Accountant testifies in Hajj gate trial


October 18, 2018

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

An accountant at the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Ibrahim Sesay yesterday testified at the Freetown High Court in the on-going 2017 Hajj corruption trial involving top former government officials.

The witness, who was testifying before Justice Reginald Fynn, told the court that in 2015 the Accountant General’s Department at the Ministry of Finance appointed him as Assistant Accountant of the ministry.

He further revealed that in 2016 he was made full accountant, reporting directly to 6th accused Abu Bakarr Carew, who was then Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Social Welfare.

He added that his duties include ensuring public funds in the ministry were properly utilised for the right purposes.

He told the court that he was signatory to the ministry’s accounts at the Bank of Sierra Leone, the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and Rokel Commercial Bank, and that he was aware of his ministry’s  involvement in the 2017 Hajj.

He further revealed that the 2017 Hajj had two accounts – Leones account and US dollars account – and that he was a signatory to both accounts while the 6th accused was principal signatory.

He said disbursement of the 2017 Hajj funds was done like any normal disbursement in the ministry and that all due procedures were followed.

He narrated that whenever the permanent secretary of the ministry received a request for disbursement, he would forward it to him for action.

He noted that he would do the necessary work on the request by checking the figures alongside the attached budget to ensure that they were in correct before subsequently preparing the voucher and cheque.

He disclosed that he received two withdrawal requests from both the Leones and US dollar accounts of the 2017 Hajj accounts, adding that he had received a request signed by the secretary, Sheka Sahid Kamara, for the payment of Le475,205,000 into the 2017 Hajj Committee.

He said that before he made the payment, he observed that some discrepancies were reported back to the permanent secretary and the Minister of Social Welfare.

He stated that the permanent secretary had to prepare a request while the minister advised him to do the payment because they badly wanted the money.

The witness said he also acted on a request from the Vice President’s office, signed by former Vice President Victor Bockarrie Foh, for the payment of US$414,000, with a breakdown budget.

He added that prior to that, he had participated in the signing of two million United States Dollars’ loan at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank which was transferred to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The ACC had indicted Sheka Sahid Kamara, former Special Assistant to former President Koroma; former Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh; Minkailu Mansaray, Deputy Chairman and Leader of the APC and former Minister of Mines and Mineral Resources; Mohamed Alie Bah; Ibrahim Fackeh Conteh; and Abu Bakarr Carew, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, on eight counts of corruption.

According to the ACC, all accused persons on diverse dates between 1st January and 30th September 2017 allegedly  conspired to commit corruption offences by misappropriating eighty thousand United States Dollars (USD $80,000), donated to the Government of Sierra Leone for Muslims to perform pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The ACC also alleges that Sheka Sahid Kamara, Victor Bockarie Foh, Minkailu Mansaray, Mohamed Alieu Bah, and Abu Bakarr Carew on dates unknown between 1st of January and 30th September 2017 conspired to engage in a project without prior planning and conspired to undertake preparation for the 2017 Hajj pilgrimage.

The Commission further claims that the accused persons conspired to knowingly mislead the ACC by making statement to the investigators that the sum of US$60,000 was handed over to 2nd accused Victor Foh by 1st accused Sheka Sahid Kamara, when the actual amount was US$80,000.

Again, the ACC says that Sheka Sahid Kamara on dates between 1st July and 30th September 2017 misappropriated the sum of Le300, 000,000 donated to the government of Sierra Leone for Muslims intending to perform Hajj in Saudi Arabia.

In addition, the anti-graft agency alleges that Abu Bakarr Carew on diverse dates between 1st and 30th August 2017 failed to comply with the appropriate procedure by approving the withdrawal of US$314,000 by Sheka Sahid Kamara from the Hajj Account No.003001012636100284 at ECObank.