The State lawyer at the Commission of Inquiry, Robert Kowa, said the former Ministers of Agricultural, Sam Sesay and Monty Jones, along with the Procurement Officer and Permanent Secretary, misappropriated over L68 billion (Le68,245,558,888), while in charge of the Ministry. Commissioner Bankole Thompson heard submissions on Wednesday 22nd January 2020, at the former Special Court compound. Kowa was making his final submissions on the Ministry of Agriculture and the fertilizer investigation. According to the State, 280,000, of 50kg bags of NPK 15:15 fertilizer was obtained by the Ministry of Agriculture during 2014- 2016, to the tune of $22,367.50 USD. “Firstly, we led evidence to the effect that there was no such evidence with respect to implementation of the fertilizer scheme. What was “purported” to be policy evidence could not be referred to as policy documents in respect to this scheme, since it was prepared in February 2017, whilst the fertilizers scheme started in 2014,” Kowa said. “Also, the document bears no signature, which led to a serious financial loss on the part of the Government.” He furthered that soil testing was never done by officials in order to determine the right component of fertilizers to be used in Salone soil, citing the evidence of Amara Haidara Sheriff, senior agriculture expert. Kowa maintained that massive over pricing was done by the Ministry officials in the purchasing of NPK 15:15 and Urea 46% fertilizers. In 2014, 30,000 bags of fertilizer were purchased by the then Minister, Sam Sesay. Kowa said 15,000 bags of NPK 15:15 and 5,000 bags of urea were over priced to the tune of Le5.569 billion. He furthered that in 2016 a comparison was done with respect to the purchase price of the Ministry and that of the actual market price for both types of fertilizer. He added that 190,000 bags were over priced. The State lawyer said there was over pricing of Le61.6 billion. Putting the purchase cost of 2014 and 2016 together, it shows the Government lost Le66.630 billion. He said officials from the Ministry never denied the allegations but tried to justify it by shifting the responsibilities from one unit to another.
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Kowa also highlighted Le1.6 billion was withdrawn from the fertilizer fund at the bank without any supporting documents. The Chief Accountant and Permanent Secretary couldn’t provide any explanation for the withdrawal. “I recommend the officials should refund the money to the government and people of Sierra Leone,” Kowa said. Kowa said poor storage management from the Ministers and other officials also led to the destruction of 2,087 bags of fertilizer costing the government $279,798 USD. “It is my submission that the former Ministers, Sam Sesay, and Monty Jones, the Permanent Secretary, Abdulai Koroma, Director of Crops, Henry Kargbo and Procurement Officer, Francis Kaikai, collaborated to defraud the Government of Sierra Leone Le68.245 billion plus $4.8 million USD,” Kowa added. Responding to the State’s submissions, the lawyer for the Persons of Interest, Lansana Dumbuya, said Monty Jones was only the political head in the Ministry and not responsible for the actions of other senior officials in the Ministry. He said there was incontrovertible evidence in the Commission that there was policy evidence by Haidara Sheriff. Dumbuya said the whole issue of soil testing was over-exaggerated by the Permanent Secretary and Haidara Sheriff. Dumbuya challenged all of the submissions made by the State. The Commission adjourned for continuation of Dumbuya’s submission.
By Mohamed J. Bah
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