Sierra Leone: The Panel of Appeal Court Judges has on Monday 26th April 2021 dismissed the appeal filed in by the former Permanent Secretaries in the Ministry of Education Mani Koroma and Umaru Conteh with regards to the 2018 Commission of Inquiry which also resulted into the White Paper.
The Appellants Mani Koroma and Umaru Conteh were captured by the White Paper document, as two of the persons under adverse findings, being investigated by the Sole Commissioner Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Commission of Inquiry (Instrument No. 64) of 2018.
According to the Commission’s findings over $60 million dollars were either misappropriated or not accounted for in the Ministry of Education Science and Technology, under the helm of the late Dr Minkailu Bah as Minister.
The investigation which spanned from November 2007 to April 2018, took over a year to reach its judicial conclusion, after being established by President Julius Maada Bio to check the excesses of the previous administration (the APC) under the leadership of former President Ernest Bai Koroma.
Key amongst the grounds of appeal by the Appellants, according to their lawyer Ady Macualey was that the sole commissioner exceeded his perimeter of investigations, that he went ahead to make recommendations against his clients without giving them the opportunity to be heard, in other words, his clients failed to enjoy the principle of natural justice and were never a person of interest in the Commission of Inquiry but falls under adverse findings at the end of the process.
While the Counsel of the State led by Robert Kowa, in their response said there is no adverse findings against the Appellants, but stressed that there was sufficient evidence of the Appellants as collaborators during the investigations.
After going through both synopsis of the Appellants counsel and that of the State, Justice Ivan Sesay, Justice Adrian Fisher and Justice Alhaji Momoh Jah Stevens said “The findings of the sole Commissioner are justifiable in light of evidence that was before him.” The Judges said the sole Commissioner did not act outside of his jurisdiction.
The judges then upheld the recommendations of the COI in both the findings and the recommendations of the White Paper. They further ordered the Undersheriff to arrest both officials and hand them over to the Anti-Corruption Commission for onward investigations, which was exhibited in court.
Both Mr Conteh and Koroma served as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education Science and Technology. MJB/28/04/2021
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