Comium Sierra Leone issues US$430,000 “bounced Cheque” to Telecom Regulator

Knowingly and intentionally issuing a cheque that cannot be processed by the drawer known as bounced cheque is a criminal offence punishable by law in many countries. In Sierra Leone, the application of the law regarding bounced cheques otherwise known as a dishonoured cheque, bad cheque, or fraudulent cheque has not been tested.  A bounced check will often be returned to the writer along with a penalty fee for non-sufficient funds. “Passing” bad checks is illegal, and the crime can range from a misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the amount involved.  When there are insufficient funds in an account, the bank will bounce the check (refuse to honour it) Banks and vendors frequently charge fees for bounced checks, sometimes exceeding the amount for which the check was written.

Comium CEO, Mike Caroll

 It may surprise the reading public to note that one of the mobile companies that has been referring to itself as a “LEADING MOBILE COMPANY” in the country is indebted to the tune of over a Billion Leones to the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM).

As a way of settling this debt comium issued out a bad cheque, otherwise known as “bounced cheque” “bad Cheque” to NATCOM, thus committing a criminal offence that it can be prosecuted in any court of law if charges are pressed on the company

The sum of One Billion, Seven Hundred and Sixty One Million, Six Hundred and Twelve Thousand, Three Hundred and Twenty Three Leones (Le 1,761,612,323, equivalent to US$430,000 at an exchange rate of Le4,100.00) was meant for the payment of regulatory fees, which comium has been accumulating over the years, treating NATCOM insignificantly.

In February this year after persistent calls, reminding Comium of its financial obligation to the State and NATCOM, it reluctantly issued out a cheque bearing the face value of the amount dated 29th February, 2012.

Sources at the Commercial Bank, where NATCOM operates an account explained that the cheque was a posted one that was paid into the payee’s account and transferred to the Access Bank, where comium has an account. What became  a shocking news was when the cheque was returned to the Commercial Bank by the Access Bank and sent to NATCOM, indicating that there are insufficient funds to honour the cheque.

On the returned cheque, bank officials advised that the cheque should be re-presented on 2nd March, 2012 by NATCOM in the event that sufficient funds are available, payment into its account at the Commercial Bank would be done.

Reports that comium is delinquent in its social and cooperate responsibility to the state of Sierra Leone, may not attract thrilling and reasonable headlines on the newspaper, what may be of interest to its customers and government officials and the Ministry of Information is that it has not been honouring its obligation to the regulatory body and the country.

The recent case of issuing a bounce cheque to NATCOM may be one among many of its delinquent behaviors over the years. In addition, the company is notorious for maltreating its staff, while those at the bottom are the “Boxers” of the company, those at the top are living and enjoying luxuries, which led to a strike action some time back by the workers. Unfortunately, the protest staged by workers sometime back has brought no substantial and significant change in the administrative approach of the company.

Officials at NATCOM has maintained seal lips, when reference is made towards the company’s social and cooperate responsibility to the state, but when the issue of “bounced cheque” was mentioned  an official of NATCOM said “The taste of the pudding lies in the eating”

Mr. Joe Amara Bangali claimed that NATCOM presented the cheque on the 28th February, 2012 and requested for “SPECIAL CLEARANCE” which provoked many questions from the Bank, considering the quantum involved. “The Bank blacklisted the cheque” He said when they received a call from the Bank, they responded by giving approval for their Bank to effect payment of the amount “As I speak to you now the money has been paid” He claimed, without him knowing that the cheque is in the custody of this medium and was never honoured by the Bank, probably as a result of insufficient funds. The signatures on the cheque are correct, the date is correct and the amount on the cheque is also correct, therefore if the Bank thought that it was a fraud it may be wrong, but why was the cheque not honoured when paid into the NATCOM account at the Commercial Bank, Mr. Bangali said it should take three working days which NATCOM did not wait for and rushed to get it cleared. The defence of Mr. Bangali has been punctured by many pin holes in his effort to cover up the issue of insufficient funds in comium account at the Access Bank. Comium would either have to issue out another cheque or the same cheque re-presented today 2nd March, 2012 


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