Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 March 2021:
Editors of the Africanist Press – Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman have published another damning allegation of corruption and abuse of office at Sierra Leone’s National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT), where according to the editors – millions of dollars remain unaccounted for and over Four Hunderd Million Leones of State pension funds have been lavished on a range of pet projects supported and patronised by the president and his wife.
Two weeks ago, 7th of March 2021, the Africanist Press said that “officials in charge of managing Sierra Leone’s retirement pensions and social security benefits could not account for over Le60.9 billion (more than US$6 million) for 2019 alone,” after failing to “completely or accurately record workers’ contribution income in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019”.
“Auditors say they discovered a difference of Le60.9 billion between contribution income recorded in the NASSIT Financial Statement for 2019 and the amount recorded in the 2019 NASSIT General Ledger and Trial Balance. Whereas the NASSIT General Ledger recorded a total of Le631,293,248,084.87 (about US$63.2 million) in income for FY 2019; the NASSIT Financial Statement shows a total of just Le570,363,754,136 (about US$57.6 million), a difference of over Le 62 million,” says the Africanist Press.
In their latest report on alleged corruption in the Bio-led government, the Africanist Press says that: “apart from the more than Le60 billion (US$6 million) that NASSIT officials could not account for, officials also illegally disbursed over Le 400 million (over US$40,000) in cash donations to organizations and individuals without clearly justified purposes and outside of the agency’s scope of normal statutory activities”.
In an audit report seen by the editors of the Africanist Press, “detailed payments totaling Le465 million (about US$46,500) made as donations to individuals and organizations in Sierra Leone. Members of the audit team said they could not understand the basis for those donations.”
The list of beneficiaries of the NASSIT pension funds includes:
- The First Lady
- The military
- Professional groups
- Organizations linked to the president’s political party – the SLPP
- Entertainment events and social gatherings
According to the Africanist Press, donations made by NASSIT from pension funds to organizations that may be linked to the president and the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) totaled Le158,810,000 (about US$15,800) between March 18, 2019, and December 3, 2019:
These cash donations included a payment of Le33,310,000.00 (about US$3300) made on 18 March 2019, as a contribution towards the 90th anniversary of the Old Bo Boys Association (OBBA) – the alumni association of the President’s high school.
Another cash payment of Le50,000,000 (US$5000) was made on December 3, 2019, to the Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation, the private charity run by the First Lady.
Some of these cash payments to organizations linked to the president and other SLPP party leaders included a donation of Le12 million (about US$1,200) to the Bo Descendants Union, a payment of Le13,500,000 (about US$1,300) to the Pujehun District Descendants Union, and a payment of Le10 million (about US$1000) to Christ the King College (CKC) in Bo, the high school alma mater of some in NASSIT’s top management hierarchy.
Likewise, total payments that qualify as humanitarian donations from NASSIT in 2019, accrued Le70 million (about US$7,000). These payments included Le20 million (about US$2,000) paid on 22 November 2019, to the Southern Province Women’s Network (SPROWNET) for 16 days of activism against gender violence, and another Le15 million (about US$1,500) to the Sick Pikin Marathon paid on December 31, 2019.
Other payments in this category included Le10 million (about US$1,000) each to the Advocacy for Children, the Junior Doctors Association, and the Faith United Brethren. Again, the combined total of all these humanitarian donations are about half the combined amounts paid to all organizations that are directly or potentially affiliated with the President or members of the SLLP.
An almost equal total amount of Le73,250,000 (about US$7000) was paid to professional organizations like the Sierra Leone Bar Association (Le20 million), Radio Democracy (Le25 million), and the West Africa Insurance Company Association (Le10 million).
Details of an internal audit report leaked to The Africanist Press into NASSIT’s operations for FY 2019 describes these payments made to various organizations and individuals by NASSIT as fictitious and outside the scope of the institution’s sanctioned charitable efforts.
“There is the risk that payments made by NASSIT as donations may be fictitious,” the auditors said in the report, a copy of which the Africanist Press says it has seen.
“The Africanist Press triangulated evidence from this special NASSIT internal audit report with other records on the financial operations of various agencies in the Maada Bio administration to corroborate the evidence in the internal audit report on NASSIT regarding these donations. We examined, for example, documents on fundraising activities by the Office of the First Lady obtained by the Africanist Press, and we discovered that the stated Le50 million paid by NASSIT to the Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation was a financial contribution made in response to solicitation letters sent out in late 2019 to business organizations, government agencies, and individuals by First Lady Fatima Jabbe Bio requesting money in exchange for presidential dinner tickets in the name of the Hands Off Our Girls Campaign.
“We found, from the First Lady’s Office records, that the listed NASSIT Le50 million donation was part of the hundreds of millions in monetary contributions made by various business organizations and individuals in response to the First Lady’s solicitation letters given in exchange for dining opportunities with the president,” the editors of the Africanist Press writes in their latest report.
“In a previous report on February 7, 2021, Africanist Press published evidence showing how Sierra Leone’s First Lady, used her husband’s influence and position as President to solicit funds from private organizations, business individuals, and government agencies in exchange for business favors and meeting opportunities with the President, in explicit violation of the anti-corruption laws of the country.
“Section 31(3) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 makes it a serious offense for “any person who solicits, accepts, or obtains an advantage from any other person for himself or for any other person in order to make use of his influence, real or fictitious, to obtain any work, employment, contract, or other benefit from a public body.” ”
“In summary, we conclude in this report that strong evidence, discovered by Africanist Press, indicates a deliberate and vast misuse of pension funds by NASSIT to support activities of organizations linked to the president or potentially affiliated with members of the ruling SLPP party, including the Maada and Fatima Bio Foundation, the private charity run by the president’s wife.”
You can visit the Africanist Press website, where documents showing the evidence on which their report is based, by clicking on the link below: