At COI: Procurement Officer testifies how fertilizer was procured


February 28, 2019

By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Senior Procurement Officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Francis Kaikai, who is the 9th State Witness in the on-going Commission of Inquiry, presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson, yesterday, February 27th, testified how the controversial fertilizer was procured.

Before testifying, he narrated that on 22nd and 26th February, 2019, he made statement to some investigators in respect of the Commissions of Inquiry.

Reading his statement at Commission of Inquiry Room No.2, he said he had told the investigators that he had worked at the Ministry as senior procurement officer since 2017.

He said as a procurement officer at the ministry, some of his functions include serving as secretary to the ministry’s procurement committee, supervised by Abdulai Koroma, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, who was also the chairman of the procurement committee.

He said in his capacity as Procurement Officers at the ministry, the major procurement he had undertaken was the procurement of fertilizer in 2016.

He said they undertook the restrictive (restricted bidding process) to do the procurement, adding that he was directed by  the 2016 Procurement Act that dictates the methods of procurement as per the circumstances that may arise and the thresholds.

He narrated that he reported for duty on a certain day when he bumped into an Executive Management Committee meeting deliberating on the procurement of the said fertilizer.

He told the commission that he was asked to be part of the said meeting in which the then minister, Professor Monti Jones, informed him that the ministry was faced with the tax of procuring 250,000 bags of   fertilizer.

He said the minister had told him that the procurement was a matter of urgency, a situation, he said prompted him to use the restrictive bidding method.

He said the minister further told him that the ministry needed to deliver urgently to catch up with the planting season and that had they followed  the normal procurement method-International Competitive Bidding (ICB) and the National Competitive Bidding (NCB)-it would have taken  them over three months to complete the process to meet with the planting season.

He said the restrictive bidding process was allowed in the 2016 Procurement Act, adding that the ministry did not advertise the bidding process, but sent invitations to five potential bidders for the procurement of NPK 15, 15, 15 fertilizer.

He said the yardstick they used to invite the bidders was in the 2016 Procurement Act that gives birth to the restrictive bidding process, adding that he never personally knew the bidders before the bidding process, but that he invited them through a database of suppliers and contractors of the ministry.

He said Basma Enterprise emerged the successful bidder for the procurement of the NPK 20, 20, 20 fertilizer, while other contractors emerged as winners for the other fertilizer.

He added that a contract was entered into by bidders and the Government of Sierra Leone.

He said as procurement officer at the ministry, he alone did not conduct inspection on the fertilizer that was supplied, but that the process was done by an inspection and verification committee.

He said there was no delivery note in respect of the fertilizer that was supplied, but that he was sure that there was one with the store keepers.

He said as a procurement officer, he sometimes enquire about prices of goods or commodities on the market before procuring, but failed to conduct price survey before inviting  bidders  for  the fertilizer, adding that it was the Crop  Directorate that  provided him details about the prices.

He testified that he was not aware whether Basma Enterprises supplied the wrong fertilizer to the ministry, because he was never contacted by the ministry’s Permanent Secretary to answer to queries from the office of the Internal Audit- that the wrong fertilizer was supplied by the contractor.