February 17, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Executive Director of Health For All Coalition (HFAC) has said that despite a good number of institutions and individuals having collected money for various activities in the Ebola fight as highlighted in the recent report of the Auditor General, he is disappointed that only his and his institution’s names have been mentioned in the executive summary of the report.
This, according to Charles Mambu, was a deliberate attempt to ridicule him in the eyes of the general public, as well as tarnish his good image and the credibility of his institution.
Speaking to Concord Times in an exclusive interview, Mr. Mambu said “it is of best interest to consider the outcome of disbursing the said Ebola funds at a time of emergency rather than focusing on procedures”, stressing that it was unfortunate for Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) to have targeted him in the summary of their report while “leaving out institutions like the Office of National Security (ONS), the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), the Sierra Leone Police, and members of parliament, among other reputable institutions”.
According to the HFAC boss, all receipts and documentations relating to their activities on Ebola were presented to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, and that his institution was even commended “for diligent services to the nation”.
Meanwhile, the executive summary of the ASSL report on the management of the Ebola funds claims there were inadequate controls over the disbursement of the funds. For instance, payments which exceeded Le14 million were made from the Emergency Health Response and Miscellaneous Accounts without any supporting documents to substantiate the utilization of such funds, the report says.
“In the absence of a well coordinated sensitization plan to raise awareness on Ebola and its prevention, the auditors observed an overwhelming number of requests from various individuals, non-governmental organizations, parliamentarians etc., for sensitization activities to be carried out in different parts of the country. The audit team found that payments were made to the Member of Parliament for Constituency 93 in Goderich to carry out sensitization activities even though an amount had earlier been paid to all seating members of parliament for similar activities,” the report reveals.
Furthermore, the report notes that an amount of Le161 million was given as loan to HFAC for scaling up of the response to the Ebola fight.
“Of utmost concern was the fact that the total loaned amount was made in the name of Charles Mambu instead of HFAC, the institution which he represents. In addition, the loan was not documented and no repayment terms were agreed between the ministry and HFAC,” the report notes.
However, Mambu said it was deliberate for the auditors to have named him in the executive summary so as to discredit his person and the institution he works for. He said most of the allegations contained in the audit report are generic to other individuals and institutions.
He claimed that it was the former Minister of Health and Sanitation, Ms. Miatta Kargbo, who had asked them to apply for a loan so that they can immediately intervene in the sensitization drive.
“My greatest disappointment is with the manner the report was being presented. I consider it to be biased and in certain respect unjustifiable. In some instance, the auditors presented different figures to the ministry as part of the loan to my institution; three times they did but the figures were all incorrect,” bemoaned Mr. Mambu.
“I want Sierra Leoneans to know that I only received Le70 million to embark on the entire sensitization drive. There was no way I was going to put such amount into my account because the ministry has a Desk Officer at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, and one Mr. Davis was there to facilitate payments. So it was deliberate for the report to have indicated that money was paid into my personal account.”
The civil society activist accused the media of “blowing the report out of proportion, especially when the report is a mere allegation”.
“This will discourage our efforts and commitment in the fight [against Ebola]. Even the report exonerated us as having adequately reported to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation. We need to look at the bigger picture; we had received support from various international organizations and they have always commended HFAC for its commitment, diligence and credibility. This is a complete witch-hunt against me and my institution by these people. You can blackmail me today but there are records to show that we carried out our responsibilities and we were commended for that,” he said.
The ASSL report on the management of the Ebola funds was last week tabled in the House of Parliament for MPs to discuss and make recommendations.
Director of Financial Resources in the Ministry of Health, Phillip Kuyumbeh, said they are very much concerned about the issues highlighted in the report, especially allegations pointing at the ministry.
He said they had held a meeting to discuss the position of the ministry and therefore could not comment on individual loans collected from the ministry to fast track Ebola sensation activities at the initial stage of the fight.