Termination of NATCOM/SLOME contract…

Former DG says no 'distinctive reasons for termination' was given

August 21, 2019

By Jariatu S. Bangura

Former Director General of the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), Senesie Kallon, has informed the Justice Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry that there were no distinctive reasons stated in the letter for the termination of the SLOME contract.

He said as per a letter dated 14th January, 2015, it was stated that due to unforeseen circumstances, the commission decided to cancel the agreement between then and SLOME Sierra Leone Limited for the international gateway monitoring services.

“Yes, in this letter in front of me, there was no distinctive reason stated in the letter but there were very compelling reasons which we embed in the phrase ‘unforeseen circumstances’. It is true that at the time of the termination, the opinions of Franklyn Bai Kargbo as then Attorney General was subsisting. I am also not aware of any legal fees paid to Law Officers Department for their services in representing NATCOM,” Kallon said.

He noted that it would have been easier to have retained the services of the Law Officers Department instead of foreign lawyers.

He said hiring foreign lawyers was the decision of the Board Chairman and the Commissioners of NATCOM.

But State Counsel, Robert Kowa, in his re- examination, argued that there was no reason given as to why the contract was cancelled with the word ‘unforeseen circumstances’.

Responding also to Counsel representing Persons of Interest, Ady Macauley, the former Director General told the commission that the re- negotiation of the contract with NATCOM was advised by the Attorney General’s Office.

“On the 7th August, 2015, the Chairman of the Board (Momoh Conteh) sent a letter to SLOME inviting them to discuss the terms of the contract. The decision to continue the contract was relayed to senior management at a meeting on 10th August, 2015,” he said.

He agreed that the negotiation didn’t go well and that the initial contract that was to be re- negotiated was not entered into by the former Director General (Mohamed Bangura) in compliance with the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) rules.

“I agree that NPPA did question the validity of the initial contract. Having learnt about the contract, he (Bangura) opined that indeed a contract existed. I do agree that in the midst of the re-negotiation of the contract, the then Attorney General (Franklyn Bai Kargbo) was replaced by Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara Esq,” he said.

He said when Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara took over as Attorney General, he took the view that because the procurement rules were not complied with, the entire contract was invalid.

He said a result a letter was addressed to Eames and the then Board Chairman was copied as part of the decision made by the board to nullify the contract.

He said SLOME at that time refused to provide any indication of the cost of the equipment to be used in monitoring the international gateway and also refused to provide information about how the revenue would be shared between itself, government of Sierra Leone and the operators.

Kallon further informed the commission that as per the evidence that was in front of them, SLOME was to take revenues from the operators/Carriers and then returned it to NATCOM.

He said based on that also they were to invoice and collect revenue from foreign operators.

He opined that if the initial contract had stood, NATCOM could have had knowledge about the revenue because it was calculated based on the calls made to and from the country.

“My testimony is that if NATCOM knew the number of units coming in and knows by agreement how much each minute will attract in terms of revenue; we would like to believe that they would have had knowledge and control if that revenue is earned. I agree at the time I was there as Director General that revenues were coming directly to NATCOM,” he stated.