At Commissions of Inquiry: Witness implicates MPs

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March 13, 2019

Dusuba Koroma

The current Project Manager for Youth in Fishery at the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Joseph Maada Lahai, has testified before Justice Biobele Goergewill that, three Members of Parliament were in possession of boats meant for the youth in fishery project, and have as well failed to pay for them as required.

The witness named Hon. Amadu Kanu, Kemokoh Conteh and Abdul Karim Kamara as the defaulting Members of Parliament, who were yet to pay back their loans for the boats, despite several visits and meetings held with them by the loan recovery team.

The Youth in Fishery Project was one of the four projects initiated by the then Minister of Youth to handle youth unemployment and to scale up their economic viability in their households.

When it was initiated by the government of Sierra Leone, the Prince of Saudi Arabia gave $500,000 in a form of a grant. The funding was meant to procure fishing boats and their accessories to empower youth in coastal communities.

The Project Manager stated in his testimony that when he took up office as project manager, he didn’t receive any handing over document as principles entails, and that he had to do a review and assessment of the project to ascertain what his predecessor left.

When asked by the State Counsel to explain his findings in the assessment conducted, the witness stated that, 70 boats were procured with their fishing accessories.  He explained that 60 of the 70 boats were with 40 horsepower and the ten with paddle boats.

“I lately realised that the 70 boats that were distributed were not the actual boats that were on the field. I found only 55,” he said.

On the issue of finance and loan recovery, Lahai stated that he inherited Le169,740 in the project account at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, with six months backlog salaries to auxiliary staff, totaling Le180,000,000.

He told the commission that he was later instructed by the Director of Youth to invite all boat owners to the ministry, adding that a letter was written to three sitting MPs who were boats owners and beneficiaries of the said project.

The witness also said that the boats were given at Le35 million Leones and the mode of operation was to return the money in 21- month period, thus stating that if the monies were paid within the stipulated timeframe, more boats would have been purchased for other deserving youth.

In his cross-examination,by Lawyer Macauley Lahai noted that there were 42 projects sites across the country with and 21 of the 42 were visited.

On the current state of the project, the witness said they have realigned it as per the national development plan and submitted it to the ministry of planning and economic development for funding, thus stating that the sustainability of the project would have been key if those loans were paid.