SEPTEMBER 2, 2014 By M.A. Kargbo
The World Bank has insisted that the Sierra Leone Government should now work towards the speedy liberalisation of the International Gateway. There is total lack of transparency in the management of the Gateway. The Gateway is a national resource, so it has to benefit the people of this country.
Since Teltac took over the management of the Gateway from Sierratel in 2005, the company (Teltac) has not published any audited account. The questions many Sierra Leoneans are asking are: How much is the State getting from the management of the Gateway? How much is Sierratel getting from the management of the Gateway? How much is NATCOM getting from the Gateway?
Many people are wondering why Teltac continues to hold on to the Gateway against World Bank advice. The unending monopoly over the management of the Gateway, by Teltac, has led to bad blood between the World Bank and the Government of Sierra Leone.
When Sierratel ceded the monopoly of the management of the Gateway to Teltac in 2005, it was meant to be for a period of two years. It was just a temporary arrangement. Since the APC Government of Ernest Bai Koroma came to power in 2007, they have continuously extended the Gateway contract against World Bank advice.
The owners of Teltac, Hisham Mackie and others decided, in 2011 to bring in a new company (MDIC) to manage Sierratel on a three-year management contract.
MDIC (Management Development International Corporation) headed by a foreigner, Adel Taher, was brought in by Hisham Mackie to manage Sierratel on a management contract for three years. Sierratel is paying MDIC US$186,000 a month as management fee, even though MDIC are using Sierratel facilities and personnel. This management agreement is totally flawed.
Why is the Government paying MDIC for managing Sierratel? What changes have been made by MDIC at Sierratel? The management contract between Sierratel and MDIC is shrouded in total secrecy. The details of the management contract are known only by top MDIC officials, NCP and some senior State House personnel.
When Abu Bangura of NCP negotiated the management contract between Sierratel and MDIC, he kept the Ministry of Information and Communications in the dark.
The former Board Chairman of Sierratel, Tom Obaleh Kargbo Snr. had always kicked against the management contract between Sierratel and MDIC. He held the view that, MDIC was grossly incapable and even incompetent to transform Sierratel.
Tom Kargbo holds the strong view that there are competent Sierra Leoneans who can effectively manage Sierratel. He is of the firm view that, it is waste of tax payers’ money to continue to pay MDIC US$186,000 as monthly management fees. This contract must be terminated in the interest of our country.
Some senior members of Teltac and Sierratel have launched a vicious campaign against Tom Obaleh Kargbo which has led to the arrest of his eldest son, Tom Obaleh Kargbo Jr. for allegedly terminating illegal calls. He was released on a Le500m bail bond from the CID Headquarters.
The new NATCOM Chairman, Tom Obaleh Kargbo Snr., has been maliciously smeared by some senior Teltac and Sierratel officials, by orchestrating the arrest of his eldest son.
When the former Chairman of NATCOM, Siray Timbo, opposed the extension of the Gateway contract, he was hurriedly removed and posted to the UAE as Resident Ambassador. The same fate befell Alhaji I.B. Kargbo and his deputy, Sheka Tarawalie when they raised serious concern over the Sierratel/MDIC management contract and the extension of the monopoly over the Gateway by Teltac. It is widely believed that they were victims of Lebanese manipulation.
How much is Sierra Leone getting from the management of the Gateway?
We demand an urgent answer!