Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 July 2016
A letter believed to have been sent to Sierra Leone’s speaker of parliament for investigation, is accusing the chairman of the commission responsible for monitoring and supervision of the country’s telecommunication industry – Momoh Konte (Photo), of massive corruption.
If these allegations are true, they will merely add to the grotesque catalogue of corruption scandals president Koroma is unwilling to address, for political and self-preservation reasons.
Rather than catch and punish the sacred cows that are destroying the country, it is public servants at the bottom of the food chain that are being scapegoated by the Ant-Corruption Commission, say critics.
The damning letter to the speaker of parliament alleges that millions of dollars meant for the provision of telecommunication networks in very poor and deprived communities that can least afford mobile and internet technology and connectivity, have been misappropriated by Momoh Konte and his political cronies.
In 2011, Momoh Konte was at the centre of a timber exporting corruption scandal which, because of political interference from above was killed by the country’s justice system.
Despite being caught with his fingers in the cookie jar by undercover journalists working for Al Jazeera TV, Momoh Konte was aided by the powers above to avoid justice, in what was dubbed by the Sierra Leone Telegraph as the Timbergate corruption affair.
“My biggest disappointment is that our investigation revealed that there are many powerful people in government, who are willing to put their personal ambitions over the needs of their nation. Unless we can put an end to this corruption now, Sierra Leone will lose its remaining forests forever, and this could lead to poverty and conflict in the future. I wonder when the ordinary people in my country will ever be able to benefit from our natural resources, instead of being cursed by them,” journalist Sorious Samura commented in 2011.
Also, during the recent Ebola crisis in 2014, Momoh Konte – one of the closest political allies and business associates of president Koroma, was accused of ordering the burning down of a whole village suspected of Ebola in Koinadugu district, destroying the lives of its inhabitants. What happened to those poor people, no one knows.
This is the letter believed to have been sent to the speaker of parliament for parliamentary investigation:
House of Parliament,
Freetown, Sierra Leone
Misappropriation of UADF Funds by Momoh Konte and Resignation of Secretary to the President from the UADF Board.
The Universal Access Development Fund (UADF) was set up through an Act of Parliament, in order to provide telecom services to communities that are not regarded by Operators to be commercially viable. According to employees of the Fund, the UADF has its own separate Board, whose membership consists of:
- The Secretary to the President Osho Coker as Chairman;
- The Ministry of Information and Communications is represented by the Permanent Secretary;
- NATCOM is represented by a senior member of the Management;
- Each Operator is represented by its Managing Director;
- The CEO of the Fund is the Secretary to the UADF Board.
Mr Speaker, it is quite clear from the above list that the corrupt Non-executive Chairman of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) – Momoh Konte, is not a member of the Board of UADF.
Our sources at UADF said it is mandatory for every Operator to pay a certain percentage of their annual revenue to the Fund. The contributions are then used by the Operators to expand their networks to un-served communities.
This model is reported to function really well in all countries in Africa, except in Sierra Leone where Momoh Konte has taken full control of the Fund as if it is his personal bank account.
According to reports by a group of undercover Investigative Journalists who have been pursing Momoh Konte for nearly a year, the UADF has been moved from the NATCOM HQ to a privately rented office in order to use it as a Corruption Vehicle.
Contributions from Operators and NATCOM to the tune of nearly $ 1 million have been used by Momoh Konte to recruit mostly his relatives and political supporters. He claims he is the guarantor of the Fund, and must therefore have full control of its bank account, even though he is not a member of the UADF Board.
Neither Osho Coker, nor any other member of the Board of UADF was consulted in the mass recruitment of 20 new employees. This was done without any advertisement on national newspapers. The CEO of the Fund was not even allowed to take part in the recruitment process of the new employees.
Mr Speaker, funds from the UADF bank account are withdrawn and disbursed without consultation or approval by any member of the UADF Board. The CEO and other members of the Management team of UADF report directly to Momoh Konte instead of the UADF Board.
This left Osho Coker with no option but to resign as Chairman of UADF, in order to protect himself from any allegations of corruption. The official reason given by Osho Coker was that he was unable to carry on as Chairman of the UADF Board due to his busy schedule and workload at State House.
Senior Civil Servants have praised Osho Coker as a man of high integrity, whose resignation was highly predictable.
The total annual cost of sustaining the high level of recruitment of Momoh Konte’s relatives and political supporters, far exceeds the total annual revenue of the Fund.
Even more seriously, there will be no money left to implement any UADF project. This is gross abuse of office by Momoh Konte that must be reversed by Parliament, if UADF is to function.
The resignation of the Secretary to the President (Osho Coker) as Chairman of UADF came just over a week after he wrote a letter to Momoh Konte and other Chairmen of various Parastatals to remind them that they are Non-executive Board members.
The letter dated 8th June 2016 as attached below, is seen by close friends of Momoh Konte as an attempt by Osho Coker to distance the President from the long list of allegations of organised corruption at NATCOM, published by Investigative Journalists.
Momoh Konte himself continues to claim that he was requested by President Koroma to operate as Executive Chairman, and that he has the full blessing and endorsement of the President for everything he undertakes at NATCOM.
Momoh Konte kept the warning letter from State House to himself, with other Board members not having any knowledge of it.
He continues to impersonate as an Executive Chairman at home and abroad. He makes lots of money of it, and even told members of the ITU Delegation for the Big Data Conference last year that, he was an Executive Chairman. ITU is hereby informed by copy of this letter that, Momoh Konte is a Non-executive Chairman.
Momoh Konte continues to divert the resources of NATCOM and UADF to run and fund his private business. He also uses his illegally occupied office space at NATCOM HQ to advance his political ambition. The regular political meetings in his office are causing major distraction at NATCOM.
While all other Parastatals we have visited, do take the warning letter from the Office of the President very seriously, it remains business as usual at NATCOM, where the Non-executive Chairman continues to operate a full-time office and other Non-executive Commissioners are in daily attendance to actively participate in the day-to-day management of the Commission.
We have been reliably informed that the Monitoring Team from State House is scheduled to visit NATOM anytime from now. We would like to challenge this team to request CCTV recordings of all cameras at the Headquarters of NATCOM to confirm our observations.
Mr Speaker, the daily victimization of employees of NATCOM by Momoh Konte and other Non-executive Board members continues unabated:
- A Manager was demoted to Assistant Manager only because he is the brother-in-law of the former Chairman, Ambassador Siray Timbo;
- A Director was demoted to Deputy Director only because she is a woman, meaning there is no longer a female staff at Director level at NATCOM;
- Other employees have either been demoted or moved away from their departments, where they have been trained to work since their employment merely for refusing to take part in corrupt practices;
- Momoh Konte and other Commissioners have employed their own people who have no experience in working in a regulatory environment directly to senior levels above existing employees, all done without any job advertisement; some Managers are more experienced and highly educated than their new Directors at UADF;
- Momoh Konte is a nonexecutive Chairman but has employed a new fulltime Personal Assistant who is more senior than existing Managers at NATCOM who are more educated and have served for over 5 years;
- A Manager was forced to resign from his job after repeated bullying by Momoh Konte; this is constructive dismissal for which the employee is legally entitled to sue the Commission in the future.
The President, His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma
The Vice President, Ambassador Victor Bockarie Foh
Hon Mohamed Bangura, Minister of Information and Communications
Ade Macauley, Anti-Corruption Commissioner
Secretary General, International Telecommunications Union (ITU)
The CEO, NPPA
All Media Houses in Sierra Leone and Aljazeera TV
Auditor General, Audit Service Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone Bar Association
All Members of the Board and Management of NATCOM and UADF