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Commission of Enquiry: Statement by Justice Biobele Georgewill

25 March 2020 at 19:28 | 2242 views

Statement by Justice Biobele Georgewill,

March 25, 2020,

Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Opening Statement:
Time and space would not permit an inquiry of this nature to cover every single economic, financial and administrative activity of the immediate past Government of H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma from November 2007 - April 2018 when power was democratically handed over to H. E. Dr. Julius Maada Bio, as President of Sierra Leone. The Commissions of Inquiry No. 1, Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018 was duly established by law pursuant to the appointment of the Chairmen and Sole Commissioner, Hon Sir Biobele Abraham Georgewill JCA, DSSRS, KSC, a Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Lord Chancellor of the Diocese of Niger Delta, Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Pro Chancellor of Southgate University, Windhoek, Nigeria, by the President of Sierra Leone to carry out thorough, independent, fair and impartial investigations into allegations of corruption and abuse of public office and to make relevant findings and proffer appropriate recommendations to the Government of Sierra Leone for its considerations.

Terms of Reference:
- To examine the assets and other related matters in respect of

Persons who were President, Vice Presidents, Ministers, Ministers of State, Deputy Ministers; and

Heads and Chairmen of Boards of Parastatals, Departments and Agencies within the period from November 2007 to April 2018

- To inquire into and investigate whether assets were acquired lawfully or unlawfully

- To inquire into:

Persons who were President, Vice Presidents, Ministers, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers;

Heads of Parastatals, Departments and Agencies

- To ascertain as to whether the Persons referred to in paragraphs (a) - (c):

Maintained a standard of life above that which was commensurate to their official emoluments

Owned or were in control of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to their official emoluments or there are evidence of corruption, dishonesty or abuse of office for private benefit by them

Collaborated with any person in respect of such corruption, dishonesty or abuse of office

Acted willfully or complacently in such a manner so as to cause financial loss or damage to the Government, Local Authority or Parastatal, including a Public Corporation

Acquired directly or indirectly financial or material gains fraudulently, improperly or willfully to the detriment of the Government, Local Authority or a Parastatal , including a Public Corporation, Statutory Commission, Body or any University in Sierra Leone

- To inquire into and investigate any persons or matter as may from time to time be referred to the Commission by His Excellency, the President.

Methodology:
This Commission adopted a robust approach to ensure that it carried out its work in accordance with due process and the rule of law in Sierra Leone. It was guided by the provisions of the Constitution of Sierra Leone 1991 (as amended), the Sierra Leone High Court Rules 2007 and the Practice Directions of the Commissions of Inquiry 2019. The proceedings were held in public and were adversary in nature in line with the common law historical origins of the laws and practice in Sierra Leone. The State and the Persons of Interest were given equal treatment to ensure fairness and impartiality. The sacrosanct rules of fair hearing were scrupulously observed and adhered to by the Commission.

Challenges:
The initial time frame of six months for the completion of the assignments by the Commissions of Inquiry was very inadequate taking into consideration the magnitude and complexity of the totality of the work carried out by the Commissions of Inquiry. An initial projection of one year for the work of the Commissions of Inquiry, taking into consideration the terms of reference covering eleven years of governance under scrutiny, would have been fairly reasonable.

A: Final Report on Ministerial Investigations; Findings: The highlights are:
Number of Persons of Interest and Collaborators investigated: 110 Persons of Interest, their alleged Collaborators and or Companies.

Number of Persons of Interest and Collaborators Indicted: 84 Persons of Interest and or Companies.

Number of Persons of Interest and Others Discharged: 26 Persons of Interest and Others.

Amounts of Money involved:

On Ebola Response: Le85, 239, 738, 225. 94 and USD2, 471, 993. 41 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for between the EOC/Ministry of Health and Sanitation; NERC, their several Collaborators, BDO and IHPAU.

On Unsecured Loans: Le7, 100, 159, 352. 29 is still outstanding as debts due payable to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank from the unsecured loans to politically exposed persons and or their businesses.

On the Youth in Drainage Project: Le19, 812, 340, 478. 00 was misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for and a further sum of Le804, 000, 000. 00 paid by RMFA as administrative cost.

On the National Youth Farm Project: Le1, 599, 533, 000. 000 was misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Youth in Fisheries Project: Le2, 721, 565, 499. 00 and USD277, 000. 00 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the National Youth Village Project: Le2, 207, 818, 212. 10 was misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources: Le62, 368, 811, 694. 81 and USD7, 860, 767. 16 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On Sierra Rutile SL Ltd: The Government of Sierra Leone owned shares, whether amounting to 7, 085 or 30% or less of the total share capital of Sierra Rutile SL Ltd, arising from payment in lieu of PAYE from 1/4/2005 - 31/12/2011 amounting to USD8, 739, 192. 00 which were converted into shares in the said Sierra Rutile SL Ltd, and which shares were under a shady deal surreptitiously sold in 2012.

On the Petroleum Directorate: Le72, 254, 506, 000. 00; and USD15, 413, 821. 00 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Ministry of Trade and Industry: Le16, 008, 534, 574. 00 was misappropriated and or unverified and remained unaccounted for.

On the Ministry of Sports: Le5, 009, 027, 502. 00 was misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment: Huge and unquantifiable sums of money payable as revenue on hasty and undervalued sale of some identified Government Quarters without due process and other State lands and leases that have been lost to the Government of Serra Leone, Le270, 581, 888. 00 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology: Le44, 764, 428, 798. 00, and USD67, 951, 222. 00 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

On the Office of Attorney General and Ministry of Justice: Several assets handed over to the Government of Sierra Leone by the former Special Court for Sierra Leone in 2013/2014 had remained unaccounted for. There was also gross dereliction and professional negligence leading to loss of prestige and damages awarded against the Government of Sierra Leone by the ECOWAS Court. The sum of Le3, 394, 828, 831. 00 and USD270, 000. 00 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for.

From the findings above, the grand total amount of Le323, 555, 873, 556. 14 and USD94, 217, 803. 30 were misappropriated and or unverified and had remained unaccounted for and lost to corruption in the MDAs between November 2007 and April 2018 as investigated by Commission Number One (Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018).

Recommendations: The highlights are:
All amounts recommended to be paid or refunded shall be refunded and paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone within 30 days from the date of the ratification of the recommendations by the Government of Sierra Leone.

In the event of failure or neglect or refusal to make the refunds and payment into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone within the 30 days period by any one as indicted above, the Government shall use all lawful means to confiscate all monies standing to the credit of any of the indicted persons and properties, movable and immovable, including houses, vehicles, stocks, belonging to any of the indicted persons for the purposes of selling them to recover the said amounts.

All irregular allocations of State lands and leases converted to freeholds without due process should be set aside, nullified and revoked and all the said lands reverted to the Government of Sierra Leone and the monies paid be refunded to the affected persons by the Government.

All indicted Persons of Interest and their collaborators involved in gross abuse of public office shall be barred from holding any public offices on subvention or howsoever funded by the Government of Sierra Leone for a period of five years from the date of acceptance of this recommendation by the Government of Sierra Leone.

From the findings by Commission Number One, the worst managed Ministry in the period under review was the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The issue of indebtedness of the Government of Sierra Leone to Limkokwing University is a farce as exposed in the findings under Ministry of Education, Science and Technology!

B. Final Report on Assets Investigations; Findings: The highlights are:
Number of Persons of interest investigated: 17 Persons of Interest, namely:

Madam Finda Diana Konomanyi: Former Minister of Local Government and Former Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment from 2013 - 2018

Miatta Kargbo: Former Minister of Health and Sanitation from 2013 - 2015

Ibrahim Washinga Mansaray: Former Deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation from 2013 – 2016; Former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry from 2016 - 2018

Abdul Ignosi Koroma: Former Deputy Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources from 2007 - 2018

Minkailu Mansaray: Former Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources 2007 - 2018

Ahmed Khanou: Former Deputy Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment from 2010 - 2016 and Former Minister of Sports from 2016 - 2018

Alimamy A. Kamara: Former Minister of Youth Affairs from 2013 - 2016

Mabinty Daramy: Former Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry from 2011 - 2016

Bai Mamoud Bangura: Former Minister of Youth Affairs from 2016 – 2018

Alfred Palo Conteh: Former Minister of Defense 2007 - 2014 and Former Minister of Internal Affairs from 2016 - 2018

Dr. Minkailu Bah: Former Minister of Education, Science and Technology from 2007 - 2018

Alimamy P. Koroma: Former Minister of Minister of Trade and Industry from 2007 - 2009 and Former Minister of Works, Housing and Infrastructure from 2009 - 2013

Mamoud Tarawally: Former Minister of Education, Science and Technology and Former Minister of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment from 2011 - 2013 and 2016 - 2018

Dr. Richard Konteh: Former Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Development from 2007 - 2008 and Former Minister of Trade and Industry from 2008 - 2013

Franklyn Bai Kargbo: Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice from 2010 – 2015

Zuliatu Muamatu Cooper: Former Deputy Minister of Health and Sanitation from 2016 - 2018

Raymond Saidu Kargbo: Former Director General of Petroleum Directorate 2013 - 2018

Number of Persons of Interest Indicted: 14 Persons of Interest

Number of Persons of Interest discharged: 3 Persons of Interest

Recommendations: The high lights are:
All the Persons of Interest who failed to declare at least once their Assets to the Anti - Corruption Commission were found guilty of the offence created under Section 119 of the ACC Act and were by virtue of Section 122 of the ACC Act sentenced to six months imprisonment with an option of fine of Le30, 000, 000.

All the Persons of Interest who declared their Assets at least once or more to the Anti – Corruption Commission were found guilty of the offence created under Section 119 of the ACC Act but were cautioned and discharged.

All properties of Persons of Interest acquired within their total emoluments were discharged.

All funds of Persons of Interest in their Bank Accounts within their total emoluments were discharged.

All properties legally shown to belong to the spouse or jointly owned or to other relations and therefore, not belonging to the Persons of interest, and being therefore, outside the mandate of this Commissions were discharged.

All properties of Persons of Interest acquired with funds beyond and far above, and therefore not commensurate with, their legitimate means of incomes, allowances and other earnings and therefore, being products of unlawful and or unjust enrichments, shall be forfeited forthwith to the Government of Sierra Leone.

Upon due process taken for the legal forfeiture of all such forfeited properties, they shall be sold at public auction, or dealt with in any other lawful means as allowed by the Laws of Sierra Leone in dealing with forfeited properties, to interested persons at a fair value and the proceeds shall be remitted promptly into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone.

All funds and financial transactions in the Bank Accounts of all Person of Interest far above their total legitimate earnings shall forthwith be forfeited and if already spent by the Persons of Interest shall be refunded forthwith and paid by the Persons of Interest into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone within 30 days from the date of the ratification of this recommendation by the Government of Sierra Leone

In the event of failure or neglect or refusal by the Persons of Interest to make the refunds and or payment into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone within the 30 days period, the Government shall use all lawful means to confiscate all monies standing to his or her credits in any Bank Accounts and properties, movable and immovable, including houses, vehicles, stocks, belonging to the Persons of Interest for the purposes of selling them to recover the said amounts.

Implementation of Recommendations: It is my hope that the Government of Sierra Leone under the leadership of H. E. Dr. Julius Maada Bio will find these recommendations helpful and useful in addressing and checking the grave ills of corruption on the economic and financial stability of the Republic of Sierra Leone and to recovers all stolen, misappropriated and or unaccounted funds and assets through an assiduous implementation of these recommendations, which in my humble view would go a long way in changing the narrative in public governance in Sierra Leone with the result that public offices would be held in trust and for the benefit of the people of Sierra Leone.

Appreciation:
The privilege to be called upon and to have served this great Country of Sierra Leone has indeed been mine. Having brought this assignment to a successful conclusion, it is fitting to give thanks and praise first to God for his grace and mercy all through the assignment. I express my appreciation to H. E. Mohammadu Buhari, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for approving my coming over to Sierra Leone to take up this assignment. I express my appreciation to H.E. Julius Maada Bio, the President of Sierra Leone for appointing and giving me the opportunity to serve this Country and the free hand to carry out this assignment. I thank the Vice President, Mohammed Juldeh Jalloh, the Speaker, Rt. Hon Dr. Abass Chenor Bundu, the Hon Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dr. Priscilla Schwartz, the immediate past and current Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Sierra Leone, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Hon Godfrey Onyeama, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, Hon Odein Ajumogobia SAN, the High Commissioner of Nigeria to Sierra Leone, Dr. Habiss Ugbada, and his Staff, the Inspector General of Police, the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the Bishop and Dean of Diocese of Freetown and the Anglican Communion, AIG Morie Lengor Rtd., the Coordinator, Deputy Coordinator and Staff of the Commissions of Inquiry, Freetown. I appreciate the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon Justice Walter C. N. Onnoghen and the President of the Court of Appeal of Nigeria, Hon Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa. I deeply appreciate my beloved wife, Dame Funmilayo Biobele Georgewill and my lovely kids, Mrs. Abilaba, Barr Lolia, Ella, Princess, Afam and Barr Diepriye. I appreciate Mr. Lindsay Barret and Mrs. Joy S. Bob Manuel. I appreciate my twin brother, Prof Sir Owunari Abraham Georgewill. I appreciate my personal doctor, Dr. Mrs. Oulchi Wogu. I appreciate my dedicated close body guards, Sgt. Williams Jnr., and Sgt. Christian Gray. I appreciate the Press, particularly Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation and African Young Voices Media Empire. I also appreciate all others who had in various ways ensured and contributed to my successful conclusion of this assignment. I say thank you all and God bless!

Hon Sir Justice Biobele Abraham Georgewill, JCA, DSSRS, KSC
Chairman and Sole Commissioner, Constitutional Instrument No. 64 of 2018

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