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Saturday, April 20, 2024

In Response to Hon. Lahai Marah’s Social Media Post… Gento Group Sheds Light on $13M Payment for Delay in Project Implementation

By Amin Kef (Ranger)

The 2022 Audit Report, released by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), unfortunately contained an erroneous claim that the Gento Group of Company, led by CEO Mohamed Gento Kamara, received payment for loss in delay of works under the Waterloo Township Roads Contract.

Although, a succinct and veritable clarification had been made by the CEO of the company on the issue, which is in the public domain, it appears as if some are still missing the point, not actually knowledgeable as to what actually transpired during the implementation of the aforementioned contract.

Among such individuals is the highly respected former Member of Parliament of Constituency 42  , Falaba District , Hon Lahai Marah, who raised concern on Social Media over the 13 Million Dollars payment that was made to the Gento Group of Company in 2022 as loss in delay for work done in 2018.

He further went on to purport that there was no sign of inspection nor any assessment done but the $13M was given to Gento. The  Falaba District , Constituency 42  former MP maintained how the amount could construct over 100 Six Classroom Buildings with Staff Room, Head Teacher’s Office and proper Sanitary Facilities, stressing that corruption stinks.

In the clarification that was made by the Gento Group of Company against the Auditor General’s claim that there was lack of supporting documentation for the project’s suspension, for which claims were made for damages amounting to $13,524,419.34 (IPC 5), it was clearly pointed out that the Interim Payment Certificates (IPCs) in question were legitimate claims for delayed payment interest and the suspension of works, in accordance with the Contract Agreement.

The company further clarified how it submitted the legitimate Interim Payment Certificates (IPC No.1A to IPC No.8) totalling USD$27,248,918.07 for work completed, emphasizing that the delayed payment interest and the claim for the suspension of works should, as per law,  not be deducted from the overall contract sum but  must be considered as contractual claims pursuant to specific clauses in the agreement.

As a matter of fact, the company argued that Clause 70.1 that relates to an increase in materials and labour (Price Adjustment) was never invoked during the contract’s implementation but stressed how the company faced challenges, such as high inflation rates and escalating material costs, while still executing the project within the original contractual sum.

With regards to the project’s suspension, the Gento Group of Companies justifiably clarified that the Ministry of Finance, in a meeting in 2018, verbally communicated the suspension of road works for a forensic audit. Unconventionally, the company was never issued a written notice of suspension but was quick to point out that the contract agreement did not stipulate such a requirement. It, however, maintained that they were really evidently notified that work should be suspended.

The company said in light of this clarification, it is somehow quite confusing as to what kind of inspection or form of assessment that should have been done as purported  by Hon. Lahai Marah when the Ministry of Finance and Sierra Leone Road Authority personnel  were privy to that development  and could sincerely attest that it was such that really transpired.

According to the company it was unfortunate, on the part of the Auditor General, while conducting the audit process, not to have contacted them for clarifications or be given an opportunity to comment before the report’s compilation.

In its clarification, the Gento Group of Company further underscored the company’s commitment to transparency and cooperation while expressing concern over flawed views being expressed over the $13M loss payment stressing optimism that enough light has been shed on the issue what some may misconstrued as an act bordering on corruption.

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