The Rokel Commercial Bank is one of the local financial institutions that is doing fine, with operation almost compatible to international financial institutions. Formerly, it was called Barclays Bank with strong links to other Barclays Banks in the World. The transformation from Barclays Bank to Rokel Commercial Bank changed little or nothing in the modus operandi of the institution and if any, it could be seen as small and minute. The Bank used to be the envy of Sierra Leone with professional bankers spending hours in their effort to raise the profile of the institution. It the next six weeks, government 51% shares will be traded on the Stock Exchange Market, whether at the current Stock Exchange Price per share or as per the balance sheet calculation, is left to be seen.
The Rokel Commercial Bank has been earmarked for Privatization, despite its encouraging performance in the financial industry. An initial attempt was made some time back by the National Commission for Privatization, but was rebuffed when Shareholders came down heavily on the Commission, pointing fingers at other non performing parastatals that were overdue for Privatization. It would appear that the Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization, Mr. Abu Bangura who has a long history of killing the Hen That Lays The Golden Egg is not happy with the way things are happening or wants to grab more from the 51% Shares government owned to add to his already 9% Shares. His reputation has always been in controversy and generally referred to as the “Shylock” in the APC Government of Ernest Bai Koroma, who wants everything for himself and nothing for the state. Few days back, his name made headlines in one of the local leading newspapers in the country mirroring his conduct in relating to the Electronic Cargo Tracking Note, which contract he wanted to award to a Belgian Company against the winner, Consolidated Logistics International. His encounter with the Chairman of the Technical and Evaluation Committee, Alhaji Musa King left him in a state of mental predicament, which became evident in his latest action to cancel the procurement process and returned the Security Bond of US$100,000(One Hundred Thousand Dollars) to Guaranty Trust Bank, without notifying the bidder or giving reason for the cancellation of the process. Attempt to re-tender the contract was denied by the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA). Meanwhile, latest report states that the Independent Procurement Review Panel (IPRP) has issued a 72-hour notice to the Commission to stay put until the Complaint filed against the Commission is looked into.
Mr. Bangura’s ambition to make so many grabs in a bid to increase his portfolio while in office has resulted to sleepless nights and more cracking of his brain. The last Annual General Meeting of Shareholders of the Rokel Commercial Bank held on 25th July 2012 witnessed a clear and undoubted manifestation of his ambition. The meeting was a mockery of what used to take place at Annual General Meetings of the Bank. The Chairman was noticed in a state of non- preparedness, despite being on the job for four years and enjoying the benefit of a Chairman in one of the reputable and productive parastatals in the country. A Lawyer by profession who never practiced law, one that was expected to have mastered the art of Chairing Annual General Meetings after so many years as Chairman of the Rokel Commercial Bank. The initial observation during the meeting was the number of errors that sandwiched the Financial Statement for the year 2011, which prompted several queries among Shareholders. The issue of remuneration of Directors that was almost doubled without Shareholders approval came to the spotlight. Legal and professional fees were also doubled with no comment on vehicles in the notes of the Financial Statement. The Auditors, Panel Kerfoster(PKF) was discovered to have attended the meeting unprepared to answer question as it was suspected that they had attended the meeting, but their papers left in their offices. During the deliberation the Shareholders did not want to approve the Financial Statement, but the intervention of Mr. Abu Bangura who doubles as both Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization (NCP) and a Shareholder with a Shareholding voting right of 9% personal holding overruled that the statement must be accepted. He reportedly used the government 51% majority Shares and his 9%, thus over-powering those with 49%. What came out clearly is that the NCP Chairman did not want the Financial Statement to be thrown out and brought back in its proper form because of plans for government 51% Shares to be traded in the Stock Exchange Market.
The usual protocol for Shareholders to receive their Annual Report prior to the Annual General Meeting was not observed, which had been the practice over the years. The meeting reportedly lasted for about two and a half hour, indicative of the fact that the Rokel Commercial Bank has Shareholders that can interpret Financial Statements perhaps better than could be imagined.
Before going to press yesterday, this medium learnt that the Chairman of the National Commission for Privatization, Mr. Abu Bangura whose tenure of office is yet to be renewed by State House has scheduled today to hold a Press Conference. Prominent on the agenda is the Electronic Cargo Tracking Note Contract that he wanted to award to Associated Transport and Port Management System, a Belgian Company, but the resistance of the Chairman of the Technical Evaluation Committee has rendered his dream empty. He may explain to the few selected Journalists that the Board of Directors of the National Commission for Privatization authorized the cancellation of the procurement process as it discovered flaws. Clearly, there are no sections in the Procurement Act or Regulation which stipulates that the Board of Directors of any institution must ratify any contract that has been signed. As long the procurement procedures and guidelines have been followed and the Ministry of Finance given its approval prior to signing of the contract there is nothing the Board can do to either annul or ratify the contract. It is stated in the Procurement Act No.14 of 2006 and the Regulations of Statutory Instrument No.21 of 2006, Section 119(1) that “Following the contract award decision by the awarding authority, the procurement entity shall commit the required funds before proceeding to award the contract” In the case of the Electronic Cargo Tracking Note the procurement entity of the Commission has already awarded the contract. Documentary evidence clearly states that the committee has recommended that Consolidated Logistics International was the most responsive bidder that satisfied criteria set out for the award of the contract. This was evident in the recommendation and endorsement of members of the Committee, which did not go down well with Chairman Abu Bangura.