Chernoh Alpha M. Bah: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 November 2020:
Few weeks ago, we reported in the Africanist Press how Leadway Trading Company used containers rather than cubic meters as a unit of measurement thereby violating Section 3 of the Finance (Amendment) Act of 2018, leading to a deliberate undervaluation of revenues from timber exports by US$5.5 billion.
Of course, Leadway Trading, operated by Babadi Kamara, was issued a timber export monopoly license by President Julius Maada Bio in 2018 few months after he assumed office. Supporters of the Bio administration denied that Leadway Trading had actually violated the finance laws of the country by using containers instead of cubic meters to value timber exports, and that the company’s action cheated the country of much needed financial revenues.
Propagandists of the regime defended not only the corrupt monopoly contract awarded without tender and a bidding process by the presidency to Leadway Trading, a company run by an agent of the president, but they went as far as arguing that the container valuation process was legal.
Today, leading officials of the regime, having realized that they have robbed the country of its much needed revenues and acted without regard to its finance laws, are now seeking to legalize the undervaluing of timber exports by proposing to amend Section 3 of 2018 Finance Act, the very law they already violated. They have inserted a new provision in the 2021 Finance Act that now seeks to value timber exports at US$2500 per container instead of cubic meters as provided in the previous law.
The 2021 Finance Act that was taken to Parliament on Thursday November 12, 2020 by the Finance Ministry is asking parliamentarians to vote into law a provision that will devalue the country’s timber exports. What this means is that leading political actors, who actually benefit from the operations of Leadway Trading, are now giving a free pass to a company run by one of their party members to undervalue the country’s exports.
This is an open state robbery orchestrated by corporate gangsters in alliance with rogue politicians.
I have attached pages of the relevant sections of both the 2018 Finance Act, which they already violated in 2019, and the new Finance Act 2021 that is before parliament and which they are now planning to use to legitimize the previous violation, whilst simultaneously undervaluing future exports.
In our subsequent publication, we will trace and highlight how this timber monopoly arrangement and its financial operations are directly linked to the president and other senior officials of the Bio administration.
For now though, it is our responsibility as citizens to call on our respective parliamentarians to reject the new provisions of the 2021 Finance Act, and to equally call for a review of the monopoly export license granted to Leadway Trading by the president.
Most importantly, our parliamentarians must invite officials of Leadway Trading to explain why they violated the provision of the 2018 Finance Act. Finance ministry officials must also explain why they are seeking to adopt a unit of measurement that undervalues the country’s export earnings and revenues. We must all strive for real transparency and accountability.