IMF did not approve $12 million loan for Sierra Leone government buses

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 27 August 2015

Koroma commissions 100 buses

The infamous Sierra Leone Treasury Secretary – Edmund Koroma – a cousin of president Koroma and one of his sacred cows that are being allowed to graze on the meager funds meant to pay for healthcare, education and fight poverty in Sierra Leone, has once again used his mastered art of lying and forgery to hide government impropriety.

Edmund Koroma became a well known corruption convict, after swindling millions of Euros from the country’s tax payer a few years ago, in the procurement of two rotten and unseaworthy ferries from Europe.

And as though the Ferrygate scandal was not sufficient embarrassment for the Koroma government, the Sierra Leone Telegraph’s investigation into the illegal purchasing of 100 buses from a Chinese company costing $12 million by the government of Sierra Leone, has now taken a new twist.

Our investigations reveal that Treasury Secretary Edmund Koroma lied, when he wrote in a letter to transport minister Balogun Koroma, that the IMF had given their approval to the loan agreement. This is what Edmund Koroma said:

Edmond-Koroma“Under the IMF supported programme with Sierra Leone, this credit (the $12 million loan) is non-concessional borrowing. Hence as a requirement, the Fund (IMF) has been informed accordingly and an implicit approval obtained.”

But a senior official at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, told our correspondent in Washington that the IMF did not give approval – implicit or otherwise, for the government to obtain a $12 million loan to purchase 100 buses.

This IMF statement is contrary to the lies told by the government’s Treasury Secretary Edmund Koroma in his letter published in July by local media (see below).

It is understood that this letter has now been used as material evidence by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in its ill-advised decision to swiftly end its investigation into the Busgate scandal.

But a source at the ACC has confirmed to the Sierra Leone Telegraph that ‘powers from above’ – a euphemism for State House, have killed the ACC investigations into the fraudulent $12 million loan contract.

Representing the Sierra Leone Telegraph, Denis Kabatto put the following questions to the IMF in Washington for their response to allegations made by the Sierra Leone government Treasury Secretary – Edmund Koroma.

1. Did the IMF approve contract for 100 Chinese Buses?

2. Can you comment on this statement published by local media in Freetown:

“On today’s edition is the Authority from the Ministry of Finance giving approval to the Ministry of Transport to go ahead and sign a contract on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone. Signed by Financial Secretary Mr. Edmund Koroma, it tells Transport Ministry to go ahead and sign the contract for 100 buses to be procured from China as the final drafted Contract has been approved by International Monetary Fund (IMF).” (Published by Awareness Times).

This is what the IMF official told Dennis Kabatto:

“Dear Dennis – With apologies for the delay, please see below what we have to say on the issue you raised.

“When a country is implementing a program that is supported by the IMF, as is currently the case for Sierra Leone, the country authorities typically make commitments regarding the amount of non-concessional debt they will acquire during the program.

“In this context, the IMF staff was informed of the potential purchase of the buses by the government of Sierra Leone, and was asked if the related financing would be consistent with Sierra Leone’s commitments to the Fund.

“The IMF staff expressed the view that the financing would not violate any commitments made to the Fund by the government of Sierra Leone.”

So clearly, whilst the Minister of Finance – through the Financial Secretary Mr. Edmund Koroma, gave approval to the Ministry of Transport to go ahead with the signing of the $12 million loan contract on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone to purchase the 100 buses, certainly the IMF did not give their approval nor was it their place to grant such approval.

So why such blatant and damaging lies about the IMF approving a fraudulent loan incurred by government ministers, in order to line up their pockets with contract kickbacks?

This is the question that the Anti-Corruption Commissioner Kamara should have been asking himself, before making any decision to quash the investigations.

Kaifala Marah1Early this year, when finance minister Marah presented his budget statement to parliament for 2015/2016, he did not say that the government was going to borrow $12 million to purchase 100 buses.

Indeed to the contrary, he told parliament that the cost of the new buses will be met through the consolidated fund – revenue generated by the government.

When did ministers decide to twist this decision and convert public revenue into a $12 million loan?

Whilst president Koroma’s government cannot be accused of inventing such racketeering in Sierra Leone, it is quite staggering to believe that a president who had presented himself as a Mr. Squeaky Clean and a zero tolerant president for corruption, must stoop so low as to authorise a $12 million loan, without first seeking the approval of parliament.

So, how much did president Koroma receive as kickback from this $12 Million contract? This is also a question for the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Did president Koroma himself give the $12 million from his large cash holding to his Lebanese associate, who then provided the money to the government as a loan repayable at such massive interest rate?

How much money did the minister of transport receive as contract kickback?

When is the Anti-Corruption Commission going to publish its interim report into this Busgate Scandal, even though the Sierra Leone Telegraph has learned that the ACC has been told by State House to stop the investigations into the corruption surrounding the $12 million?

The people of Sierra Leone deserve to know the truth.

This is Letter written by Edmund Koroma:

Letter by Edmund Koroma1

Letter by Edmund Koroma2

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