Two former APC government officials accused of corruption say the COI allegations are false

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 28 September 2020:

As Sierra Leoneans try to make sense of the hundreds of pages of indictment and accusations of corruption listed in the Commissions of Inquiry reports published last week by the government, some former senior officials in the erstwhile Koroma government (Photo above: Karefa Kargbo) have started to challenge the veracity of the indictments against them, which in the next thirty to ninety days could result in the confiscation of their assets and payback of millions of dollars to the State.

Take for example, Omaru Badara Sisay (OB Sisay) and Karefa Kargbo, who are today protesting their innocence, arguing that they were never questioned or interrogated by the Commissions of Inquiry about any evidence of corruption or wrongdoing.

This is what Karefa Kargbo (Photo below) a retired Lt. Colonel in the Sierra Leone military and former Financial Controller at the Petroleum Directorate said in a press statement yesterday:

“My attention has been drawn to the Government of Sierra Leone White Paper on the recently concluded Justice Biobele George-Will Commission of Inquiry more particularly, Chapter Nine on Investigation into the Activities of the Petroleum Directorate between the period November 2007 and April 2018. I note with grave concern and deep consternation, that my name has been mentioned with an unfortunate, seemingly calculated attempt to tarnish my reputation by the passing of a judgment against my person for acts of grave impropriety.

The White Paper in the main stated against my person in Chapter 9 page 22 as follows:

”Government notes the Commission’s findings (9.5, p.108) on H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; ii. Raymond Kargbo; iii. Emmanuel Beresford Oshoba Coker; iv. Karefa Kargbo; v. Momodu L. Kargbo; vi. Dr. Michael S. Kargbo; vii. Dr. Kaifala Marah and their collaborators. The Commission found, among others, acts of impropriety, misappropriation, corruption, gross abuse of office and maladministration. That the reckless manner in which the persons in question dealt with the finances of the Government under their care and failure to provide leadership led to the loss of the total amount of i. Le72, 254, 506, 000. 00; and ii. USD15, 413, 821. 00.”

The White Paper further states at Chapter 9, page 22 in respect of my person:

Government accepts recommendations 1-5

1. The following persons shall jointly and severally refund and pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone the sum of Le70, 294, 264, 523. 00 that had remained unaccounted for as monies not transferred to the single treasury account in 2017 and monies paid out illegally as terminal benefits to staff whilst still in the service of the Petroleum Directorate: i. H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; ii. Raymond Kargbo; iii. Karefa Kargbo;

I was resident in Sierra Leone during the entire period the Commissions of Inquiry were performing their work. I was never invited, notified expressly or implied that I was a person of interest or that my presence was required as a witness at the Commission of inquiries. I therefore fail to appreciate how an adverse finding, or a judgment could be passed on my person with materially adverse and life challenging implications for myself and my family without being given the opportunity to have rebutted any accusations.

I wish my entire family, friends and the general public both in Sierra Leone and the wider world to note the following:

1. I was engaged at the Petroleum Directorate in the Accounting Department as the Financial Controller between the period August 2011 and 9th January 2016. During my time in charge of the finances at the Directorate, Audit Service Sierra Leone has never found us wanting and were always able to provide a clean opinion on our Financial Statements. Our internal control and accounting practices were commended as one of the best amongst Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Government of Sierra Leone.

2. Due to my intervention and renegotiation of the financial terms of several key agreements, Government saw a substantial increase in Revenue from the Petroleum Sector. For the first time in fact, Petroleum Companies paid signing bonuses directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, raising over US$30 million for the Government of Sierra Leone.

3. My employment with the Petroleum Directorate was terminated for “insubordination” on the 9th January 2016; it follows therefore that:

i. I was not at the Directorate when the Single Treasury Account came into force in October 2017. I could not therefore have been involved or had any influence on the decision to pay or not pay monies into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 2018. How could judgement then be passed that I should refund monies that were unaccounted for and not transferred to the Single Treasury Account in 2017.

ii. I was also no longer at the Directorate in 2017 or 2018 when members of staff were paid terminal benefits. When this was sought to be done during my time at the Directorate, I vehemently resisted the move and never implemented it, a stand that was part of the reason I was accused of “Insubordination.”

iii. I was also not in the employ of the Directorate in 2018 when SMRT was given a US$3,000,000 loan to purchase Biometric Machines for elections; I could not therefore have been involved in this issue.

iv. Even though I was the Financial Controller, when the NCP Loan of US$14,000,000 was made, the records show that that I was completely excluded from all meetings and was never even consulted on that issue. I was out of the Country when the entire transaction was effected and was never even informed by e-mail or text that there were even conversations about a loan. Even the Report of the Commission excludes me from involvement in this transaction by not naming me as a party to the contract.

v. When I returned to work, I only found out about the loan when I queried my Accounting Manager and the Director General about the status of the balances in our accounts; It was then that documents were presented to me saying the Director General was duly authorized and had control over all the finances of the Directorate and that there was no legal requirement to inform me of what was being done.

vi. After perusing the agreement, I subsequently informed my Director General that the President must have been ill advised to give his approval to that deal and that it was one of “the most stupid agreements I had ever seen” noting that this was not based on proper advice and sound judgment.

I am not a legal mind but my accounting and auditing background informs that you give opportunity to the subject of your work to explain or justify the action no matter how gross the allegation against same. In my experience, even persons who have been caught red handed acts of thievery of Government property by the Anti-Corruption Commission, are given a right to a fair hearing. How the Commission of Inquiry therefore came about to make an adverse finding against me, and the Government of Sierra Leone duly accepted the recommendations leaves me questioning the very core foundation of the professionalism of the Commission on which Government relied.

What seems to have been displaced in the minds of all involved in these unfortunate actions against my persons, is that when you put in print matters of such grave nature the consequences could not only be life changing and far reaching but could also affect every fabric of a person’s being with irreversible consequences;.

I have striven to serve my country all my life first in the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and later as an accountant with the utmost commitment to upholding the highest standards of probity and professionalism. I have been a Licensed Certified Accountant for the past 22 years. My profession demands upholding the highest standards of probity and professionalism. I have worked both locally in Sierra Leone and internationally in premier institutions and I have never been found wanting for impropriety or otherwise.

I have been informed by the Government that a process of Appeals was put in place exactly for people in my position. I have therefore retained legal representation and intend to pursue the protection and enforcement of legal rights to the fullest extent provided by law and seek adequate compensation for this morass.

I thank my wife and entire family for standing by me in these challenging times. Thanks also to my friends and colleagues for the support I have been receiving. I have really been touched by the number of people who have reached out to me in support and that remains the silver lining in all this. Be assured I will clear my name of these spurious, baseless, unfounded, and libellous charges.”

Omaru Badara Sisay (OB Sisay), who is the former Head of Situation Room at the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) is also said to be fighting to save his reputation and character after the COI indicted him of corruption along with the former president Ernest bai Koroma.

Writing on Mr. O.B. Sisay’s behalf, this is what one of his supporters said yesterday:

“Chinua Achebe once famously said, “one of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised”. That is exactly what Omaru Badara Sisay personifies. OB Sisay has a quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

Furthermore, he is someone whose patriotism is unrivalled. When Sierra Leone was faced with the EBOLA epidemic that took thousands of lives in our country, the former administration under Ernest Bai Koroma reached out to him to lend his expertise and support as Director of The Situation Room at the National Ebola Response Centre. Whilst everyone who had the means was RUNNING AWAY from Sierra Leone, OB Sisay packed his bags and left London to COME TO SIERRA LEONE and selflessly served his country.

In his capacity as Director of The Situation Room, he did not allocate a single vehicle to himself even though he had fleet of several hundred vehicles under his direct authority. This man even opened a BRAND NEW ACCOUNT to receive his pay from the UN for Ebola work. To ensure he could answer for his financial movements.

He NEVER collected A SINGLE PENNY from the Government of Sierra Leone. He was entitled to Per Diem to pay for his travels as he criss-crossed the country to fight Ebola. He NEVER TOOK IT. He was entitled to a paid driver, as Director of The Situation Room. But OB Sisay paid his driver out of his pocket. In short, apart from his 60 litre fuel allowance that was pumped into his car every week, OB SISAY NEVER COLLECTED A SINGLE PENNY FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF SIERRA LEONE THROUGHOUT HIS WORK SERVING HIS COUNTRY.

When the commission of inquiry proceedings began, he made himself available to the authorities for questioning and to give a comprehensive account of the vehicles and his handing over documents. This I am sure the Auditor General and ACC Boss would attest to. They have the records OB Sisay shared with them. In his PERSONAL effort to ENSURE that ANYONE who had stolen Ebola vehicles could be tracked down.

What baffles me is the fact that the COI never interviewed OB Sisay or asked him a single question. Even though he offered himself up for questioning. When his boss, Steven Gaojia mentioned OB Sisay to Justice Biobele, he TOLD the Commission OB was available and ready to come to answer questions. No one bothered to call him to ask him anything.

But OB did not stop at that, he travelled to Freetown in November and December of 2019, when COI was ongoing, and presented himself to the ACC.

He shared with the ACC all the related documents he had from the Situation Room. And he was interviewed by the ACC on record. The Auditor General’s office has the same documents, because they did a similar exercise to verify assets before the NERC closed. The Audit Report into the NERC NEVER spoke of 254 missing vehicles that OB had to account for.

With all this, I am not sure why this fine gentleman’s name is called into disrepute.
It would be extremely ridiculous for such a true patriot and a distinguished gentleman to be synonymous with stealing 254 vehicles that belongs to the people of Sierra Leone. OB Sisay’s name is antonym of the APC thieves (ayampis).

I am now left with some niggling questions. Whose decision it is to associate OB Sisay with ayampis? It is obvious you do not have a leg to stand on. How could you make such conclusion without due process? You never bothered to ask him a single question. Is there someone who is intimidated by what OB Sisay could add to this administration? Clearly, he is someone who could add value to this administration because his track record speaks for itself.

How did the COI know about the fleet of vehicles OB Sisay had under his authority? It is simply because he sent the list and number of vehicles. If that does not demonstrate integrity, honest, transparency and accountability, I do not know what else.

When COVID-19 hit Sierra Leone, we were ALL asking WHY OB Sisay was not here to fight for us like he did in Ebola. It turns out there were some very funny things happening that stopped him coming. OB refuses to explain what these are and we are all left wondering why we now have stories about brand new second had COVID-19 vehicles because under OB this would NOT have happened.

What are we doing in our country? Is this how we drive good and honest people away?”

13 Comments

  1. Those who feel that they have been wrongfully implicated by the COI would have the opportunity to defend themselves and have their day in court and should not lose sleep over it. What will be wrong is for people to dismiss the findings of the COI or treat it with levity. It was no secret that the auditor general has been highlighting some of these misappropriations for years with reports of reckless spending and not following procurement procedures. To take up employment in the public sector is a matter of choice and therefore those who were involved in shady dealings must be prepared to face the consequences.

  2. I urge all ordinary people like myself with no political aspirations to understand that the world in which we live is not a fair place. Some of are more handsome or beautiful than others; some of us are stronger than others; some of us are born with more than one silver spoon in our mouth; some of us are taller than – and the story continues to infinity. Why is this the case? Only the Almighty Allah/God knows the answer. The White Paper does have some flaws and may be considered unfair in some cases. This notwithstanding we should support the Bio Government with the ulterior motive that as they are now doing to APC so shall it be done to them in the future. With this probability of one firmly rooted in their mind, they will endeavour to maintain a clean government. The nation should start seeing its funds being applied productively and legitimately for the common good. Then we shall witness a resurgence, culminating in the reclaiming of the position we once held as the place to go for everything in the sub-region.

    We should leave the APC and SLPP top guns to fight it out, they are always the ones involved in the massive amounts of money and properties, which if not given in words cannot be pronounced even by the educated. What some of us are now doing is playing right into the hands of the criminals who, while they were having a good time, regarded us with cavaliered and disdain, with the accolade being stupidity. They watch us as we inexplicably support them on regional, political party, tribal or regional grounds . They should fight alone, we should only move in to pick up the casualties. We bury the politically dead.

    Our wish should be that those who seem to have slipped through the net for now will eventually be caught. Victor Foh is not clean. The sister of Earnest Koroma , Admire, is not clean. Afsatu Kabba is not clean. I know somebody who built four houses in quick succession after being appointed to a key position by Earnest. I did not see his name in the White Paper, probably because he had to surrender the papers to his houses to the CID soon after APC were kicked out in 2018. He was actually locked up for while until a relative dived into an intricate manoeuvre to secure his freedom. It was his juniors who gave the most damning information on him. When his relative suggested that he should try and get his old job back, he retorted: Ah behteh not dae dae“. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, please help me to decipher the implications of the retort, I am not bright enough. I am just bright enough to urge President Bio to get hold of all these criminals, hold them up side down until all our monies and properties fall out of their pockets.

    • Thanks patron for your piece!. I am amazed at folks who go about fighting others on the pages on The Telegraph – on behalf of politicians, The people who privatized the public resources did not do so on behalf of their political parties, rather they did it as individuals. I am not sure at this stage what the APC as an institution should, would or could do to checkmate implementation of the recommendations of the White Paper.

  3. The COI is very credible.There are missing links in some segments of your explanation.Further review will reveal otherwise.

    • Mr Sorie, I understand your point you are making regarding leaving the two main political parties to fight it out. But when two Elephants fight, it is the grass that will suffer. In this case us Sierra Leoneans and our poor struggling families. As a Sierra Leonean, you are part of seven million plus people that make up this great nation of ours. It is your patriotic duty, and every Sierra Leoneans duty to contribute to the way you want our great country to move forward. You can do so by sharing your ideas on how to bring our country and it’s people together. Remember any action or policies enacted by any government of any colour, has a direct impact on you and your family and the larger community as a whole.

      In the past we sleep walked into a civil war, because information and debates were not as available like today. Now when you see president Bio and some of his ministers taking us on the same route, you have to remind them, that we have been down that road before. It was messy, and ugly. If president Bio who fought against the RUF, can behave like this now that he is president of our country, what hope have the illiterate young man and woman who can be easily brainwashed have? Covid 19 has created economic hardship for every one. Right now our country is a fertile ground to manipulate people. Bio and his ministers are doing just that. And they are making a very good job of it.

      There are lots of young men and women who took part in that RUF war and they were once known as child soldiers, now they are grown men. So it will take our country a generation to recover from the RUF war. That is if this president’s policies do not plunge us into another one. Because, Bio and his men have chosen to ignore that part of our history and now he is creating more divisions in the country. Yes we can tackle corruption, but it has to be transparent and through the courts. CORRUPTION IS A NATIONAL PROBLEM. I will even suggest in the context of Sierra Leone it is cultural. But this is one culture we don’t want to keep or honour in any shape or size. You cannot make accusations and throw open the prospect of taking away people’s property in thirty days. What if the accused fails to comply, then what? May God grant us peace in Sierra Leone.

  4. There we go – Things are getting transparent by the minute; Its crystal clear and quite easy to see that the Criminal SLPP is hell-bent on destroying the lives, livelihoods and hard-earned reputations of good people just to be able to score cheap political points. An Old traumatized disgruntled soldier with no credibility whatsoever, that’s who this President truly is; A man lacking in integrity and honour that is easily influenced and persuaded into accepting and giving his approval and consent to criminal behaviours and shady underhanded practices.

    An Old Soldier without honor, unfit to rule that cheated his way to the highest office in the land – The Presidency, only to become a thorn in the flesh, an unrelenting, mean-spirited egotistical anarchist and a bully wielding the baton of power for his own self-centred objectives against the voices of reason and good judgment, against patriotism, everyone and anyone who speaks with a dissimilar voice or in a different tongue he considers unfamiliar to his delusional whacked-out mind.

    My advice to others like Mr Kargbo and Mr O.B Sisay that have been falsely accused of wrongdoing is to come forward with your personal stories and share it for the world to hear and become aware of the injustices that are happening currently in Sierra Leone – Gentlemen its the patriotic thing to do – sharing your story with us on the glorious forum of Truth – Stand your ground, do not let these inept criminals coerce, intimidate or make you afraid – Trust me they are nothing but a bunch of losers!

  5. Nothing surprising here at all. Based on the selective nature and political vendetta tied into this commission of inquiry, it’s abundantly clear that most of the accused persons, will be proven innocent in a court of law if a fair legal proceeding is followed. I am just amazed at how this POAPA regime continues to reinvent the wheel when it comes to good governance and the rule of law. You cannot govern a nation on the premise of RAW EMOTIONS.

    • “During the formal presentation of the report of the Commissions of Inquiry and the Government White Paper at State House on Thursday 24th September 2020, President Julius Maada Bio noted that, “The White Paper documents the recommendations the Government has accepted in the interest of the People of Sierra Leone. Unlike other Commissions, citizens are assured that the Government will fully implement all recommendations. I repeat, Government will implement all recommendations to the letter”. The President went on, “Persons and entities affected by the recommendations are guaranteed a peaceful and transparent Judicial appeals process through which they can seek relief. The rule of law is supreme”. President Bio has insisted that the recently concluded Commissions of Inquiry were about transparency and accountability and nothing else.

      During the several sittings conducted by the Sole Commissioners, many people were summoned to testify before the Commissions. Persons of Interest to the Commissions were notified to either appear before the Commissions in person or have Counsels of their choice to represent them. One person whose name was (is) mentioned in the Commissions of Inquiry report and the Government White Paper is the current Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Dennis K. Vandi. Mr. Vandi served as Permanent Secretary in several Ministries between 2007 and 2018. He is considered to be a seasoned public administrator. When the SLPP came to power in April 2018, one of the first persons to be appointed by the new President was Dennis Vandi. He was appointed as Secretary to the President. By virtue of his role as Secretary to the President, he became the President’s main gatekeeper. His tenure at State House was short-lived.

      Dennis Vandi made a significant return to the Government, when he was appointed as Minister of Agriculture and Food Security. His appointment shows the level of confidence that President Bio has in him. In an interview with the Global Times on Monday, Mr. Vandi made it crystal clear that he was shocked to discover that he was a Person of Interest to the Commissions of Inquiry. Sadly, he said that he was never invited to appear before the Commissions. In addition to that, he was never given the opportunity to hear the allegations made against him. The law of natural justice demands that the man must be given the opportunity to be heard. “I was in this country throughout the sittings of the Commissions…I was never invited…I was never notified of being a Person of Interest…Above all, I was never interviewed by any one working for the Commissions”, Mr. Vandi emphasized.

  6. All of a sudden the APC party have a collective amnesia when it relates to the Commission of Inquiry that was conducted by President Ernest Bai Koroma, when he was duly elected. He must have found out that there were no financial improprieties or if they were, did not merit wasting tax payers’ money on it so it was not pursued. But today he and his party are doing everything humanly possible to discredit the commission of inquiry set up by the current government because they have been accused and indicted of the most blatant corruption and financial misappropriation our country have ever witnessed. And this notwithstanding the colossal and indefensible evidence of sprawling mansions everywhere and overflowing bank accounts of foreign as well as local currencies.

    If only they had taken the commission seriously, they should have been thinking of ways to make restitution but with everything they do, they have relied on propaganda and bold-face lies from their executive branch to question the authenticity of a government instrument. For those who are feigning ignorance now, I am sorry to say the dice has been cast. It is your responsibility to have found out if you are a person of interest. I would have done so myself, if only to clear my name of wrongdoing if a government I have worked for is being investigated. This bellyaching is not going to cut it either in the court of appeals because you have lost your chance to put up a vigorous defense when you had a chance.

    As a Sierra Leonean, I am very elated that our President has the fortitude and balls to put an end to this type of economic crime against our poor people and those involved should be blessed they are in a forgiven country. But your mistake will be in pretending as if you can beat this rap. The whole country is tuned to the aftermath of this drama. The legacy of our President rides on this fight and there is no way he can back track now. This is a battle we must fight as a nation for our own collective good.

  7. So Mr. Karefa Kargbo in a nutshell is confirming many of the COI’s findings with regards the misappropriation of funds at the Petroleum Directorate. However, he is claiming that he was not involved. Further, he is claiming that he was sacked because he questioned some of the very issues highlighted in the findings of the COI.

    AS president Bio stated during the lunching of the White paper that those named have the opportunity to appeal their innocence and that they will be given the opportunity to be heard. The COI worked under difficult conditions and it’s work was not the end of the case.

    As for Mr. OB Sesay his matter is already with the ACC. The commission was cognisant of this that is why he was not questioned by the COI.

  8. Nice try to escape justice for corruption in a country like ours. It just doesn’t sound convincing to me. See you in court.

  9. Look at that. How for heaven’s sake can someone who has never been invited by the COI be indicted and asked to refund stolen or missing government money? They will soon put the blame on the poor sacked former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Ms Priscilla Schwartz for all the mistakes and reckless vulnerabilities in that white paper. Who should be accused of a reckless behaviour in terms of policies, government, finances, decisions and the poor and reckless outcome of the white paper? Mr Karefa Kargbo or the Bio SLPP kakistocracy?

    If anyone asks me, I would reply forthwith by saying, the Bio SLPP kakistocracy in this particular instance. God bless Mr Karefa Kargbo and all those hurt unjustly by the Bio SLPP kakistocracy white paper. God bless Sierra Leone.

  10. Now this white paper and all those APC accused persons that think they’ve no case to answer should be given the opportunity to do so in a court room, where they have to explain or defend their integrity in front of a judge and a jury. And also where the state can cross examine their defence statement or alibi so the jury can make a determination of their guilt or innocence. If they can afford lawyers, their lawyers should present the rebuttals with all the evidence needed for their case. For those that can’t afford lawyers, which I very much doubted given the millions of Leones they are accused of stealing from the state, the state should provide them with the legal aid, so we can see justice administered with the highest standards. So no one feels they have been hard done by the state.

    And if they are found guilty, or innocent, the ACC should able to look at Sierra Leoneans in the eyes and say I gave it a good shot. Then everyone will know Bio is on the side of us poor people. It will do the APC and those accused of theft no favours in airing their rebuttals in the court of public opinion. Right now as Sierra Leoneans seeking answers, we don’t know who to believe anymore. One thing that is an undeniable fact – our system is rotten and corrupt.

    Our country can’t afford to pay all government workers salaries, our roads are not fit for purpose, our graduates can’t find decent jobs, tribal differences have never been so high, the country is polarised between north and south, there is tension between the haves and have nots, and to add insult to injury this Bio government that instituted the corruption probe, are themselves engaged in other forms of corruption. Like corrupting our judiciary, the security services and Hon Sandy sending thugs to seize private lands. There is never a boring day in Sierra Leone! May God bless Sierra Leone.

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