By Ralph Simeon Sesay
Senior Accountant at Petroleum Directorate, Sabieu Sahid Conteh, who was led as third witness by the state in the ongoing probe on the activities of the country’s Petroleum Directorate at the ongoing Justice Biobele Commission of Enquiry, has widely implicated former President Ernest Bai Koroma for several approvals towards the payment of billions of leones as Terminal Benefits to serving employees of the Directorate. He also implicated him on the honorarium and other cash flow and inflow expenditures by the Directorate between 2004 and 2018 respectively.
Mr. Conteh revealed that State House had approved the payment of 31 staff members of the Directorate to the tune of over six billion leones (Le6,000,000,000), while they were still working as members of the organization.
The Senior Accountant further disclosed that staff members at the Directorate were also given honorarium as bonus upon the discovery of oil. He disclosed to the Commission cash flows and inflows for the periods 2007, 2012 and 2017, respectively, and the amounts included three billion, eight hundred and thirty six thousand, two hundred and forty seven thousand leones (Le3,836,247,000) as inflow and two billion, eight hundred and five thousand, seven hundred and seven thousand leones (Le2,805,775,000) as outflow; one hundred and ninety four thousand, six hundred and four thousand, five hundred and eighty six thousand leones (Le194,604,586,000) as inflow and one hundred and twenty one billion, nine hundred and fifty five thousand, six hundred and thirty one thousand leones (Le121,955,631) as out flow and fourteen billion, seven hundred and ten thousand, four hundred and fifty seven thousand leones (Le 14,710,457) as inflow and fifty eight billion and eighty three thousand, five hundred and seventy four thousand leones (Le58,083,574,000) as outflow respectively.
Mr. Conteh had also told the Commission that the Petroleum Directorate had many streams of revenue, including surface rents, training funds, technology bonus, assignment fees and proceeds from the sale of geophysical and geological data. These revenues were directly paid into twelve different dollars as well leones accounts.
He noted that, prior to 2018, when the new government established the Single Treasury Account the Directorate was a self accounting agency that managed the streams of revenues it collects for the day to day operations.
The Senior Accountant later presented bundles of exhibits to the Commission pertaining to all the accounts held by the Commission, the signatories to these accounts including other pertinent information.
Defense counsel, for Persons of Interest, Mr. Joseph Fitzgerald Kamara, who had earlier made representation on behalf of former President Koroma, squeezed the witness whether the payment of terminal benefits was based only on the accrued numbers of years served by the 31 employees at the Directorate. The witness had answered in the affirmative.
The former Attorney General presented two documents to the Commission pertaining to the request and approvals of the Terminal Benefits as procedures require. The witness was also able to indicate himself had benefitted from the terminal benefits and the computation was done on the number of years he served the Directorate. He further indicated that all the workers who were paid continued working again with new contracts.
Earlier in the day the state called two witnesses, former Secretary to the President, Osho Coker, and the current Admin Manager at the Petroleum Directorate, Mr. Amadu Mansaray.
The hearings on the Petroleum Directorate have been adjourned to the 4th of July, 2019. On that day the state is expected to lead more witnesses.
By Ralph Simeon Sesay