The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Momodu Kargbo, has said yesterday in Parliament that paying Wanza $25m was money down the drain.
The minister was reacting to contributions made by Hon Elizabeth Lavalie of the opposition SLPP, as she made mention of the grant agreement of $3m between the government of Sierra Leone and the International Development Association for the current food crisis response. She lamented that it was ridiculous that the government would ask for a $3m grant whilst at the same time paying Wanza $25m for nothing.
The minister whilst responding explained the transactions between the then National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) government and Wanza.
Having being a staff at the Ministry of Finance at the time the transaction was made, the Deputy Minister noted that he had the facts and would want to share it.
Mr Kargbo reiterated that the debts were incurred during the days of the NPRC government under various means with Wanza as the key player operating different registered companies.
He too questioned the whereabouts of the boat and the payment of it but said the government owed Wanza for about ten to eleven contracts amounting to $41m and the boat itself was worth about $8m for which an amount of $1.5m was paid. This is the situation we inherited as a government, he said, and as there are lawyers in this well of Parliament, they would tell us what would happen when somebody sues you in court and you fail to respond after a certain number of days.
He further said that even before the coming of the APC government, the debt was about to be honoured, as the Auditor-General had audited the Wanza debt and approved the $41m, but advised not to pay the $8m for the gun boat.
The erstwhile President in his own wisdom invited a Sierra Leonean, Mrs. Kabia, who was in the audit department of the United Nations to further audit the debts and she also advised the former government to pay the $41m but not for the boat.
Continuing, he explained that since the foreign Auditor has advised that we pay the $41m, just as our Auditor- General did, we have no option as a responsible government.
The initial amount Wanza claimed was $117, as he alleged that when he was deported, his house was looted, the Minister said. In this regard, he said, we thought it fit to call Wanza to take the case outside court for settlement and after series of negotiations we arrived at a figure of $25M”
He emphasized and stated categorically clear that government was not paying Wanza for the boat and even the earlier negotiations for a part payment of $7M has still not been paid to Wanza
By Ishmael Bayoh