Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 February 2021:
US based Africanist Press Media has today published another seriously incriminating report about grand corruption in the Bio-led SLPP government of Sierra Leone, as the country’s anti-graft agency – the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), is accused of waging a selective war on corruption.
The Report – tilted: “Chief Minister’s Office spent over Le34 billion on media consultancies and travel per diem in less than three years”, is authored by the renowned investigative journalists – Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman.
According to the damning report, financial records obtained by the Africanist Press show how the Office of the Chief Minister of Sierra Leone spent over Le34.2 billion Leones (more than US$3.4 million) in less than three years, despite the fact that President Maada Bio was elected into office in 2018 under the guise of ending the corrupt practices of his predecessor, as well as promising to close all loopholes and leakages in ministerial and public spending.
The report found that the US$3.4 million was spent on overseas 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.
The Chief Minister’s Office financial records indicate that several wire transfers of hundreds of millions of Leones were sent to foreign media agencies and technology companies in Europe, China, and the United States.
These transfers were purportedly for consultancy services, public relations operations, and information technology products. None of these services or products were ever advertised or put on an open bid.
Records of these large monetary transactions and wire transfer payments reveal that these transactions were non-compliant with Sierra Leone’s public finance laws and the public procurement regulations.
Chief Minister Professor David Francis who until 2018 was a professor at Bradford University in the UK, is on record saying that One-Percent corruption is acceptable. There are now calls for his sacking, pending investigations by the ACC.
Sierra Leone’s public finance laws and public procurement regulations require that all expenditures from the country’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) – the government’s central treasury accounts – must be based on each procuring agency or department’s approved budgetary and procurement plan, as approved by the Parliament for each specific year, says the report.
“Section 18 of the Public Procurement Act of 2016, one of the laws that regulates public procurement in Sierra Leone, specifically provides that all goods and services procured by a ministry or department must be included in the prior approved annual procurement plan for that entity and that a procurement committee must be in charge of a procurement process.”
Evidence obtained by the Africanist Press shows that procurements for goods and services were mostly undertaken on an ad hoc basis and in ways that openly violated public procurement regulations.
These procurements included, for example, a total of Le1,876,061,250 (about US$185,000) that was paid directly during the last quarter of 2018 to Salman Motors in Freetown. These funds included the alleged purchase of three Toyota Land Cruiser Prado vehicles for the newly established Directorate of Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI).
“Africanist Press found no evidence in the records of the Office of the Chief Minister to indicate that Salman Motors was awarded the said procurement contract from an open bidding process. In fact, the evidence we reviewed shows that an unusually high advance payment (transaction ID FT1833061004) of Le 1,200,000,000 (about US$120,000) – more than 70% of the contract value – was made to Salman Motors on November 26, 2018, ahead of the supply of the three vehicles that were supposedly purchased for DSTI staff.”
Apart from the lack of evidence of a bidding and tender process, there is also no evidence that an advertisement notice inviting other suppliers to compete for this contract was ever made by the Chief Minister’s Office.
Evidence shows that the remaining balance of Le223,878,750 (about US$22,000) (FT1833849422) was paid on December 4, 2018, to Salman Motors to complete the payment of more than Le1.4 billion spent on the purchase of the DSTI Prado vehicles.
“We have found no evidence that the vendor actually delivered all of the three vehicles that were paid for. Moreover, the 1.2 billion Leones in payments to Salman Motors do not include two earlier payments (FT1829170875 and FT1829709495) of Le200,000,000 (about US$20,000) and Le252,182,500 (about US$25,000) made on October 18, 2018, and October 24, 2018, respectively, for unstated purposes. In fact, there is no records to indicate the purposes of the other earlier combined payments totaling Le452,182,500 ($44,288) made to Salman Motors by the Chief Minister’s Office,” say Africanist Press.
“The Chief Minister’s Office financial records show multiple additional wire transfers to similar media and communication companies including Telerivet Inc, Universal Communications, Café Art Science, PC World.Com, and a host of other foreign-based companies. Africanist Press was unable to confirm the ownership, headquarters location, or legitimacy of these companies.
“We aggregated the expenditure details of the Chief Minister’s Office, and we discovered that in 2019 alone, a total of Le11,324,370,670.62 (over US$1 million) was spent on travel per diems, payments for consultancies, and procurements that were never advertised nor placed on a bidding process. As of 30 December 2019, for example, we discovered that of the Le11,965,770,103.16 (about US$1.2 million) disbursed from the CRF into the Chief Minister’s Imprest Account, only Le697,603,982.82 (about US$68,000) remained unspent by the end of fiscal year 2019.”
“Documents we reviewed also show that a total of Le3,330,412,548.33 (about US$326,000) was spent on travel per diems (amounts listed do not include airfare) between August and December 2018 alone, in the first four months after the appointment of David Francis as the Chief Minister.
“These travel per diems included Le47,011,133.04 (US$5662) paid to David Sengeh (Minister of Basic Education) as per diem allowance to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meeting on September 21, 2018; another Le72,455,595.25 (US$8,675) (TT1828440049) also paid on October 11, 2018, to David Sengeh and Donald Kopoi for an official travel to the USA to the World Frontier Forum; a Le18,992,162.00 (US$2250) paid to Dr. John Tambi as per diem for participation at the African Infrastructural Conference, a further payment of Le30,089,880 (US$3552) again to David Sengeh, and another payment of Le 44,253,810 (US$5224) (TT1832009428) made on November 16, 2018, to Joe Lahai Somana as travel per diem on official visit to the Hunan Gold and International Investment Limited Company in China. “
“The long list of per diem payments also includes Le57,465,929.71 (US$6751) paid to David Sengeh to attend the Harvard Ministerial Leadership Program and Goalkeeper Event in the USA; a further payment of Le25,865,241.45 (US$3,023) made to David Sengeh as per diem allowance to attend the Islamic Development Bank Summit; and a payment of Le159,027,060 (about US$15,000) to Kadie Enterprises to cover air tickets for three officers for an official trip to Estonia, and the sum of Le 174,272,049.00 (US$18,270) as per diem for David Francis and Moinina D. Sengeh for a trip to the UNGA meeting on September 26, 2019. “
For more on this expose – You can visit the Africanist Press Website to read the full report and view the documentary evidence showing the expenditure details of the Office of the Chief Minister: