The three Commissions of Inquiry have recommenced public hearings at the former Special Court premises.
Commission 1, chaired by Nigerian-born Justice Biobele Georgewill, heard evidences from senior officials of the National Minerals Agency – Messrs Julius Daniel Mattai, Peter Bangura, Samuel Koroma and Joseph Tarawallie.
Of special interest was the payment of gratuity and ex-gratia to contract workers of the NMA.
Justice Bankole Thompson recalled that they had heard from three witnesses before the recess. The Commission examined and cross-examined witnesses for the road contracts for the RMFA/SLRA. Key to the Commission was the abrogation of contract awarded to BEGEC- TP for the construction of four roads – Macauley Street, Mountain Cut, Kissy Road and Fourah Bay Road. This contract was terminated at mobilization stage without any tangible reason given.
The Commission of Inquiry was told that BEE GEC, a local Sierra Leone company actually won the bid for 4.4 kilometers road for fourteen billion (Le14B) but the SLRA cancelled the contract and gave it to China Railway for over seventeen billion Leones (Le17B). The Waterloo – 12.1 kilometer contract awarded to Gento at 16.9 million US dollars but later rescinded an addendum made to 20 kilometer totalling 42.7 million US dollars was awarded to Gento because the Hill Cut Road should continue to Regent. But the Chinese promised that they would make this road for free from Limkokwing University to Regent.
Finally, the Government gave the Chinese the contract to build the road from Limkokwing to Regent; but because a breach of contract between Government and Gento, the Government added 20 more kilometres to the Gento contract.
The NMA DG told the Commission that he was appointed to the position on February, 2019 after he left the Commission in 2013 as Geo-Data Information Manager.
Mr. Mattia disclosed that he was Secretary to the NMA Board and was also responsible for the overall administration and supervision of the National Minerals Agency, amongst many other functions.
He further revealed to the Commission that there was in existence a Minerals Advisory Board, which, had among other functions, to advice the Minister of Mines on issues related to exploration; recognizance and mining license allocation. The NMA DG also dilated on the composition and structure of the NMA.
He cited that governance challenges with regards the structure and operations of the NMA since its establishment in 2013 are still being undertaken with a view to make it more viable. Peter Bangura, Director of Mines at the Ministry of Mines, was also recalled by the Commission to testify after having testified as CW 3 before the Easter break.
In another development, Ahmed Gento Kamara was cross-examined before Justice William Annan Atugbah on matters relating to the King Jimmy project.
Defense Counsel, lawyer Mohamed Kanu grilled the witness on his knowledge of other contractors during the bidding process. The witness vehemently objected to having knowledge on this, on the grounds that he does not have evidence to prove this, even though he had initially accepted in his statement to the Commission that he was told that other contractors have bid for the project.
The State counsel noted that while making their case, the King Jimmy project was not exposed to other bidders.
The Commission of Enquiry is investigating and enquiring into what happened with the management of government resources between November, 2007 and April, 2018.
Presidents, Vice Presidents, Government Ministers and other Government officials are appearing before the three Commissions represented by renowned lawyers.
Hearings continue on Wednesday 22nd May 2019.