Sierra Leone News: COI Witness Testifies: Le 126M Unaccounted for, as Le 128M Spent on Top Up

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Justice Biobele Georgewill

Interesting revelations were made on Wednesday May 22 at Commission 64 presided over by Justice Biobele Georgewill.

Commission witness Bashiru B. Kamara who is Internal Auditor at the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources drawing from audit reports of November 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2017, revealed that several breaches of procurement procedures took place at the ministry. He disclosed that his internal audit activities uncovered 52 retirees that were still receiving salaries even though they had retired from active service and that 4 deceased persons’ salaries were also still running even though they had passed away.

The Internal Auditor further divulged that the Diamond Area Community Development Fund account was kept from his view and therefore he could not audit that particular account. Asked as to how much money it could have contained, the witness said he could not tell because he was not given access to the account.

Another witness from the National Minerals Agency Mrs. Daphne Winnebah who was Compliance and Audit Manager said she was with the agency since inception in 2013, and that there were several documentation issues there. Vehicles were supplied to NMA by ETAP without proper documentation. In her testimony, Mrs. Winnebah unearthed lots of discrepancies between bank accounts and office ledgers, whilst also bringing to the fore the issue of over payment to Mines Monitoring Officers.

One of the critical issues that emerged in her testimony was the award of a contract worth Le 126,000,000 (one hundred and twenty six million Leones) to a one AGIBBS Construction Company without due process. Mrs. Winnebah said that the company was paid the full contract value of Le 126M but never did the work, but that the Project Manager Mr. Gibril Kabba (now deceased) reported that the work had been completed.

Also, the Compliance and Internal Audit Manager disclosed that mobile top up cards for 17 senior staff of NMA accounted to staggering sums of money. For instance in one month alone mobile phone top up cards for the 17 senior staff was Le 128, 734, 204 (one hundred and twenty eight million, seven hundred and thirty four thousand, two hundred and four leones), and at another month reached Le 133, 413, 208 (one hundred and thirty three million, four hundred and thirteen thousand, two hundred and eight Leones). Furthermore, internet service for the office was pegged at Le 367, 200, 000 (three hundred and sixty seven million, two hundred thousand Leones) but the actual payment made to the service provider was put at Le 515, 712, 000 (five hundred and fifteen million, seven hundred and twelve thousand Leones).

In Commission 65 chaired by Justice Bankole Thompson, the probe into the fertiliser saga at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry continued with previous witnesses recalled for cross examination and re-examination by both the state and defense counsels.

At Commission 67 chaired by Justice William Atuguba, the Country Director of BEGEC-TP Construction Company Mr. Sean Parpah Chendeka continued his testimony on how a contract was awarded his company and terminated at mobilization stage, then re-awarded to another company China Railway Seventh Group or CRSG without any due process followed. Mr. Chendeka alleged that the contract was withdrawn from his company because he is the cousin of the sacked former vice president Chief Sam Sumana. The counsels for the persons of interest asked that his testimony be dismissed because it had no strong evidence, but the sole Commissioner Justice Atuguba overruled it saying it had issues of maladministration and inconsistency in procurement procedures. The Procurement Officer at Sierra Leone Roads Authority also testified in the commission saying he had no knowledge about CRSG going through the proper procurement procedures before being awarded the contract that was withdrawn from BEGEC-TP.

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