ACC urged to investigate
DECEMBER 19, 2014 By Mohamed Massaquoi, Jariatu Bangura and Samuel J. Kargbo
It was real drama yesterday at Committee Room No.1 in the Sierra Leone House of Parliament when the Mayor of the Kenema City Council, Joseph Samba Keifala, the Chief Administrator Daniel Sahr Momoh, his deputy Alie Fofanah and Finance Officer David Kallon, were all summoned by Parliament to substantiate corruption allegations made against members of the Sub-Appropriation Committee.
It could be recalled that Mayor Keifala on Tuesday 16 December, during the popular ‘Good Morning Salone’ radio programme aired on FM 98.1, claimed that he had been reliably informed by the Deputy Chief Administrator that the council’s annual budget for 2015 would not be approved by the committee on the ground that they had failed to give a bribe to members of the committee. This warranted the invitation of the Mayor and team to prove their allegations.
The committee room was full to capacity with parliamentarians, journalists, heads of institutions, civil society representatives and members of the public all attending the hearing on a matter that has generated so much public interest since the claim by the Mayor that some MPs had requested for Le20 million before his council’s budget will be approved.
Deputy Chief Administrator Fofanah informed the panel of MPs that indeed some members of the Sub-Appropriation Committee did request from them a bribe, for which he later called the Chief Administrator and the Mayor and informed them about the development.
Fofanah said he categorically told the MPs that they had no money to give out; a development he said led to the council’s annual budget to be overlooked and not debated upon by the committee.
“I consider this to be an unfortunate development, and I had to communicate back immediately as I was representing my Chief Administrator,” Fofanah told the panel. “We were in parliament on the 26th November 2014 alongside three other senior officials, including the Finance Officer. We were taken to an office where we met Hon. Abubakarr S.A.T. Koroma, Hon. Hassan Sheriff among other MPs. We were told that one Chairman Fofanah has negotiated on behalf of the councils, but I said to them we were not prepared for that. Because of this, we were directed to one Mr. Sannoh, the committee’s clerk, to hand over our documents. I later returned to Kenema and informed the Mayor about what had transpired. The Mayor then told me there was no money to give to the committee.”
Fofanah said despite pleading for an adjournment, the committee refused to grant them their wish.
“Usually, we do some gestures when we come to parliament,” he revealed.
In his statement, the Majority Leader of Parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Bundu, who chaired the panel, said over 128 ministries, departments and agencies have already presented their budgets without any hindrance, noting that they have the power to withhold budgets if there was no proper accountability.
“The media should serve as a responsible gatekeeper but the manner in which the station [98.1 FM] handled the program was unprofessional,” blasted Hon. Bundu. “Article 9 of the IMC Act stipulates that live phone-in programs must be managed in such a way that they are not used to incite violence and public disorder. This matter will be handed over to the Anti-Corruption Commission for further investigation,” he concluded.