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Ebola ‘blood money’ saga!

Director of Finance ordered to repay Le160m

March 4, 2015 By Jariatu S. Bangura

Members of the Public Account Committee in Parliament yesterday ordered the Director of Finance and Resources in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to retrieve and pay the sum of Le160,000,000 from CL Group Contractor – Patrick Cole – into the health emergency response account at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank latest 16 March.

According to the Deputy Auditor General Tamba Momoh, records including procurement and evaluation committees’ minutes, matrixes etc, were not submitted to the audit team for review and to ascertain why and how CL Group came to be selected as the sole source for the contract, adding that although Clause 52.1 of the signed contract required the provision of an unconditional bank guarantee and performance bond of 10% each, no evidence was provided to indicate that these requirements were met by the contractor.

Momoh said a contingency fee is normally paid when certain events that could not have been foreseen during the contract award stage occur at the implementation stage and are agreed upon by the contractor and employer/client.

He said it was observed that the contingency fee of Le160,000,000 included in the contract value had already been paid to the contractor for the construction of a 90-bed treatment centre at Kerry Town without any record to suggest that a contingent event had happened that necessitated the payment.

He questioned why the contingency was paid before the implementation of the project.

However, the Director of Finance at the Health Ministry, Festus Kuyembeh, said the payment was verbally ordered by the sacked Minister of Health, Miatta Kargbo because it was urgently needed as the Ebola outbreak had just begun.

He told committee members that he was not in a better position to explain how the contractor was selected because, according him, the contract was awarded by the procurement office.

But Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, Hon. Chernoh R.M. Bah, contended that it was illegal to pay contingency fees prior to the commencement of a contract.

Chief Executive Officer of CL Construction Group, Patrick Cole, quoting the contract agreement with the Health Ministry, conceded they had not paid withholding taxes but that a lot of work had been done at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Centre with numerous sacrifices by his workers.

He promised to pay the outstanding amount before 16 March.

Meanwhile, Hon. Bah accused Mr. Cole of conniving with others to deprive government of its source of income and that ignorance of the law was not an excuse.

He concluded that the CLC boss should pay his tax while Kuyembeh should refund the Le160 million contingency fee the Health Ministry paid to the construction company latest 16 March.

The committee hearing continues today.