Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 August 2016
As pressure mounts on the speaker of Sierra Leone’s parliament to conduct an investigation into millions of dollars alleged to have been misappropriated by the chairman of the country’s National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) – Mr Momoh Konteh, a second letter was last week addressed to the speaker.
The letter is demanding yet another investigation into the overall management of NATCOM and the entire process of privatising the country’s telecommunication gateway.
This second letter however, goes much deeper. It not only alleges that members of president Koroma’s family are personally benefiting from the breaking up and selling of the telecoms gateway to foreign investors, but accuses the president of directly controlling and manipulating the bidding process.
This continuing abuse of presidential powers the author of the letter says, is responsible for Sierra Leone’s under-development and massive corruption in high places, with close friends, political allies and family members of the president directly benefiting from large public procurement contracts and sale of national assets.
The letter is scathing: “NATCOM must justify the decision to allow our International Gateway to be managed on the basis of self-declaration of minutes that has led to the loss of over $200 million since 2008 at the hands of Teltac Africa Ltd (“State Exploiters from Lebanon” headed by Hisham Mackie).
“We support the recommendation by Investigative Journalists for Parliament to instruct Teltac Africa Ltd to payback the People of Sierra Leone the sum of at least $80 million out of the $200 million the Company has stolen from our International Gateway cash machine between 2008 and 2016 inclusive.”
Read this second letter in full below:
House of Parliament,
NATCOM Corruption: Parliament must Intervene as Momoh Konte blackmails the Koroma Family over International Gateway Contract Rivalry
Corruption surrounding the monitoring contract for the liberalized International Gateway has reached such epic proportions, that Parliament must now intervene in order to save our Democracy and the Presidency from falling into total disrepute.
With Momoh Konte accusing the President’s brothers of being directly and openly involved in the fight to take over the Gateway monitoring contract, President Koroma’s personal interest in the International Gateway has become so blatant and public, that it has attracted the greedy attention of other corrupt businessmen from all over the world.
The former Chairman of NATCOM Dr Tom Obaleh Kargbo continues to protest his innocence and believes that he and other commissioners were sacked by President Koroma as part of his first step to cancel the legally binding monitoring contract with a European Company.
The decision to retender the contract has apparently led to bitter rivalry between Momoh Konte and the Koroma Family. This is very shameful Mr Speaker!
According to a source very close to a serving Commissioner of NATCOM, Momoh Konte is reported to have received hundreds of thousands of US Dollars in bribes from Global Voice Ltd. The company also offered him shares if their bid is successful.
To increase the chances of success for Global Voice, Momoh Konte gave verbal instructions on the phone while he was out of the country to his fellow Commissioners on the ground not to accept any more than two other bidders in addition to Global Voice Ltd.
This instruction was carried out and in so doing they rejected the bids from 4 other companies on the grounds that they submitted their bids few minutes late.
A source close to Momoh Konte claims that two of the companies whose bids were rejected have the full backing of President Koroma’s brothers (referred to as the Koroma Brothers in this letter). However, Momoh Konte himself claims that the companies are actually owned by the Koroma Brothers.
The High Court recently ruled in favour of the companies whose bids were rejected by NATCOM to the annoyance and disappointment of Momoh Konte. Giving instructions from his hiding place out of the country, Momoh Konte instructed his Lieutenants to defy the Court ruling. The Chairman’s other instruction to appeal against the Court ruling has also been carried out.
Credible sources close to the NATCOM Board have confirmed that the evaluation of the three bids that were submitted on the closing date has been completed by the Acting DG Senesie Kallon, Commissioner Alpha Sesay, Commissioner Frank Manja, and a few other members of the Management team of NATCOM.
And that an Award letter has already been drafted in favour of Suba Ltd from Ghana which ministerial sources suspect to be the company favoured by President Koroma. Momoh Konte has threatened to blackmail the entire Koroma family if the bid by Global Voice is unsuccessful. The Gateway gloves are officially off!
Mr Speaker, the international image and respectability of Sierra Leone have been seriously dented by the direct involvement of President Koroma in the International Gateway issue.
According to a report by Investigative Journalists who have been pursuing Momoh Konte for nearly year now, the involvement of President Koroma has led to:
1. The International Gateway to be operated by Teltac Africa without a License throughout the Monopoly and beyond (from 2006 to 2016).
2. The loss of over $200 million by SierraTel, NATCOM and the Government since 2008 caused by allowing Teltac Africa Ltd owned by the so called “State Exploiters from Lebanon” headed by Hisham Mackie to operate the International Gateway on the basis of self-declaration of call minutes.
3. The blatant breach of the World Bank agreement under the instructions of President Koroma to protect his personal interest in the International Gateway and SALCAB.
4. The suspension of the WARCIP Project by the World Bank leaving staff involved to go without salaries.
5. The cancellation of $10 million worth of World Bank funded e-Transform projects caused by the suspension of the WARCIP project. These projects would have benefited several Government Departments and NATCOM.
6. The credit rating of Sierra Leone has taken a nosedive caused by the Government’s deliberate breach of World Bank agreement under the instructions of President Koroma.
Mr Speaker, patriotic Ministers and Civil Servants are very angry that the President’s instructions to deliberately breach the World Bank agreement has resulted to the Post-Ebola Recovery initiatives being delayed by our Donor Partners who are currently indispensable.
Corruption has become so endemic that, Sierra Leone can barely stand on its feet even with the help of crutches provided by our generous international Donors.
We are an independent State without independent means! This is very shameful Mr Speaker especially when taking into consideration all of the rich mineral resources Sierra Leone is blessed with.
Mr Speaker, Momoh Konte was appointed Chairman of NATCOM in order to raise funds for President Koroma and to compensate him for his timbergate disgrace after being exposed by Aljazeera on international TV in 2011.
As the fallout over the International Gateway monitoring contract becomes ever so eminent, Momoh Konte is unveiling his blackmail strategy through his credible sources in the Media.
As a taste of what to come, he told one of his media sources that after serving over a year as Chairman, it is his conclusion that President Koroma is a very ungrateful, unreliable, greedy, selfish and very wicked leader who would send you to commit a crime but then withdraws and isolates himself when you get caught as if he is an innocent Saint.
Momoh Konte continues to insist that everything he does at NATCOM is approved by President Koroma and he has evidence to prove it. He divulged to his source that President Koroma agreed to allow him to select a company for the retendered monitoring contract.
Momoh Konte warned that any deviation by the President from their gentleman’s agreement on the Gateway monitoring contract would have serious consequences which His Excellency and his entire Koroma family would live to regret for the rest of their lives.
The absolute confidence with which Momoh Konte expressed his threats against President Koroma and his family is rather very surprising to say the least.
Mr Speaker, Parliament must address the following issues as a matter of urgency:
1. The President’s apparent involvement in every public procurement worth $100,000 or higher is causing excessively long delays in the implementation of Government projects that are intended to benefit all Sierra Leoneans.
This explains the frustratingly slow development pace of the Country behind Liberia, Guinea and The Gambia. Parliament must therefore advise President Koroma to take his hands off all procurement processes in compliance with the Public Procurement Act. It is also causing corrupt people like Momoh Konte to blackmail him with confidence. This is very shameful Mr Speaker.
2. The Anticorruption Commission must end the discriminating manner in which it operates by treating Momoh Konte and other government officials as sacred cattle. No one is above the law Mr Speaker. Momoh Konte and other Commissioners of NATCOM continue to impersonate as Executive when they are Nonexecutive Board members. We have previously submitted this issue in Part 1 for your immediate action.
3. The Koroma Government must be ordered to comply with all terms and conditions of the World Bank agreement with immediate effect. Full compliance will help repair our relationship with the World Bank and other International Relations associated with it.
4. We agree with the report that the International Gateway is a National Resource owned by the People of Sierra Leone. Parliament must therefore hold current and former NATCOM officials to account for allowing our International Gateway to be left unregulated and operated without a License throughout the Monopoly.
Most importantly, NATCOM must also justify the decision to allow our International Gateway to be managed on the basis of self-declaration of minutes that has led to the loss of over $200 million since 2008 at the hands of Teltac Africa Ltd (“State Exploiters from Lebanon” headed by Hisham Mackie).
5. We support the recommendation by Investigative Journalists for Parliament to instruct Teltac Africa Ltd to payback the People of Sierra Leone the sum of at least $80 million out of the $200 million the Company stolen from our International Gateway cash machine between 2008 and 2016 inclusive.
6. We have attached the 4 page contract signed by the President’s brother-in-law Alpha Sesay while he was Managing Director of SierraTel. This sell-out contract for the operation of the International Gateway that generated tens of millions of US Dollars a year during the Monopoly is an immoral betrayal of the People of Sierra Leone.
Alpha Sesay was later appointed by the President as a member of the Board of the telecoms regulator NATCOM in order to protect Teltac Africa Ltd and the President’s personal interest on the International Gateway.
Parliament must therefore demand a copy of the full 4 page contract, and summon President Koroma for his role in allowing Teltac Africa Ltd to over-exploit the People’s International Gateway resource.
The President -, His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma
The Vice President – Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh
All Members of Parliament
All Cabinet Ministers of the Sierra Leone Government
All Leaders of Opposition Parties
The Bank Governor, Bank of Sierra Leone
World Bank Country Representative
The Chief Justice, Sierra Leone Judiciary
Ade Macauley – Anticorruption Commissioner
The CEO, National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA)
Auditor General, Audit Service Sierra Leone
Commissioner General, National Revenue Authority (NRA)
Sierra Leone Bar Association
All current and former Members of the Board and Management of NATCOM
All Media Houses in Sierra Leone and Aljazeera TV