of the grotesques corruption unearthed by the international group of auditors that will now become the subject of investigations by the ACC and the Commissions of Inquiry. Those found wanting must pay back every cent and receive jail sentence.

14 Comments

  1. Our nation should continue praying for President Maada Bio from distractions by political and economic saboteurs, since former President Earnest Koroma is still putting up resistance that as former president he cannot continue to be a lifetime leader of the strongest opposition party, because some people especially majority of the population who are illiterates will still perceive him as the president of the country. So let him please follow the example of late President Kabba that our country should have only one president and leader.

    In terms of the economy which according to the forensic audit report which has been partly financed and executed by an international organization and auditors from four different counties, it is now obvious that for the past eleven years our country has been saturated with illegal money, and with President Bio trying to clean up those blood monies will definitely need consistent prayer from the nation. May the Almighty continue to give him wisdom and understanding so that within the five years that the people have mandated him for, will be materialised.

  2. You are always looking out for trouble for the people of this country. I really doubt the way your thinking or reasoning faculty work and also surprised which literacy and education you achieved with your one percent minister. This is what you think but one thing you always forget, you should be saying, if God agrees. Keep fooling yourself Bio, until 2023.

  3. Sahr Matturi,

    I wish to draw your attention to two facts: First, the Commissions of Inquiry are still in progress and by the look of things they may well go beyond the designated time to end; there are just too many revelations cascading towards the kleptomania which engulfed the Koroma Government, for the jurists to finish their work on time.

    Second, and this is the most important fact – Earnest Koroma shall never be absolved of the ultimate responsibility of all that went on during his tenure because of vicarious responsibility. Quite simply vicarious responsibility means that he who does something through another, is responsible for the outcome.

    A few examples: A commanding general is responsible for what goes on in a war not the foot soldier who merely follows orders. If things go wrong it is not the subordinates to the general that would be relieved, but the general – in other words sacked. Did Adolf Hitler ever fly a single war plane in the second world war or personally gassed Jews to death? Never; but he bore ultimate responsibility for what German soldiers did. He recognised this fact and committed suicide before Russian Forces could capture him. Another simple one: the headmaster or principal of a school would be held responsible for the unruliness which characterises the school.

    Earnest Koroma was just a clever thief while in office, if at all. I have no doubt that as head of government he will have to face the Commissions of Inquiry if not as a direct thief but as the one who laid the groundwork to facilitate thievery. The man is a follower not a leader.

    • Thank you very much Santhkie for drawing my attention to the points you mentioned. I respect your opinion in every respect.
      First of all, I was against the the number of months given for the COI to complete its work. It was six months if I am not mistaken. Corruption of such magnitude should take a minimum of one year. Moreover, the debate in parliament was done in a rush without any proper scrutiny in my view.

      Just imagine , there are government officials who have retired but participated in corrupt practices and there are government officials who were dismissed but went with their loot in this same period the COI is going to cover. Are these individuals going to face the COI?

      Does the COI have the intelligence or information on such individuals? Does it also mean that parliament has to sit again to vote for an extension for the COI? Remember that the president’s party is in the minority. Not only that, a majority number of MPs during the last debate wanted to see the COI wound up quickly. I was amazed about that.

      Arresting former president Koroma on any corruption charges will be a recipe for chaos, and chaos is the last thing that president Bio wants. It is very important for the president to balance between PEACE and the LAW. As far as former President Koroma is concerned, the COI SHIP has long left and is still sailing at full steam.

      I agree with you to some extent with your second point. The buck stops with the president always. He always has to put measures in place for the good functioning of his government and the prosperity of his country.

  4. Wow, wow. What a finding from the international auditors. This is sickening. I read the report/findings from the international auditors and I cannot apprehend why some Sierra Leoneans are heartless, greedy and unpatriotic to our beloved Mama Sierra Leone.

    This report/findings should be relayed to the common Sierra Leonean in every part of the country in laymans term, whether old or young to know the level at which those in or were in authority have crippled Sierra Leone financially.

    D GRON DRY (THE CRY OF THE PEOPLE). DO NOT BLAME THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT BUT THE LAST. People of Sierra Leone go out into the streets peacefully to vent your anger on the DRY GRON left for us patriotic Sierra Leoneans by the past government. Tell the current government what you want done to those greedy, heartless and unpatriotic Sierra Leoneans. Shame on them.

  5. Good morning brothers and sisters. I am quite sure the money stolen by the former government must be returned to the country and all those responsible should also bear the brunt. It seems the former government were just run by thieves of all sorts. They must be brought to court and justice.

    A country should not be run by thieves, as the whole state ought to be ruled by a leader who is clear from all sort of corruption. As this had been the day to day run of the government, they must now bear and be responsible to pay for their in activities in the country.

    Thanks brother and our leader of the government who is now running the country so that everyone would see by themselves what a country is and how it is run. Let them all pay for their misguided thinking. Please think of the downtrodden, who have no money or anything to eat and to feed their pockets.

  6. I have some reservations with the timing of this report.
    Was the report made public because former President Koroma has entered active politics? Was it a way to slander him? Let us wait and see.
    The only thing that is clear is that former President Koroma has entered the political stage again.

    He has every right to do what he wants. People might say whatever they want, but nothing will change his decision.
    I have always said that the road to 2023 will be very bumpy and there will be a lot of bombshell and surprises down the road.
    The former president is playing the conquerors game here. He is now trying to reassure his base and supporters not only in the APC but in other political parties and the country.

    He has entered on time. He knows that the COI SHIP has long left and nothing was brought against him. The ship is sailing at full steam.
    So, he is in a very good position to defend himself on any allegations that will be made against him.
    THE 2023 CAMPAIGN HAS STARTED. What are your waiting for? THE GATE IS OPEN. DRIVE THROUGH LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

    • Sahr, nursing reservations about government activities—especially one in Africa—is healthy. But must that color the veracity of the conclusions in the forensic report? In your view, when should have been a good time to publically disclose the report?

      Koroma wants to be actively involved in national politics? Good for him. But I hope those hurrahing him to continue, wouldn’t start complaining when he is treated as any common politician. This response cannot be asymmetric: if he eschews the role traditionally played by former heads-of-state in our budding democracy, I am sure the government would react equally atypically.

    • I don’t know in which planet Sahr Matturi resides. He has a penchant for bringing up outlandish things. If he is not attacking president Bio for erroneously conceiving that the president is not hiring women, he is vindicating Ernest Koroma of his crimes against Sierra Leone and erroneously suggesting that the Commissions of Inquiry have found nothing against the former president.

      Sahr Matturi, we know you are on the wrong side of history but not so fast, brother, not so fast. The Commissions of Inquiry are just one month old. Ernest Koroma’s time to face the judges will come. until then, coming to premature conclusions is foolhardy.

  7. Seton During,

    What you are doing is widening the goalpost simply because your APC has been pushed to the corner. You cannot change the rules of the game after the game has started. There was a Commission of Inquiry established in 2008 to investigate the SLPP government of president Ahmad Tejan Kabbah. No one in that government was found guilty of anything. So by you calling again for the interrogation of folks that have already been interrogated under the watch of APC’s Ernest Koroma smacks of a witch hunt, double jeopardy and a desperate attempt to protect the APC.

    Seton During cannot undo what the parliament of Sierra Leone has already done – approve the instruments of Commissions of Inquiry to cover persons involved in governance between 2007 and 2018. There is no misconception of anything here.

  8. Any Patriotic Sierra Leonean,including those who have APC blood flowing all over their body,should see this audit report as the most diabolical and selfish activity engaged in by a handful of criminals to break mother Sierra Leone to pieces.

    The lead criminal was Ernest Koroma who cleverly disguised himself as president of the nation.One has to wonder whether the man has any semblance of intelligence to even manage a team of janitors whose main task is to clean up Krootown Road Market. It seems all Ernest was interested in was to ensure that no one encroached on the sectors where he was doing his own thieving – all others were free for all, hence the $1 billion that went missing.

    President Bio should immediately extend the mandate of the Commissions of Inquiry as the audit report has opened up a completely new avenue of investigation. Ben Kaifala and his ACC should move swiftly to apprehend all those mentioned in the audit report and throw them into a cell where they should remain under the stiffest bail conditions.

  9. Oh wow. Corruption has been endemic in out little rich country. No wonder why our people are the subject of degradation and poverty. These corrupt politicians and their beneficiaries should be brought to book. This is an exciting time for our country’s politics.

  10. In order to enhance credibility and even-handedness, how about including Sierra Leone’s Ministry/Department of Defence; and, all preceding SL Governments financial activities, otherwise it can be misperceived as targeting Sierra Leone’s APC exclusively. No persons should be protected.

    • I highly doubt most Sierra Leoneans would misperceive this effort. Of course there would always be a sector of the country that chooses to process things differently; cry the fight against corruption is a “ witch-hunt”; scream all this is a ploy, a carefully crafted strategy against one region of the country. But that is simply unfortunate.

      Now to your argument that the scope of the investigation be expanded to include another ministry and all proceeding governments, I say this: APC had an opportunity to investigate Kabbah’s SLPP. Whatever became of that is a failure on APC’s part. To boot, the recently completed technical audit was deliberately limited to those 4 ministries, spanning the immediate 3 years because resources to broaden its scope are finite.

      How far back do you suggest they go? Must they go as far back as 1961? The selected ministries investigated were carefully selected. The government’s efforts are commendable — all patriotic Sierra Leoneans ought to celebrate it.

Tell us about your views

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.