Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 Febraury 2021:
Editors of the US based Africanist Press – Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman, have today published more damning revelations about Sierra Leone government’s Chief Minister’s alleged financial impropriety.
According to this latest story, Chief Minister Professor David Francis’ office accounts, show over Le10 Billion in irregular cash withdrawals.
“We calculated all cash withdrawals drawn out of the Chief Minister’s Account from August 2018 to December 2020, and we discovered that a total of over Le10 billion in cash was withdrawn by various individuals in the Office of Chief Minister in less than three years of the Bio administration.
“These transactions do include various fund transfers to consultants and SWIFT payments to international service providers, including media and public relations agencies contracted through the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI).”
“Transactions were withdrawn mostly by close aides of the Chief Minister David Francis, and a few other employee’s contrary to the finance laws and regulations of the country. We observed in particular that most cash withdrawals were carried out by Sidique Jabbe (brother of the wife of President Bio), on behalf of the Chief Minister.”
“Thus, we conclude that contrary to Bio’s pledge to curb financial indiscipline and limit waste in government spending, we note glaring evidence of frivolous public spending and irregular financial payments in the expenditure details of the Chief Minister’s Office.”
This is what the authors of the report said:
In our first report on the Office of the Chief Minister of Sierra Leone published on February 14, 2021, we showed how the Office of the Chief Minister (Photo) spent over Le34.2 billion Leones (more than US$3.4 million) in less than three years without following the public finance laws and the public procurement regulations written into Sierra Leonean law.
We highlighted how the allocations to the Chief Minister’s Office was spent mostly on travel per diems (expenses listed do not include airfares) and for procurement of goods and services that did not undergo an official competitive bidding process with open requests.
We stated, in particular, that the Chief Minister’s Office carried out several wire transfers of hundreds of millions of Leones to foreign media agencies and technology companies in Europe, China, and the United States for consultancy services, public relations operations, and information technology products that were mostly never advertised or put on an open bid.
Records of these large monetary transactions and wire transfer payments reveal that the financial transactions of the Chief Minister’s Office were non-compliant with Sierra Leone’s public finance laws and the public procurement regulations.
In a press release issued on February 16, 2021, in response to the Africanist Press, the Permanent Secretary of the Chief Minister’s Office claimed that “all procurements undertaken by the Office of the Chief Minister were done in accordance with the Procurement Act of 2016,” citing alleged authorization from Sierra Leone’s National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) to restrict bidding for services and goods procured by the Chief Minister’s Office.
In a local radio interview in Freetown on Monday 15 February 2021, the head of the NPPA – the institution responsible for enforcing compliance of procurement regulation – accepted that the institution did authorize the Chief Minister’s Office to undertake procurement activities without a competitive bidding process or tender.
A civil society organization in Sierra Leone, Budget Advocacy Network (BAN) criticized the NPPA for defending the obvious violation of procurement procedures and regulations by the Chief Minister’s Office and other government agencies.
“BAN is concerned that the NPPA is actually neglecting some aspects of its statutory role of properly monitoring national procurement,” the organization said in its press release issued on February 18, 2020.
In this report, however, we show how expenditures of the Chief Minister’s Office between 2018 and 2020 did not only violate the procurement rules and regulations, but we also highlight how these payments and cash withdrawals further demonstrate a pattern of irregular public finance activity.
We focus mostly on repeated and frequent cash withdrawals by specific individuals and fund transfers to consultants that demonstrate the irregular spending of public funds by the Office of the Chief Minister.
Documents on the expenditure details of the Office of the Chief Minister of Sierra Leone, reviewed by the Africanist Press, show precisely that large cash withdrawals alone amounted to over Le10 billion Leones (more than US$1 million) from the Imprest Account of the Chief Minister from August 2018 to December 2020.
We reviewed transaction records and financial documents from the Chief Minister’s Office, and we discovered that, in 2018 alone, about 60% of the of the Chief Minister’s expenditure details represented daily cash withdrawals by several officials with weak or unstated purpose of the expenses.
Transactions were withdrawn mostly by close aides of the Chief Minister David Francis, and a few other employee’s contrary to the finance laws and regulations of the country. We observed in particular that most cash withdrawals were carried out by Sidique Jabbe on behalf of the Chief Minister.
Between 14 September 2018 and 27 December 2018, within the first three months after the appointment of David Francis as chief minister, cash withdrawals by Sidique Jabbe alone amounted to Le1,455,703,199. These transactions are in various amounts that range from Le 1,450,000 to Le50,000,000 and between Le100,000,000 to Le150,000,000 on several single transactions.
We tracked a total of about 80 cash withdrawal transactions within the last quarter of 2018 alone, amounting to Le1.4 billion; all carried out by Sidique Jabbie.
On October 26, 2018, for example, we identified four separate cash withdrawals conducted on the same business day by Sidique Jabbe totaling Le68,150,000. These cash payments were carried out in smaller amounts that included single withdrawal transactions of Le50,000,000 (TT1827606104), LeLe12,000,000 (TT1829974446), Le3,650,000 (TT1829927413), and Le2,500,000 (TT1829927413).
A similar pattern of smaller cash withdrawals was also carried out on 30 October 2018 in the amounts of Le29,500,000 (TT1830370898), Le12,260,000 (TT1830300030), Le12,260,000 (TT1830300031), and Le8,750,000 (TT1830351804); all totaling Le62,770,000 taken out by Sidique Jabbe again.
Upon further observation of these transactions, we noticed that for the most part, the pattern of splitting cash withdrawals into smaller multiple amounts drawn out on a single business day recurred right through the expenditure details of the Chief Minister’s Account.
In some cases, we also observed that multiple cash withdrawals in larger amounts that range between Le60,000,000 and Le150,000,000 were also evidenced in the transaction details of the Chief Minister’s Account. For instance, two cash withdrawal transactions in the amounts of Le150,000,000 (TT1832630143) and Le 100,000,000 (TT1832600752) were carried out by Sidique Jabbe on November 22, 2020.
We calculated the frequency of cash withdrawals on a weekly basis and we discovered at least in some weeks, withdrawal transactions by Sidique Jabbe alone totaled around Le250,000,000 to Le350,000,000. For example, in the third week of November 2018 (from November 15-22, 2018) cash withdrawn by Sidique Jabbe was to the tune of Le326,196,973.
Between December 20, 2018 and December 27, 2018 total cash withdrawals by Sidique Jabbe was a total of Le537,450,000; all taken out in a combination of small and larger amounts ranging from L2,500,000 to Le157,500,000.
We also observed withdrawal notes from the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the country’s Central Bank, and the administrative records from the Chief Minister’s Office and found no proper accounting or administrative records stating the purposes for which these frequent cash withdrawals were made and how they were actually spent.
While some of these large cash transactions taken out by Sidique Jabbe were usually split into smaller amounts, perhaps to avoid the payment thresholds of Le60 million, we also discovered several other large cash withdrawal transactions that were sometimes issued in Cheques of Le75,127,500 and Le157,000,000; amounts that exceeded the supposed transaction thresholds governing the withdrawal of cheque payments. For instance, on November 18, 2020, a cash transaction with a cheque payment of Le80,000,000 (TT203233469) was carried out by Sidique Jabbe, an amount that exceeded the supposed established threshold for such payments.
Similar cash payments were equally issued in Cheques of Le72,000,000 (TT2015699045) and Le75,000,000 (TT2024168626) respectively; all withdrawn diversely on June 4, 2020 and August 28, 2020. We then aggregated total cash withdrawals by Sidique Jabbe from the Chief Minister’s Account, and we discovered that a cumulative total of Le5,629,039,522.91 was withdrawn cash by Jabbe alone between September 2018 and December 2020.
We found no administrative records in the Chief Minister’s Expenditure Statements indicating the purposes for which these various cash withdrawals and payments were made.
However, these cash withdrawals do not include cash transactions by various other individuals like Dudley E. Cowan, Lamin Sheriff, Jasper Sembie, and the multiple foreign currency withdrawals taken out as per diem by senior officials in the Chief Minister’s Office. For example, cash withdrawals by Dudley Cowan between January 7, 2020 and January 30, 2020 were also to the tune of Le201,748,135.00.
We calculated all cash withdrawals drawn out of the Chief Minister’s Account from August 2018 to December 2020, and we discovered that a total of over Le10 billion in cash was withdrawn by various individuals in the Office of Chief Minister in less than three years of the Bio administration.
These transactions do include various fund transfers to consultants and SWIFT payments to international service providers, including media and public relations agencies contracted through the Directorate of Science, Technology, and Innovation (DSTI).
Thus, we conclude that contrary to Bio’s pledge to curb financial indiscipline and limit waste in government spending, we note glaring evidence of frivolous public spending and irregular financial payments in the expenditure details of the Chief Minister’s Office.
Besides the huge amounts withdrawn by senior officials in the Chief Minister’s Office as international travel per diem, we find that the establishment of a Single Treasury Account (TSA) by President Bio has led to an irregular disbursement of public funds by the Finance Minister without the necessary oversight from other government institutions nor the public.
The result has been a troubling rise in non-scrutinized use of public funds by leading members of the Bio administration, including those in the Office of the Chief Minister.
In subsequent articles of the Missing Billion Series, Africanist Press will continue our examination of the diverse ways the centralization of government revenue mobilization and spending conceals this pervasive non-scrutinized public spending and financial waste that now characterize the Bio administration.
You can find the published documents on the details of these cash withdrawal transactions on the Africanist Press website:
Sierra Leone: Chief Minister’s Office Expenditure Shows over Le10 Billion in Irregular Cash Withdrawals
The picture that the Africanist press presented looks like any schematic diagram of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) of an electronic device. So, if truly this is an evidence of wired data signals that existed in the transaction as purported by the press, please help show us the monitoring device used. I want my audience to know that in mobile telecommunication systems, communication software is developed by mobile professionals having a plethora of messaging tools and techniques to choose from, each fulfilling a different needs.
If truly this is an evidence of fact, why not wait to be called upon in any commission of inquiry so that you can present a case. You see, Sierra Leone is growing and we need not be confused around issues that we already know about that were recorded in the audit report. We have also heard about the actions of the Cabinet Secretary and Financial Secretary requesting that those who are mentioned in the report should adhere to the recommendations of the Auditor General. Who is this Africanist pressman that want to do the work of the Auditor General’s work and the Anti-Corruption Commissioner’s work? Please allow these bodies to do their work. They are constitutionally recognized and we rely on them. Under their leadership we have gained a lot as citizens.
Come to the issue of the Directorate office of science and technology set up by this government to evolve organizational growth through Information Technology. To me I see it as a very laudable thing and ask that we all support it. I want to draw your attention to several case studies around the world that Management Information Technology helps to transform lives and livelihoods. Here in Sierra Leone, for the first time in the history of our country, this government was able to sanitize the payroll through the use of Management Information Technology. All these years if you didnt hear of voucher gate, you will hear of one Minister or Ministry chasing ghost workers until the close of tenure of office of either the Minister or Head of that ministry. This is a vivid fact. Sierra Leoneans, if Sierra Leone is to develop, we need to embrace the ideas that are good and ignore those thoughts that will set us aback.
With all due respect and caution, Mr Sam Marconi Kamara. We are not talking about Telecommunication or Digital Forensics here. The Africanist press is not a Cybersecurity and Digital Forensics firm. They are investigative journalists who are engaged in searching for facts on corruption in our beloved country. The Bio SLPP kleptocracy gang should prove their innocence. If they know they are not guilty of what the Africanist press is alleging, why shouldn’t they, through the IT specialist DSTI not defend themselves?
The IT and innovative DSTI is better placed to carry out any digital forensics on this issue if they are confident. They can hire external firms if they don’t have the experts to prove their case. So please, leave the Africanist press alone. They are good people.
Also, you compared the Africanist press “like any schematic diagram of a Printed Circuit Board (PCB) of an electronic device”. Do you know that there are single and multilayered PCBs? The corruption under the Bio SLPP kleptocracy is multilayered. From the Proxy commandant to the Chief Minister, the First Lady, the DSTI, and the list goes on. Thank you very much for raising that point by telling me that corruption is multilayered in the Bio SLPP kleptocracy. God bless the Africanist press and Mr Samuel Marconi Kamara for informing me about the multilayered criminal corruption under the Bio SLPP kleptocracy. Argue.
Oh. The Chief Minister, the First lady Fatima Bio, the DSTI and their gangs on the corrupt spotlight, rampage, and trouble again. It’s time for the opposition to take action. This kleptocracy regime’s rampant corrupt practices have made the embattled ACC boss and his department irrelevant when fighting corruption. Parliament must step in to salvage this alarming corrupt practices by people at the helm of power in Sierra Leone. Do you expect the ACC under the President’s direct command to investigate the President and his associates? I believe the ACC boss is part of the corrupt den.
We will know the truth after the next elections. Ladies and gentlemen, kleptocracy will continue until the people of this nation kick their butts out of control. SAD. God guide, protect and bless the champions of the Africanist press. A thief is always a thief.
Can we say there is a method to his madness? This guy is good! The honorable minister is the master of withdrawals. He seems to have gotten this withdrawing thing down to a science. There were so many subtly architected withdrawals that I caught a headache reading the report. It got me to wonder if that is all the minister is good for, because the only time that he is publicly mentioned is when there is a case of illicit funds being drawn out of the state’s coffer.
The one time that this was not true is when a report came out, basically stating that he was in the process of embarking on an agricultural project. Other than that it has been nothing but emptying out the state’s coffers. The man seems to be having trouble keeping his hands out of the cookie jar. What a mockery to the poor people of SaLone?
Corruption is so engraved in the psyche of Sierra Leoneans, public trust towards our politicians has seriously been eroded, by the constant barrage of corruption expose we are now getting used to everyday under this Bio government. Make no mistake, whether you take part in it, or an innocent Bystanders which is the vast majority of us, the effects of corruption affects everyday life. And under this government, it has been scaled up to a whole different level.
One thing that I can bet my life on, is Sierra Leoneans level of tolerance has no limit. In some countries people will be out demonstrating demanding changes. Algeria, Tunisia come to mind. The high level of cancerous corruption allegations, relating to the chief minister’s office, show no sign of abating. Recently, in launching a project in the South, the president offered the residence to tar a 3K road in that area. Now looking at some of this monies spent as consultancies fees, it would have been better spent on making improvements on our death trapped roads network in Sierra leone.
Corruption undermines local development and creating injustice, suspicion amongst the general population. It exacerbates poverty, condemning many millions to abject poverty. Sometimes I do wonder how our politicians sleep at night, with no hint of regret to the damage they’ve done to our country. Where is the ACC when you need them?
Our cursory knowledge of David Francis, the Chief Minister, is that he was a professor in England. From there the trail goes cold. The rest of his background is unknown. Is it not likely that this man was a teacher by day and a member of the underground world of hardened criminals by night? The man is too much of a skilled and constant thief not to be framed in the top hierarchy of some criminal outfit. His exposure by the Africanist Press suggests that he is probably getting too old and forgetful – that’s why he has become less efficient in disguising his trail in numerous financial heists. He drops right into the lap of the Africanist Press which is not known for taking prisoners in a fight.
What else can one explain David Francis’ exposure in the $1.5 million case? What about “China gate”? What about being caught on video giving legitimacy to corruption? And now the field day he has given to the Africanist Press for not following procurement procedures in the name of embezzlement? Bio is cornered, somebody has to step in to save his political life, or he will be battered to death.
This is going to be an excruciatingly bitter pill for the poor people of Sierra Leone to be able to easily swallow and digest. Our State House has now become a Den of merciless Thieve. Its time to put on the iron gloves in this fight for the soul of our country with the criminal SLPP Cabal. Be rest assured – play time is over. Its now CRUNCH Time. The sacred umbilical cord of our fragile infantile nation that is still strangely crawling backwards in the mud of regression since our Independence has now become seriously infected by rampant unchecked corruption, that keeps on oozing and dripping all over her ailing delicate sovereign national features, just like foul smelling nauseating contaminated bacterial pus.
Archers of the legendary APC opposition, ignite your sharpest arrows of patriotism in the unquenchable fires of Truth. Hold the line! The diabolical ways of extreme poverty and bondage are being systematically imposed upon our poor unsuspecting people by imposters that call their thieving selves Professors. (lmao)
Appreciate the great job your office is doing to make evident the corruption permeating our beloved country.