Persons of Interest or Interested Persons, which is it, Mr Ben Kaifala?

Alan Luke: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 August 2022:

Let’s start with the timeline. 11 May 2022, ACC Chair, Francis Ben Kaifala issued press release through social media; 16 May 2022, Femi Claudius Cole writes a robust response to the ACC Press Release in Sierra Leone Telegraph, querying, amongst other issues highlighted in Lara Taylor-Pearce’s 2019 Audit Report, a DSA allowance of US$2,160 was paid to Mr. Paul Massaquoi as part of the delegation of the Office of the First Lady during a visit to Niame, Niger to attend the 23rd Oaflad (Office of African First Ladies) Ordinary General Assembly.

On 2 August 2022, ACC requested that the Mayor reported to his office, about an ‘unresolved case and that she should present with surety for bail. Could it be that it was this that triggered the ‘Interested Persons’ to act?

On 10 August 2022, ACC Chair receives Le 187,904,830 from so called ‘Interested Persons’ as he described in the Press Release.

On 25 August 2022, ACC Chair released second press release through social media, stating that it had received through its non-conviction asset recovery, One Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty Leones (Le 187,904,830). Curiously, the 11 May 2022 press release had been taken down from the ACC Facebook page.

Let’s turn our attention to the Press Releases

The ACC Press Release of 11 May 2022, stated that: “The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has concluded investigation into the Freetown City Council (FCC), relating to issues highlighted on the Council in the 2019 Auditor General’s Report concerning payments of council funds to personal staff of the Mayor.

“The 2019 Audit Report stated inter alia that, the FCC made payments totaling Two Hundred Million Eight Hundred and Forty-two Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-three Leones (Le 200,842,333) for travelling expenses (Air tickets and per diems) to one Manja Isata Kargbo, Head of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit (MDU) who is not an employee of the FCC. The Report further claimed that the said amounts paid were not budgeted for by the Council nor did they receive appropriate approval.

“The ACC comprehensively conducted the investigation into the issue, during which persons of interest were interviewed, including the Mayor of Freetown City Council, the Chief Administrator of the FCC, the Consultant Team Lead in the MDU, Manja Isata Kargbo, the Human Resource Officer of the FCC, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), among other staff of the FCC and the MLGRD.

“The investigation confirms the following:

iii.  That on various dates in 2019, Manja Isata Kargbo received the total sum of Two Hundred Million Eight Hundred and Forty-two Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-three Leones (Le 200,842,333) as travelling expenses while accompanying the Mayor on her foreign trips: Fifty-two Million One Hundred and Fifty-eight Thousand One Hundred and Seventy-six Leones (Le 52,158,176) for a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark for the C40 World Mayors Summit; Fifteen Million Nine Hundred and Two Thousand Leones (Le 15,902,000) for a trip to the United States of America for the TED Women; Fifty-eight Million Nine Hundred and Forty Thousand Leones (Le 58,940,000) for a trip to Durban, South Africa for the Global Parliament of Mayors; Twenty-eight Million One Hundred and Forty-four Thousand One Hundred and Forty-eight Leones (Le 28,144,148) for a trip to South Carolina, United States of America for the Ground Breaking IAAM Charleston Structure and Bloomberg City Lab; Thirty-three Million Nine Hundred and Ninety-four Thousand Leones Six Hundred and Thirty-eight Cents (Le 33,994,638) for a trip to United States of America for the International African American Museum and Mayor’s Migration Council; and Sixteen Million and Thirty-three Thousand Leones (Le 16,033,000) for a trip to Paris, France for the C40 Women in Climate Change. Manja Isata Kargbo however refunded the sum of One Thousand, Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($ 1,250) in its equivalent in Leones out of the One Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($1,400) paid to her in Leones for the said trip.

vi. That the Commission takes note of the Administrative Inquiry Report into the Management of the Freetown City Council commissioned by the MLGRD in November, 2021, which stated as follow;

“The Commission, therefore, had directed that, the Consultant Team Lead in the MDU, Manja Isata Kargbo and the Mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyerr jointly pay back the sum of One Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty Leones (Le 187,904,830) in lieu of criminal prosecution.

“That the Mayor and Madam Kargbo had through their lawyers communicated requesting that they do not repay the said amount; but the Commission has rejected same and they are now under obligation to pay while prosecution is being considered.”

The 25th August 2022, Press Release stated that the ACC through its non-conviction asset recovery, One Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty Leones (Le 187,904,830), being monies which ASSL flagged as inappropriately paid from FCC funds to by the Council to the Head of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit. The said monies were paid to the commission by ‘Interested Persons.’

Bizarrely, within three months, the ACC Chair has gone from demanding payment from the Persons of Interest ( i.e. Mayor and Head of Delivery Unit), while prosecution was being considered; to accepting a payment from ‘Interested Persons.’

Copies of both are attached with this article.

Let’s focus on the key questions for the ACC Chair:

1) Why did the ACC Chair ask the Mayor to report to the ACC on 2 August 2022, with a surety?

2) Can he clarify this definition of ‘Interested Persons’ in his 25 August 2022 release. Is he referring to the Persons of Interest or is he referring to third parties?

3) Why was the 11 May 2022 Press Release removed from the ACC Facebook page.

4) Can he clarify how many of the myriad of malfeasance listed in the 2019 and 2020 Audits, that he has resolved by receiving payments from ‘Interested Persons.’

5) Is it consistent with the ACC’s Standard Operating Procedure for the ACC Chair to receive huge sums of money from ‘Interested Persons’ and is acceptance of such payments, in line with money laundering regulations operating in Sierra Leone?

I submit that this is just an attempt to divert the public’s attention from the CNN report which showed a man who was executed in his own home, while filming the 11 August protests.

Let’s not be detracted from publicising that video to bring the international community’s attention to such gross abuse of human rights in Sierra Leone.

ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION – 11th May, 2022 MEDIA RELEASE

ACC CONCLUDES INVESTIGATION INTO ISSUES RELATING TO PAYMENTS MADE TO “NON-STAFF PERSONNEL” IN THE FREETOWN CITY COUNCIL BY MAYOR YVONNE AKI SAWYERR

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has concluded investigation into the Freetown City Council (FCC), relating to issues highlighted on the Council in the 2019 Auditor General’s Rport concerning payments of council funds to personal staff of the Mayor.

The 2019 Audit Report stated inter alia that, the FCC made payments totaling *Two Hundred Million Eight Hundred and Forty-two Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-three Leones (Le 200,842,333)* for travelling expenses (Air tickets and per diems) to one Manja Isata Kargbo, Head of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit (MDU) who is not an employee of the FCC. The Report further claimed that the said amounts paid were not budgeted for by the Council nor did they receive appropriate approval.

The ACC comprehensively conducted the investigation into the issue, during which persons of interest were interviewed, including the Mayor of Freetown City Council, the Chief Administrator of the FCC, the Consultant Team Lead in the MDU, Manja Isata Kargbo, the Human Resource Officer of the FCC, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD), among other staff of the FCC and the MLGRD.

The investigation confirms the following:

i.    That the MDU was a private unit within the Office of the Mayor that did not go through normal administrative procedures for its set up and was entirely done by the Mayor without any approval from the Ordinary General Meeting of Council, and was done without any recourse to the MLGRD, and there was no legal basis under the Local Government Act of 2004 for such.

ii.   That Manja Isata Kargbo was not properly employed by the FCC. She started work as a volunteer in the Mayor’s Office and later was singlehandedly contracted by the Mayor as a Consultant Team Lead in the MDU on 1st November, 2018 without observing the Council’s normal recruitment procedures and without going through the administrative and Human Resource apparatus of Council.

iii.  That on various dates in 2019, Manja Isata Kargbo received the total sum of *Two Hundred Million Eight Hundred and Forty-two Thousand Three Hundred and Thirty-three Leones (Le 200,842,333)* as travelling expenses while accompanying the Mayor on her foreign trips: *Fifty-two Million One Hundred and Fifty-eight Thousand One Hundred and Seventy-six Leones (Le 52,158,176)* for a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark for the C40 World Mayors Summit; *Fifteen Million Nine Hundred and Two Thousand Leones (Le 15,902,000)* for a trip to the United States of America for the TED Women; *Fifty-eight Million Nine Hundred and Forty Thousand Leones (Le 58,940,000)* for a trip to Durban, South Africa for the Global Parliament of Mayors; *Twenty-eight Million One Hundred and Forty-four Thousand One Hundred and Forty-eight Leones (Le 28,144,148)* for a trip to South Carolina, United States of America for the Ground Breaking IAAM Charleston Structure and Bloomberg City Lab; *Thirty-three Million Nine Hundred and Ninety-four Thousand Leones Six Hundred and Thirty-eight Cents (Le 33,994,638)* for a trip to United States of America for the International African American Museum and Mayor’s Migration Council; and *Sixteen Million and Thirty-three Thousand Leones (Le 16,033,000)* for a trip to Paris, France for the C40 Women in Climate Change. Manja Isata Kargbo however refunded the sum of *One Thousand, Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($ 1,250)* in its equivalent in Leones out of the *One Thousand Four Hundred Dollars ($1,400)* paid to her in Leones for the said trip.

iv.   That for the trip to Copenhagen, the Foreign and Protocol Officer mistakenly paid Manja Isata Kargbo the sum of *Five Hundred Dollars ($500)* instead of *Four Hundred Dollars ($400)* when a request for additional two days per diem was made.

v.    That these payments were improper payments as captured in the Auditor General’s Report.

vi.   That the Commission takes note of the Administrative Inquiry Report into the Management of the Freetown City Council commissioned by the MLGRD in November, 2021, which stated as follow;

1)    That the issue of the MDU is the greatest threat to peaceful coexistence at the FCC. The introduction of the Unit in the governance structure of the FCC has caused ill feelings in the minds of the FCC functionaries.

2)    That there is need to critically re-examine the position/status of the MDU within Council with a view of abolishing it and transferring roles and responsibilities to regular Council staff.

3)    That a cumulative sum of *Two Hundred Million Leones (Le200,000,000)* was paid from Council account to a non-Council staff (an MDU staff) for various overseas trips. These payments were not provided for a part of expected Council expenditure. Therefore, the payment contravenes the Local Government Act 2004.

4)    That the MDU staff who was paid a cumulative sum of *Two Hundred Million Leones (Le200,000,000)* for overseas trip be made to repay the amount within a period to be determined by Council.

5)    That these findings are consistent with our separate and independent investigation of the issue and similarly confirm the findings in the Audit Report aforesaid.

The Commission, therefore, had directed that, the Consultant Team Lead in the MDU, Manja Isata Kargbo and the Mayor Yvonne Aki Sawyerr jointly pay back the sum of *One Hundred and Eighty-seven Million, Nine Hundred and Four Thousand, Eight Hundred and Thirty Leones (Le 187,904,830)* in lieu of criminal prosecution.

That the Mayor and Madam Kargbo had through their lawyers communicated requesting that they do not repay the said amount; but the Commission has rejected same and they are now under obligation to pay while prosecution is being considered.

For further enquiries on this and other ACC matters, please contact *Sylvanus Blake, Assistant Public Relations Officer*, on *+232-78-832-131* or by email to *info@anticorruption.gov.sl*.

ACC Ben Kaifala’s selective attempt to criminalise and oust Mayor Aki-Sawyer will not be tolerated – Op ed

1 Comment

  1. I think the questions put by Dr Femi Cole ,to the ACC commissioner and his team deserve answers .Failure to do so will be interpreted as the ACC being used as a blunt political instrument by Bio and his stooges to muddy the waters as our country is gripped with security challenges due to the cost of living crisis affecting not only Sierra Leoneans , but countries around the world .Which is not only an indictment of how the ACC works under Mr Kaifala but unfortunately is now taking sides on this political fire storms that the demonstrations have caused , by helping the Bio government throw mud of deceit and lies against the Mayor to see which one sticks . You got to feel for Mr Kaifala .After been on his post for number of years , he have finally thrown in the towel .If you can’t beat them join them mentality have finally being drilled in his brains. He might have started off with great fanfare to root out corruption in Sierra leonean society , but Boi and his team have muzzled his ambitions by going against the grain . They have prove to be the hardest nut to crack in the fight against corruption . So for the ACC , going against the low hanging fruits is the easiest option available to them or the only option to generate international headlines to divert public attention from the realities of Bio’s incompetence .Since the demonstration against the cost of living crisis took place , Bio and his enforcers have been pushing the same lies that the Mayor and other senior members of the APC opposition party are not only in bed with the demonstrators , but they have actively engaged through public pronouncement, social media postings and financial support to make the country ungovernable .Mayor Akin Sawyer have vementhelly denied any of the accusation .In the absence of evidence that showed the Mayor’s finger prints were actively directing or mico managing the demonstrations , Bio and the Laila Leemas are now going for the nuclear options by telling Ben Kaifala to resuscitate some of the investigations he started against the FCC under the leadership of the elected Mayor of Freetown .I hope our western international partners that hold our Mayor in high esteem is watching this events with eagle eyes to see where this outrageous actions of Boi is leading our fragile country .

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