By Ragan M. Conteh
It has become clear that most of the Sierratel Company contract workers are paid exorbitantly $5,000 each, more than the revenue generated per month in the Company.
The Committee on Information and Communications in Parliament has identified the protracted battle for supremacy and rift at Sierratel Company as one major factor responsible for its collapse.
The Chief Commercial Officer of Sierratel, Bokarie Momoh, when asked by the Paramount Chief Member of Parliament how much he was being paid at Sierratel, explained that he was paid $5,000 monthly.
He said he was recruited by the National Commission for Privatization (NCP), adding that he brought some laudable initiatives to Sierratel Company so as to compete with other telecommunication communications in the country.
Mr. Momoh said his job is primarily to provide consultancy for management, but, due to lack of leadership willingness, all his initiatives to bring Sierratel on the limelight are useless.
“When I assumed the job as consultant in the Company, the Sierratel website I inherited was down, and I tried hard to revitalize it,” he lamented.
Mr. Bokarie Momoh explicitly and carefully explained to Members of Parliament that, by now, there should be a change in technology, but there is no money in the Company, and because of lack of finance at Sierratel the implementation of programs and projects have stalled. He said, in spite of the several reports to the Managing Director, to ensure the purchase of Mifi, the leadership gave blind eyes to it.
“I am currently suing my personal laptop computer, and I have reported this to the leadership more than once, but to no avail. Because of lack of fuel on Sierratel machines, and because of the flip-flop in the Company, most of the equipments have gone down,” Chief Commercial Officer blasts.
The Sierratel Chief Technical Officer informed the Committee that he inherited less than 35% network as well as equipment, adding that they did not have spares in the Company.
“The youngest or newest equipment currently at Sierratel is eight years old. There is no proper fuel contract arrangement in the Company, and the decisions at managerial level affect the progress of Sierratel,” he said.
“Sometimes it is not a matter of unavailability of funds that affect Sierratel Company. Sometimes the downing of Sierratel is caused by decision making,” he added. He concluded that, out of the 332 staff of the Company, 75 are technical and some learn on the job.
The Chief Finance Officer of Sierratel, John Conteh, has vehemently informed Members of the most hardworking Committee headed by Hon. Boston Munda, informing that the current financial position of Sierratel is challenging, with a huge loan burden from NATCOM.
The Chief Finance Officer further explained that, when they took over the administration at Sierratel, the budget of Sierratel was Le 6.5 billion, an amount that has considerably dropped to a little over Le3 billion in the current budget.
“As it stands, people cannot receive their end of year benefit. The Company spends 3 billion Leones every month. We are now operating by bailing system,” the CFO lamented.
The other episode, the Sierratel Auditor and Risk explained to the Committee, is that he was facing hell to audit Sierratel, which is due to lack of willingness by the authorities of the company to give him information.
Making his submission to the Committee, the Human Resources Manager of Sierratel Company, said the Company is currently having staff strength of 332 permanent employees, two (2) local contract staff, nine (9) and three (3) chiefs, respectively.
When asked where Sierratel stands at the moment, he said the institution needs bailout because they have financial difficulties.
The Managing Director of Sierratel Company, Foday Sankoh, said the company is now under the auspices of the National Commission for Privatization (NCP), adding that when the process of privatization started every position in the Company was contracted for one year.
The Managing Director explained that Le76 million was initially paid to cleaners, but immediately the former Managing Director, Mr. Kallon, left the institution the figure was inflated to Le257 million a month for cleaners nationwide.
“But because I believe in transparency and accountability, I stood firm and looked at the inflated payment and I brought it down from Le257 million to Le76 million. This is where the whole saga started,” he confessed.
The Managing Director furthered that he inherited no fuel contract and the cost of fuel was very huge.
The Deputy Managing Director, Prince Bio, also expressed his dismay over the poor coordination between management in the company, a factor that is responsible for the dwindling of the Company.
The summoning of Sierratel Management in Parliament, according to Hon. Boston Munda, is to ensure that the Company takes it full gears towards rebranding efforts and progress.
Hon. Boston Munda said his Committee is mandated by law to vet MDAs in the telecommunication sector, so as to ensure transparency and accountability, adding that the Committee frowns at any MDA that wants to impede the status quo.
Hon. Munda further informed authorities, at Sierratel, that President Bio has admonished all state institutions, telling them that this year was a year of delivery and that every member holding public office, in Sierra Leone, should be ready to account for his stewardship.
During the vetting, the Paramount Chief Member of Parliament, Chief Kanagbaro Rosanka III, asked the officials from Sierratel that, “Does Sierra Leone matter; do we have self-esteem? It is a pity that Sierra Leone government is the largest employer. Are we really useful to the system?” He asked.
“Most of you are paid $5000 a month, and you are still crippling the company,” he fumed.
The Committee Chairman, having listened to all the explanation and counter accusation between the core staff of the institution, stood down Sierratel and requested documents to be brought in with regards allegations among them for hearing. He warned that they should work as a team for good service delivery in the Company.
“Go and work in good spirit; hold meetings frequently to know your challenges. President Bio wants good service delivery; don’t come here and tell us excuses next time,” Hon. Munda said.
The Committee also discovered that the reason Sierratel is gradually collapsing is as a result of the lack of fuel to keep the equipment alive; and that the fuel is being bought by litres for the Company’s machines nationwide.
The Information Committee discovered that the leadership decisions of the Company, without good spirit, may have the tendency to stall the progress of Sierratel operations.
The Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Boston Munda, having listened to the submissions of all Sierratel Chiefs, discovered that there is no synergy in working relations in the company.
Sierrtel Company, which is the only Government owned telecom, has no Board members to regulate its activities; and that, due to the rift in within company, all the revenue projections in the company are now a fantasy.