Defence Ministry… New Direction’s Sacred Cow

The Ministry of Defence which stands out as one of the most high spending Ministries in Government’s budgetary allocations, has gone scot free for various alleged anomalies in various procurement contracts during the Koroma era amidst the much highly trumpeted fight against corruption by the New Direction Government.
It is not a secret that the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces and Ministry of Defense were involved in a number of shady procurement deals for vehicles, arms and ammunition in the previous government of Ernest Koroma.
The contracts were all manned by top foreign businessmen who have still continued to enjoy the comfort and protection of the new government to the point that they have been shielded-off in both the Commissions of Enquiry and ongoing corruption crusade.
The ACC boss has turned a blind eye to the activities of the Ministry of Defense under the Koroma era even when there are various Auditor General reports including the GTT report that have clearly alleged that there was misappropriation of public funds in that Ministry to the tune of billions of dollars.
The GTT had clearly implicated many foreign Lebanese men for either overpricing contracts awarded by the Ministry to the tune of millions of dollars or have failed to properly execute contracts awarded to them by the Koroma Government through the Ministry of Defence.
Even though Professor Francis’s authored GTT Report had recommended that such foreign businesses be banned from doing business with government and also be investigated alongside their APC accomplices, it is now an open secret that these foreign business people are now the blue eye boys of the New Direction Government.
For instance, the Governance Transition Report of 2018 had clearly cited that certain Lebanese businessmen in the person of Nabih Basma and former Defense Minister, Paolo Conteh were alleged to have swindled whopping sums of monies in corrupt procurement arm deals at the Ministry of Defense.
Nabih Basma, a powerful Lebanese tycoon who was reported to have had a very strong influence in the previous APC regime, has also succeeded in infiltrating the New Direction Government subsequently bagging a number of contracts.
Page 33 of the Governance Transition Report 60 k titled ‘’Corrupt Arms Deal’’ has claimed that in 2013 the Government of Sierra Leone awarded Nabih Basma’s West Star a 15 million dollar arms contract.
The contract was reported to have been overpriced by 1.6 million United States Dollars courtesy of the 2014 Auditor General’s Report of 2014.
The GTT report chaired by Professor David Francis had strongly recommended in the report that Paolo Conteh and Nabih Basma be investigated with a view for them to refund the 1.6 million dollars to the people of Sierra Leone.
It was also reported by the GTT Report that a review of several contracts to the tune of USD 190 million dollars had also discovered that Nabih Basma’s West Star and other companies awarded the contracts had also overpriced the contracts by over 300%.
The construction of the USD 44 million dollars military barracks in Kambia were among series of issues cited in various Auditor General Reports as been awarded to West Star Company and others.
The GTT report had further recommend that all the companies that were implicated in fraudulent contracts relating to the Ebola response should be black listed and henceforth not be considered for any Government contract.
What has baffled many is that with all the serious allegations amounting to millions of dollars against Nabih Basama and other powerful Lebanese tycoons, the New Direction Government has ended up in making them the top suppliers of rice and vehicles for both forces.
This is the highest form of double standards and deception towards the fight against graft in the country.
Many say this is a complete move away from what the Government is preaching in terms of fighting graft.
The Ministry of Defense was never included in the almost concluded Commissions of Enquiry investigations even when the Ministry has featured as one of the most prominent ministries, according to various audits reports, of having swindled lots of money as a result of different procurement processes during the last ten years.
Is the ACC blind to the various Auditor General Reports on the Ministry of Defense and the series of allegations of corruption in shady procurement deals?
Even the APC alagbas have got a field day just because of the influence of Nabih Basma and other powerful Lebanese business in the system.
So what is the fuss about fighting corruption when the lens is only directed at the APC and the many foreign businessmen who had plundered the country in connivance with the APC have got a much stronger influence and still in charge of the fabulous contracts?
We are calling for a probe in one of the most if not the most expensive Ministry of Defense.
It is our right to know as Sierra Leoneans what had obtained with the people’s money and how contracts were awarded and managed in this ministry.
Our Military men deserve more than what was given to them in terms of their accommodation, uniforms, rice, arms and ammunition etc. due to the corrupt procurement processes.
We will be doing a number of editions around the Ministry of Defense under the Leadership of former Minister of Defense, Paolo Conteh, Mr. Sana Marrah, former Director General, MOD, and all the powerful Lebanese men who were key in managing various procurement processes at the Ministry of Defense during the Koroma era.
We are on the verge of getting our colleagues in the civil society, our donor partners and all well meaning Sierra Leoneans to support our campaign to get Ben Kaifala’s ACC and the Government of Sierra Leone by extension to probe into what happened at the Ministry of Defense in the last ten years.
Why probe all the Ministries and leave out the Ministry of Defense? We want to know.

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