Mariama Kamara: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 February 2018
The shocker of the Presidential Debate was the revelation from Samura Kamara, that during the three months as Head of State, in 1996, Julius Maada Bio, misappropriated $18million from the Government of Sierra Leone.
Julius Maada Bio’s rejoinder that evening indicated that they (Samura Kamara and himself) were all in it together. Following the debate, APC spin doctors have capitalised on the revelation. What they have failed to mention though, is why Samura Kamara only made this astonishing revelation now.
Why did Samura Kamara fail to disclose this previously to the Kabbah administration, which on assuming office in 1996, were at pains to explain the level of corruption that NPRC and Julius Maada Bio, in particular had been engaged in. President Kabbah, disclosed that
“… in his capacity as Chairman of the NPRC, Brigadier J.M. Bio himself on the 1st February 1996, few days before he left office, caused the Government to pay into the account of his private firm, P. Banga Investment Limited the sum of Le235,000,000 in respect of contracts that that firm had purportedly entered into with Government for the supply of spare parts for the replacement of helicopter engines which did not belong to Government. Incidentally, it was into the account of this same firm in the Channel Islands that Brigadier Bio paid his own share of US$400,000 from the passport deal which was disclosed recently.”
The amounts of money that President Kabbah referred to, pales into insignificance compared to the $18m which Samura Kamara, alleges that Julius Maada Bio embezzled from the government.
Is it reasonable then, given the economic catastrophe that Sierra Leone faced at that time, for a responsible Sierra Leonean citizen to conceal knowledge of such a blatant act of theft instead of assist the Kabbah administration to take steps to recover these funds.
Maybe, Samura Kamara himself was deeply mired in embezzlement and as such could not cooperative with the Kabbah administration.
Dr Kamara as Financial Secretary in the NPRC regime, was responsible for the Central Tenders Board (CTB) and during the NPRC regime, the CTB awarded a lot of inflated contracts.
When the Kabbah regime took over, it had to forensically cleanse the public finances, and this necessitated the dissolution of the CTB and the decentralisation of procurement to ministries and parastatals.
Under the Koroma regime, with Dr Kamara back at the helm of the Ministry of Finance, procurement gradually became centralised, with the Office of the President also being directly involved in the award of government contracts. Samura Kamara himself, is commonly referred to as Mr Ten Percent by contractors.
So what should Sierra Leoneans, make of Samura Kamara’s revelation and his failure to disclose this earlier, as they go to the polls. What does this tell us about his personal integrity and character and whether Sierra Leoneans can trust him as their next President.
It is evident, that Samura Kamara who has held a number of high profile roles in at the Ministry of Finance and in the Central Bank, since 1992 has been very closely involved in all significant contracts entered into by the Government of Sierra Leone.
Therefore, where these contracts have been over-inflated and extortionate to the tax-payer, Mr Kamara would know all persons who have personally benefitted from these contracts, especially during the APC period of government from 2007 to present.
At the close of the Parliament in December 2017, the government rushed through parliament, three mining contracts. Many questions are being asked about the award of these contracts to companies which are not very transparent is disclosing trading and operating information, such as the names of their shareholders and ownership information.
Questions have also been asked about the terms of the deal and in particular the share of the operating profits and tax regimes that the Sierra Leone government would derive from these deals.
It is evident, that Samura Kamara knows a lot about these issues, but has so far, failed to outline these to the people of Sierra Leone, while he is seeking their votes.
It is also highly likely that Samura Kamara may be involved (if not the brainchild) in putting in place the arrangements to transferring public funds embezzled through over-inflated government contracts.
If he is not involved or is masterminding such operations, it is highly likely that he has full knowledge of these arrangements, and he may be the record keeper, who can tell us who, when, where and how these payments have been made.
Samura Kamara kept Julius Maada Bio’s embezzlement of $18m for 22 years. He must be the keeper of the secrets of the APC administration and this may be the reason why, he was chosen as the APC Flagbearer.
His disclosure of the night of the debate, may have been a slip of tongue, because he was under pressure from his opponents. His poor showing, coupled with revelation of Julius Maada Bio’s best kept secret, may have left many in his party very concerned, about his reliability, to continue to keep their secrets and to take to his grave.
In any other country, his revelation would have killed off both his and Bio’s political careers instantly. But this is Sierra Leone. The spin maestros of both the APC and Paopa led SLPP have been at work.
The real question then is this – are we as Sierra Leoneans going to jump from the frying pan into the fire, by replacing Ernest Koroma with either Julius Maada Bio or Samura Kamara?