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?”