Former President of Sierra Leone, and one time U.N. official, President Ahmed Tejan-Kabbah, in a scathing attack before leaving office, described the current flag-bearer and opposition candidate of the party he once led, the SLPP, as engaging in reckless and irresponsible behaviour in how the state of affairs was conducted during his tenure as head of state under the NPRC regime. President Kabbah said Bio’s government awarded illegal contracts, a number of which were at best dubious and the beneficiaries of some of them are either members of the NPRC top hierarchy, or their relations or business associates. The former head of state continued by highlighting that hundreds of billions of Leones and over a billion dollars had been paid out from Government funds on such contracts and as of today’s date similar sums are still owed by and are being claimed against Government.
The former Head of State was unrelenting in his remarks when he described how in some cases after contracts were issued, the goods have not been supplied to Government nor have the services been performed. In others, payments to certain suppliers have been made twice over. One such contract involving an inflated price is that relating to the much talked-about naval patrol boat the m.v. “Sharon”.
According to President Kabbah, this contract was entered into between the NPRC Government and a local firm for the supply of a 35 year old naval patrol boat at the price of US$5,500,000. This was after the Government had acquired the American vessel the m.v. “Farandugu” in 1989 and an unequivocal undertaking had been made by the Chinese Government in 1994 to donate to the Government of Sierra Leone the naval patrol boat and landing craft which I am about to launch today, as well as the 62-1 escort gunboat and the 067G landing craft, both of which I have referred to above. The circumstances thus surrounding this purported contract, and at such an astronomical cost to the nation, therefore leaves much to be desired.
President Kabbah went on to describe how in another instance of the reckless and irresponsible manner in which the affairs of State were conducted by the NPRC regime is in the granting of a general power of attorney to Steven Bio, the brother of the erstwhile Head of State and government, to conclude all and any defence and military contracts anywhere in the world and at his sole discretion, as the accredited agent of the Government of Sierra Leone. By virtue of such unusual authority, Steven Bio concluded a number of contracts running into tens of millions of dollars. There is no evidence that most of those contracts have been performed but Steven Bio has already been paid millions of dollars on them and he is claiming further amounts as arrears of payments. Furthermore, in his capacity as Chairman of the NPRC, Brigadier J.M. Bio himself on the 1st February 1996, few days before he left office, caused the Government to pay into the account of his private firm, P. Banga Investment Limited the sum of Le235,000,000 in respect of contracts that that firm had purportedly entered into with Government for the supply of spare parts for the replacement of helicopter engines which did not belong to Government. Incidentally, it was into the account of this same firm in the Channel Islands that Brigadier Bio paid his own share of US$400,000 from the passport deal which was disclosed recently.
Speaking to high ranking members of the government, and heads of foreign missions accredited to the country, President Tejan Kabbah expressed dismay and said he had chosen to highlight these purported Government contracts as examples of the types of bogus contracts the NPRC Government, under Julius Maada Bio had entered into and made part payments. The argument is now over the balance, most of it substantial amounts of money, for which Government is purported to e held liable. In fact, there are many more such “contracts” involving other former top NPRC members as well as their relatives and other associates. Some of these individuals are now suspects I the second coup attempt and are fugitives from justice.
The former Head of State went on to explain that with regard to all such contracts, Government has set up machinery to verify the genuineness of both the contract and contract price. The possible outcome of this exercise has got a number of contractors jittery, which explains the connection between the financiers and the conspirators behind the coup plots to overthrow the Government. In this regard, I can state categorically, that my Government will not be deterred from pursuing the course it has now embarked upon to ensure that there is probity – in all financial transactions involving Government and that the resources of this nation will cease to be diverted and utilized for the benefit of only a tiny minority of the population.
The remarks by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah is clear vindication for some of us in the media and those who engage relentlessly to inform the international community and the people of Sierra Leone, that it would be tragedy to allow a conman like Bio to ever hold power again in Sierra Leone. The people have seen visible progress in their communities since the current APC-led government of President Ernest Bai Koroma took power five years ago. The economy is making progress and massive infrastructural projects are taking place across the country. It is inconceivable that the west would once more want to deal with a coupist as Head of State, who presided over not only the brutal slaughter of innocent men and women, but one who ensured that the country’s resources were looted with little or no heed of the suffering masses who lived in squalor, deprived and humiliated, as they witnessed what was truly theirs being recklessly abused.
President Kabbah couldn’t have said it better: “ The circumstances thus surrounding this purported contract, and at such an astronomical cost to the nation, therefore leaves much to be desired.” Julius Maada Bio has no place in the politics of Sierra Leone!!!
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