Sierra Leone’s new Anti-Corruption Czar fights to recover stolen public funds

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 July 2018:

Sierra Leone is one of the most corrupt nations on the African continent, with an estimated 70% of public funds misappropriated by public officials.

After ten years of poor governance by the ousted APC government led by president Ernest Bai Koroma, poverty continues to blight the lives of almost 80% of the country’s 7 million population.

The country’s economy is crippled by low investment in industrial development, poor availability of electricity, and poor public sector governance.

But all of that is about to change, as the SLPP government of Julius Maada Bio sets out on its mission to instil fiscal discipline, accountability, public sector reform, and above all fight against corruption.

Last week, the former head of the country’s tax collection office (the National Revenue Authority) – Haja Kallah Kamara and her  finance director were arrested and held in custody on allegations of corruption on a grand scale.

According to a source in the Anti-Corruption Commission speaking to the Sierra Leone Telegraph today, both are expected to be granted bail of 5 Billion Leones each tomorrow Monday, as investigations continue.

Last Thursday, the tough talking newly appointed head of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) – Francis Ben Kaifala (Photo), spoke to the press about his unstoppable fight against corruption.

He said that the ACC has taken bold steps to recover funds, especially monies owed to the state (running into millions) by defaulters, who had previously been found guilty of corruption and entered into an arrangement to pay back stolen funds.

Former directors of the country’s National Social Security Trust – Edmond Koroma, Mahmoud Idris, Gibril Saccoh and Ibrahim Bah were found guilty of corruption in a ferry purchase scandal involving millions of dollars a few years ago.

But they failed to pay back stolen funds, after agreeing an out of court settlement with the previous ACC Commissioner – Joseph Kamara, to repay Le 500 million each to the state; and no serious effort was made to enforce the agreement.

The newly appointed ACC chief kaifala  has reopened the case. They were arrested last week and later bailed. And a fresh monthly payment plan has been agreed, which will see them pay the first installment sum of Le 50,000,000 (fifty million Leones) each by next month.

Since their release a few days ago, Bah has paid his Le 50 million into the consolidated fund as first instalment.

To the utter dismay of members of the media present, the Commissioner also informed them about  what he referred to as “a systematic reliance on Executive Orders to do manifestly illegal things”, citing a case surrounding the Petroleum Directorate which saw its former Director, Mr. Raymond Kargbo receiving “terminal benefits” amounting to over Le 1.2 billion whilst still in active service at the Directorate.

“When Mr. Kargbo was brought in, he came brandishing an Executive clearance he earlier received from State House a year ago that allowed him to pay himself terminal benefits, whilst still continuing in office as Director…

“We are going to Commission a legal opinion into whether an executive clearance can be used in this way; and whether their use can absolve someone who does something that amounts to corruption or corrupt practices”, the Commissioner explained.

In what later transitioned to be a naming and shaming of egregious corrupt practices under the previous government, not even the past Parliament survived the Commissioner’s wrath.

The Commissioner pointed out that  the previous Parliament, without proper financial justification, ratified an agreement – the Transport and Port Management Systems (TPMS) which was intended to see the people of this country benefit from 60% of all revenue generated by the Sierra Leone port, with 40% going to the company running the port.

But the company, under this arrangement, has accumulated arrears amounting to over $ 11 million (eleven Million United States Dollars) from 2015 to 2018.

This company, with the assistance of the previous parliament altered the financial clause in the agreement that reduced the quarterly payment due government to a measly $300,000 (three hundred thousand Dollars) fixed sum, thereby obliterating the millions of dollars due to the people of this country.

Worst still, the previous parliament used this amendment to cover a period already passed prior to the amendment by making the change retroactive. When the owner of the company, Sahr Ngegba, was arrested and detained by the Commission, his defense was that: “I did not do it, parliament did.”

But in reply, the Commissioner said: “Parliament is empowered to make laws, but they are not above the laws they make”.

Under the amended agreement with parliament, Sahr Ngegba owes the government $1.3 million.  The ACC commissioner promised to continue his investigations into the port corruption saga.

Before his release on bail after spending days in custody at the ACC, plans were at the finishing stages that will Ngegba return $500,000 into the consolidated fund by August 3rd 2018, and an instalment payment of $100,000 each month for the next eight months.

The ACC commissioner also discussed last week the alleged misappropriated funds by the former Youth Ministry amounting to Le 29 billion (twenty-nine Billion Leones). This was funds allocated to the ministry by the Road Maintenance Fund for the Youth in Drainage Project. He is also accused of misappropriating Le 1.5 billion meant for the Youth farm project.

The former minister, permanent secretary and others were detained by the ACC.  He was later released on bail set at Le 1 billion.

In another case of corruption at the Ministry of Agriculture amounting to Le 19 million, the new ACC boss has recovered Le 17 million so far; and has filed the following cases to court since he took office: The State VS Emmanuel E.E.C Shears Moses; The State VS Jonathan Michael Jenkins (a lieutenant commander in the RSLAF); The State VS Meshell Kamara (Bo); The State VS Emmanuel Sulaiman Musa Kawa (Kenema).  Hearing on these cases will begin on the 20th August, 2018.

Responding to questions on whether the Commissioner will be bold enough to indict members of this current government, the Commissioner responded by saying: “I encourage you members of the media to be swift enough in bringing corrupt practices by any member of this current administration to my notice, and help me set a very bright example.”

8 Comments

  1. There is an element of divine intervention which we cannot ignore in this whole affair, and for which we must be thankful.

    APC were sure of one thing during the general elections: they would returned to power with Ernest Koroma’s hand picked candidate – Samura Kamara at State House.

    This would have meant a smooth continuation of their inhumane treatment of the people and a complete handing over of the country to the Chinese to do with as they pleased, as long as Ernest Koroma and his gangsters were enriching themselves for another five years.

    Samura Kamara would have been president only in theory; the real president would still have been Ernest Koroma, thereby ensuring his third term in office by naked deception.

    It was this mode of thinking which denied APC the foresight to deal with the possibility that they might lose the presidency. This was where divine intervention played a hand or else the files which Francis Kaifala has now reopened would have been totally destroyed by fire – a favourite tool of APC when they are cornered by documents.

    Monies now being recovered by ACC would have thus gone up in flames and leave us with nothing. Let us don’t play with the Almighty’s infinite powers. Moses/Musa very eagerly wanted to see this Being with all encompassing powers but he didn’t. Instead He demonstrated it by crushing a mountain.

    Francis Kaifala should be under armed guard. Violence is second nature to APC.

  2. We the older ones want to see the Sierra Leone we used to know. May the Good Lord give you abundant wisdom for good governance.

  3. Let them return the peoples’ wealth to help the government begin to give our people good healthcare, housing, water and light. Thats what the poor need. Above all, food sufficiency, free education and well-paid salaries.

  4. I am extremely pleased that this new SLPP government and the ACC are showing grit and determination to recover our stolen funds from our former money grubbing APC President, Ernest Bai Koroma, and his band of kleptocrats. It is however surprising to note that in the midst of all these revelations, the APC party and their ignorant and blind followers continue to claim that it is all a witch-hunt designed to embarrass the President.

    My answer to one of my friends who suggested this is that, our former President is not only shameless but a crook and therefore immune to any embarrassment.

    If this man has any shame, he should apologize to the people of Sierra Leone and ask for forgiveness for the mismanagement of our meager resources. But to continue to prevaricate and act as if he is beyond reproach is an affront on our collective intelligence.

    I hope the commission of enquiry will get underway so that the whole country will be given the opportunity to learn how he and his criminal enterprise brought misery and hardship on the people of Salone. For those on the list to be investigated, who have already skipped town, I want you to know that no effort will be spared to make sure that you are extradited back to Salone to face the music.

  5. Kudos to you Mr. Commissioner. Initially, I had doubts about you. But so far, you have proven to be a “Mens sana in corpore sano” – A sound Mind in a Sound Body.

    I will also suggest that all guilty parties pay court Cost/expenses. This should not be paid by the government or the People of Sierra Leone.

  6. Thy will be done. It has been pure selfishness and greed combined with wickedness and neglect for the poor innocent people of Sierra Leone to suffer and die for these corrupt individuals that have ruined and destroyed this beautiful and blessed country.

    It serves them right to pay back for their evil deeds. This is just the beginning. The prayer of the late governor Clarkson is coming to pass. Thank you for representing the people of our great nation. Job well done.

  7. In his current initiative to courageously invite the MEDIA – local, regional, national, and international – to bring evidence of financial malfeasance and irregularities to his attention; another option open to him which can run simultaneously is to read all Sierra Leone Auditor-General’s Reports going back 50 years and take commensurate actions. Necessary investment in staffing if efficiently managed will most certainly be cost-beneficial.

  8. The ACC Boss, under the New Direction, has started a great job to salvage Sierra Leone from the devastating corrupt practices planted by Siaka Stevens, nursed by Joseph Saidu Momoh and Ahmed Tejan Kabba, and endorsed, ratified and enacted by Ernest Bai Koroma.

    I have one suggestion that would completely change the mindset of those who still see the current efforts as political witch hunting. There are members of the Tejan Kabba lead SLPP Government who amassed Trillions of Leones from public funds and nobody has said anything about them. Once this is done, it becomes national cleansing from corruption, and not political witch hunting.

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