Karefa Kargbo Denies Sierra Leone White Paper Recommendations

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Lt. Col (Rtd) Karefa Kargbo

By Amin Kef Sesay

Former Financial Controller in the Accounting Department of the Petroleum Directorate between the period August 2011 and 9th January 2016, Lt. Col (Rtd) Karefa Kargbo, has informed this medium that he is gravely concern that his name was mentioned in the Commission of Inquiry Report and Government White Paper with an unfortunate, seemingly calculated attempt to tarnish his reputation by passing a judgment against his person for acts of grave impropriety.

In Chapter 9 page 22 of the White Paper it was categorically stated:

“Government notes the Commission’s findings on H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Raymond Kargbo, Emmanuel Beresford Oshoba Coker, Karefa Kargbo, Momodu L. Kargbo, Dr. Michael S. Kargbo, 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  Le72, 254, 506, 000. 00 and USD15, 413, 821. 00.”

The White Paper also indicated that:

Government accepts recommendations 1-5

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: H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, Raymond Kargbo, Karefa Kargbo.

Rebutting the aforementioned, Karefa Kargbo, strongly maintained that he was resident in Sierra Leone during the entire period the Commissions of Inquiry were doing their work but throughout all that period he was never invited, notified expressly or implied that he was a person of interest or that his presence was required as a witness at the Commission of Inquiries.

In a calculated and logical way,  Karefa stated that he has since, after going through the contents of the White Paper, failed to appreciate how an adverse finding or a judgment could be passed on his person with materially adverse and life challenging implications for himself and his family without being given the opportunity to have rebutted any accusation.

Explaining what transpired when he was an employee at the Petroleum Directorate, he said, he was engaged at that institution in the Accounting Department as the Financial Controller between the period August 2011 and 9th January 2016.

“During my time when I was in charge of the finances at the Directorate, Audit Service Sierra Leone has never found us wanting and the auditing entity was 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,” he highlighted adding how due to his intervention and renegotiation of the financial terms of several key agreements, Government saw a substantial increase in Revenue from the Petroleum Sector.

Karefa disclosed how, as a matter of fact, for the first time Petroleum Companies paid signing bonuses directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, raising over US$30 million for the Government of Sierra Leone.

He made it categorically clear that his employment with the Petroleum Directorate was terminated for “insubordination” on the 9th January 2016.

According to him, on that basis, he was not at the Directorate when the Single Treasury Account came into force in October 2017 meaning that he 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.

He asked the rhetorical question: “How judgement then could be passed that I should refund monies that were unaccounted for and not transferred to the Single Treasury Account in 2017?”

Karefa reiterated that he was also no longer at the Directorate in 2017 or 2018 when members of staff were paid terminal benefits.

He made the shocking revelation that when that payment of terminal benefits was done during his time at the Directorate, he vehemently resisted the move and never implemented it, a stand that was part of the reason he was accused of “Insubordination.”

“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.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,” he succinctly pointed out stating that when he returned to work he only found out about the loan when he queried his Accounting Manager and the Director General about the status of the balances in their 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,” Karefa lamented.

He said after perusing the agreement he subsequently informed his 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.

Karefa intimated that he does not have a legal mind but his accounting and auditing background inform that one gives opportunity to the subject of one’s work to explain or justify the action no matter how gross the allegation against same.

He said in his experience even persons who have been caught red handed in acts of thievery of Government property by the Anti-Corruption Commission, are given a right to a fair hearing.

Karefa questioned again how the Commission of Inquiry therefore came about to make an adverse finding against him and the Government of Sierra Leone duly accepted the recommendations. He said that leaves him questioning the very core foundation of the professionalism of the Commission on which Government relies.

The former Financial Controller said what seems to have been displaced in the minds of all involved in the unfortunate actions against his person 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.

He said he has striven to serve his country all his life first in the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and later as an accountant with the utmost commitment to uphold the highest standards of probity and professionalism.

“I have been a Licensed Certified Accountant for the past 22 years and 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,” he clearly pointed out.

Karefa said he has been informed by the Government that a process of Appeals has been put in place exactly for people in his 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,” he revealed further assuring that he will clear his  name of the spurious, baseless, unfounded, and libellous charges.

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