By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In the wake of the 2022 Audit Report released by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), the Gento Group of Companies, led by CEO Mohamed Gento Kamara, vehemently denies accusations of receiving double payment for the Waterloo Township Roads Contract.
The audit report, which raised concerns over the handling of funds in the $42,782,727 contract with the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA), alleges that the Gento Group received an additional payment of $5,439,499.26 from the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA) in 2018. This payment, made under an Interim Payment Certificate (IPC 1A), triggered suspicions of double payment, as the RMFA had reportedly already settled the payment for IPC 1 in 2016.
The report also highlights claims for loss and damages amounting to $13,524,419.34 (IPC 5), citing a lack of supporting documentation for the project’s suspension. The Gento Group refutes these claims, asserting that the IPCs in question were legitimate claims for delay payment interest and the suspension of works, in accordance with the contract agreement.
In an exclusive interview, CEO Mohamed Gento Kamara dismissed the allegations as “totally erroneous and misleading.” He clarified that the company submitted legitimate Interim Payment Certificates (IPC No.1A to IPC No.8) totaling USD$27,248,918.07 for work completed. Gento emphasized that the delay payment interest and the claim for the suspension of works should not be deducted from the overall contract sum but considered as contractual claims pursuant to specific clauses in the agreement.
Furthermore, Gento asserted that Clause 70.1, relating to an increase in materials and labor (Price Adjustment), was never invoked during the contract’s implementation. He highlighted the challenges faced by the company, such as high inflation rates and escalating material costs, while still executing the project within the original contractual sum.
Regarding the project’s suspension, Gento clarified that the Ministry of Finance, in a meeting in 2018, verbally communicated the suspension of road works for a forensic audit. The company was not issued a written notice of suspension, and Gento emphasized that the contract did not stipulate such a requirement.
Expressing disappointment in the audit process, Gento disclosed that his company was never contacted by Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) and Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA) for clarifications or given an opportunity to comment before the report’s compilation. He questioned the procedures applied and the conclusions reached, maintaining that at no point in time did the Gento Group receive double payment during the Waterloo Township Roads Project’s implementation.
The CEO underscored the company’s commitment to transparency and cooperation while expressing concern about the impact of the allegations on their reputation and ongoing projects.