July 23, 2019
By Jariatu S Bangura
Deputy Speaker and Chairman of the Public Account Committee (PAC), Hon. Solomon Segepor Solomon, has issued a two-week ultimatum for the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for Privatization(NCP) to submit a comprehensive status report on the outstanding fees of one million, one hundred and eighty-four thousand, seven hundred and thirty-eight United States Dollars ($1,184,738) that Transport and Port Management System (TPMS) owed the government.
“We need a comprehensive status report on all the issues not later than two weeks from now, whether from the ACC or any other person. Also make sure that this issue will not be included in the next audit report as we will not want such situations again,” he warned.
According to the Principal Auditor of the Audit Service Sierra Leone, Mohamed Mustapha, Article 4.5 of the Cargo Tracking Note License Agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and the Transport and Port Management System, West Africa, Sierra Leone (TPMS-WA-SL) provides that in the event the contractor fails to make payment within the stipulated time in the agreement, the contractor should pay NCP/GoSL an interest of 12%, which should be compounded quarterly.
He said auditors observed that a correspondence from the Commission to the contractor did not take into cognisance the interest, and that it was noted in the report that the Commission did not notify the contractor of the low foreign exchange rate at which the Leone payment was converted.
He added that the auditors recommended that the Commission should alert the contractor of all the outstanding interests owed as per Article 4.5 of the agreement.
“The contractor should also be informed that for all future payments in Leones, the Bank of Sierra Leone foreign exchange rates should be used,” he noted.
Mustapha told the PAC that Article 6(II) of the addendum to the Cargo Tracking Note System contract between the government and TPMS-WA-SL dated 20th September, 2017 provides that the contractor should make full and final payment of all outstanding fees of 2016 on or before 30th September, 2017.
He said it was observed that an outstanding fee of $USD300, 000 was yet to be settled by the contractor.
“It was recommended that the NCP should engage the contractor with a view of ensuring compliance with the agreement or relevant actions taken if the contractor continues to renege on its obligation as required,” he told the PAC
He stated that the Executive Secretary of NCP had told him that the contractor had made some payments in 2018, with regards the 2015 debt and that demand letters were forwarded to the contractor for the settlement of the 2016 outstanding amount, but evidence of the payments made in 2018 were yet to be provided for review.
He stated that the demand notice dated 8th, 28th December and 25th January 2018 that were sent to the contractor for outstanding fees of $USD 1, 184, 738, had been reviewed, hence the issue therefore remains partly unresolved.
Senior Financial Analyst of the National Commission for Privatization, Abdul Mansaray said the contractor was notified about the debt in 2016 and also the 12% Interest, but have been paying it on instalment.
He said the account was complicated and that the matter was currently under the investigation of the Anti- Corruption Commission, adding that they have put modalities in place.
However, the Executive Secretary of NCP, Josephine Ansumana, agreed that they did not implement the recommendations made by the auditors, but that they were trying to address the situation, although the matter is under ACC investigation.
“We are trying to get things done and we are on top of situation. Though I am new, but will try to check on the ACC to know the way forward concerning all the payments owed by the contractor, “she assured the Committee.
But Chairman of the Committee argued that the commission shouldn’t have waited the commission sat for so long a time to address the situation as they are au fait with the clauses in the agreement.
“These things should have been addressed long before now, but why must you wait until things go out of hands before you complain it to the ACC or wait for it to be published by the Audit report? This attitude must be changed and we are thinking of how the country should go forward. This company has collected lot of monies and you fail to collect what is due to the country,” he added.