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ACC probes Ebola payment

NOVEMBER 6, 2014 By Joseph Lebbie

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is investigating the Finance Officer of the District Health Management Team (DHMT) in Bo, Obai Koroma, for alleged fraud in the ongoing payment of allowances to staff and volunteers of the anti-Ebola campaign.

On 20th October this year, three senior ACC officials were said to have stormed the office of the DHMT, breezed into the office of the Finance Officer and “forcefully” took away his payment vouchers. The incident happened in the full view of journalists and members of the civil society.

The action of the ACC officials triggered a wave of criticisms from many stakeholders in Bo, including the civil society, who viewed such act as “unprofessional, unethical and contrary to official procedures required to obtain documents”.

The ACC officials returned the vouchers after some hours which the Finance Officer accepted reluctantly after several apologies to him by the former.

Few days later, the ACC officially invited the Finance Officer for interrogation and ordered him to surrender his payment vouchers and make an official statement.

However, one senior ACC official, Umaru Sesay, who spoke to this reporter, defended the action of his colleagues, saying it was neither unprofessional nor unethical. According to him, ACC officials have the right to grab without notice any sensitive document which they think is pertinent to their investigation and which could be used as evidence.

In an exclusive interview, the District Medical Officer, Dr. Alhaji Saynie Turay, said the payment was transparent as it was closely supervised by the ACC, civil society and other stakeholders – all of whom he said he invited to be part of the payment.

However, Finance Officer Obai Koroma said he was baffled by the fact that the ACC is now investigating him for a payment process that they supervised. He noted that he only paid those the District Medical Officer and the District Health Sister instructed him to pay, adding that none of those he paid complained that they were underpaid or overpaid.

“If ever there was fraud in that payment as alleged by the ACC, all of us who took part in that exercise, including the ACC, should be held responsible. So I should not be singled out for investigation,” the Finance Officer remarked and described the investigation as “a witch-hunt machinated by highly placed officials in the DHMT”.

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