Unsecured Loans at SLCB: Nigerian Judge worried over ineptitude of witnesses


February 22, 2019

By Dusuba Koroma 

Justice Biobele Georgewill says ‘I don’t know’ attitude would undermine proceeding

Justice Biobele Georgewill of Commission of Inquiry Room 1  yesterday  told witnesses from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank that failure to respond to questions from  Sate Counsels would not help get the truth out at the end of the inquiry, adding that the issue of ‘I don’t know” was beginning to be worrisome for the outcome of the proceeding.

His statement was incumbent on the ineptitude of the current Managing Director of the bank, his deputy and the current Head of Credit Administration, to provide explanation with regards procedures involved in the issuing out of unsecured loans to politically exposed persons.

On the request of the judge, the Current Managing Director of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank (SLCB), his deputy and Head of Credit Administration yesterday appeared before Justice Biobele Georgewill, to provide explanation on the basis at which the bank issued out unsecured loan to politically exposed persons, but none could do as expected.

 “If you say the granting of unsecured loans followed principles, you say it. Nobody is blaming anybody here. Until we get the total picture of all that has happened, nobody will be blamed. Those monies are monies belonging to the people of Sierra Leone. Trading with money is one of the key businesses of banks, but you must ensure that you safeguard these monies for the people of Sierra Leone. We want to know if there were carelessness and negligence in the way those monies were given out and at end give recommendations,’’ expressed the judge.

Meanwhile, the current Managing Director of the bank, Abdulai Turay, told the commission that he has served in that capacity for only five months.

He stated that his responsibility incudes the provision of oversight to the bank’s operation, as well as involved in the management of its assets.

He narrated that the bank was incorporated as a limited liability in 1973, and that it has been totally owned by the Government of Sierra Leone, not until 2015 when the National Social Security and Insurance Trust (NASSIT) became shareholder, with 10.81% shares.

He could, however, not provide reasons as to why NASSIT has 10.81% shares, when the latter is a government owned institution, stating that he only assumed the position of Managing Director for the past five months.

Meanwhile, Justice Biobele discharged him, stating that he was not the actual witness he had hoped to have get evidences from, but top managers, who made the decisions at the time those loans, were taken.

Also, current Deputy Managing Director, Bockarie Kalokoh, told the commission that he started working at SLCB as Finance Director before attaining his current position in 2007.

Dilating on the NASSIT 10.81% shares, he said the bank had an issue in 2013 that affected its capital and that, “About 47 billion was made for delinquency debts that were not performing, so the board and management had to seek additional capital from strategic partners and NASSIT came out as a willing participant of the scheme.”

On the issue of giving out unsecured loans, Kalokoh stated that he had no knowledge about it because he was not into credit administration, adding that it was the job of the Credit Director, who, he also said cannot give out loan alone, except with the approval of the Managing Director.

Further ,current Head of Credit Administration, Abu Daramy Kargbo ,who was the third witness and has worked at the bank for  32 years now,  could not  provide answers as to the procedures involved in issuing out unsecured loan because he took up the current position nine months ago.

He however noted that he was aware that the bank has been granting unsecured loans, but stated that such decision is the sole discretion of management.

“They consider the operations of the accounts, taking into consideration the cash flow of the account. At the time of taking the decision, if management deems it fit that their customer’s financial record is good, then the bank will give out the unsecured loan,” he said.

He further told the commission that despite the fact that he doesn’t know whether the bank has a policy for giving out unsecured loans, but that there are mandatory prudential regulatory guidelines to follow, which is being regulated by the Bank of Sierra Leone.

However,Justice Georgewill  pleaded with the witnesses to go and conduct more research, so that when they appear on the next adjourned date, they would be able to tell the commission exactly what went wrong.

He urged them to comply with the mandate of the Commissions in tendering evidences, stating that no witness brought before the commission was on trial.