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SLCB loses over 7bn loan to politically exposed persons

February 20, 2019

By Dusuba Koroma

The Chief Risk Officer at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLBC), Abdul Raheem Mujtabah, yesterday, (19thFebruary, 2019), testified in  Commissions of Inquiry room one, presided over by Chief Commissioner, Justice Biobele Goergewill, that over Le 7,000,000,000 (seven billion Leones)  unsecured loan  taken by  politically exposed persons, has been written off by the bank .

He told the Commission that his responsibility at that time was to provide oversight for Credit Risk compliance and operational risk department.

Lead State Counsel, O.V Robin Mason, presented a document to the Commission, showing a list of unsecured loans, some of which were written off by the said bank.

The witness recognised the document as a list of names of politically exposed persons, who took unsecured loans from the bank during the Ebola scourge in 2014.

When asked as to why the loans were written off, Mujtabah stated that the Bank has a policy that if a loan has not been paid for a period of 12 months, that loan would be categorized as lost loan.

He added that if the said loan was still in the category of lost loans for another 12 months, it must be written off, notwithstanding the amount.

In his testimony, Mujtabah confirmed knowledge of another document submitted by Lawyer Mason, showing Le 2,426,505,920.00 (Two billion four hundred and twenty-six million five hundred and five thousand nine hundred and twenty Leones) as recovered loans by the Credit Recovery Agency.

Meanwhile, both the defense counsel, Yada Williams and Ady Macauley neither objected to the tendering of the document nor cross examined the witness, but told the Commission that they would have to consult their clients if they have any issue therein.

In another development, former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Sadiq Kapuwa,was also cross-examined by Lawyer Mason.

The erstwhile Permanent Secretary stated that during the initial stage of the Ebola scourge in 2014, he was the vault controller and administrative head of the ministry as it was supposed to be.

When quizzed  by Lawyer Mason why he said he was the   “vault controller as it was supposed be”, the witness said: “I say so because when I became Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ebola Virus has struck this country and so immediately thereafter, a structure was set up by the ministry referred to as the Emergency Response Centre (EOC) which automatically took over my responsibility as the Permanent Secretary so the functionality of the my office became irrelevant.”

When he was also asked about his relationship with the then Minister of Health, Miatta Kargbo, Kapuwa responded that, he had met three gentlemen namely, Santijie Kabia, Abubakar Kamara and Mohamed Kamara, whom the Minister referred to as her confidants, thus noting that he was not allowed to see the minister in respect of official duties, as long as the above named persons were there unless when called upon to sign documents.

When asked as to whether he was aware about the 20 ambulances the ministry had purchased at that time, he responded in the negative and added that the purchasing wasn’t done by him because he only met the contractor at the Public Account Committee and was instructed by the minister to do the documentation for the ambulances.

Kapuwa also stated that a contract was awarded then to set up a treatment centre at Kerry Town, and that a site visit was conducted to ascertain suitability of the said centre, but that he was never part of the entire process.

The lead state counsel presented a memo dated 11th August, 2014, to the witness, which was a request for payment to the Architectural Services Manager, Delphine Caulker, now late, requesting payment of Le1, 760,000,000 on which it was inscribed urgent.

He added that the memo was forwarded to the minister for approval and borrowed the word “urgent” as stated on it.

The lead defense counsel, Lawyer Williams, pleaded with Justice Biobele to do 70% of his cross-examination after the witness’s testimony and would do the remaining 25% the following day as he needed to have conference with his clients and personal duties.

In the end, Justice Biobele accepted lawyer Williams’ application and two other witnesses were cross-examined by State counsel from BDO Chartered Accountant and the Ministry of Health.

However, all witnesses would be cross examined tomorrow.