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DONOR FUND SUSPECTS LOBBY ACC: World Bank Supports Investigation

The ten Ministry of Health and Sanitation Senior Officials who have been suspended from office recently as a result of the Anti Corruption Commission investigation into the US$1Million whooping donor fund are reportedly in a state of total predicament. The fate of these officials seems to be unpredictable as more supporting evidence continues to pour into the investigation process. The World Bank, report states is collaborating with the Anti Corruption Commission by providing relevant documentary backups to enhance the process. Investigation has now revealed that funds from the donors to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation commenced dripping in since 2008 to 2012 and the last substantive Minister of Health and Sanitation was Haja Madam Zainab Bangura.

It is rumoured that the suspended officials are busy lobbying investigators at the Anti Corruption Commission to mellow down the process and save their necks. Several lucrative offers have reportedly been made to the investigators, but it would appear that this time round it is not business as usual as the process is being widely watched both locally and internationally.

 

The Commissioner of the Anti Corruption Commission, Mr. Joseph F.Kamara has returned home yesterday after an official trip to South Africa and other places. He will be briefed this morning by investigators on the matter.

The ACC is not only investigating the US$523,000 which was unaccounted for after the Senior Officials have cleverly reduced the amount from US$1,090,000 to US$523,000, but is reportedly looking at other documents relating to donation from international and nongovernmental organizations to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation for the promotion of Health Care in the country.

Sources say the suspended officials were able to convince the ACC investigators to reduce the amount on the production of fictitious and forged documents obtained from the colleagues in relation to how the money was disbursed. Where they got stuck was how the US$523,000 was spent for the purpose for which the fund was made available to the Sierra Leone Government.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leoneans both in and out of the country are demonstrating great interest on the matter. In this edition are letters of enquiries from Sierra Leoneans about the ACC investigation into the US$1,090.000 GAVI fund. The outcome of the investigation will determine the seriousness of ACC to fight against corruption in the country. It will either improve or dent its image, especially when international organizations like the World Bank, UNICEF, World Health Organization(WHO) are supporting the process.(See letters)

 

RE: Gates Foundation follow up of Sierra Leone’s investigation on missing USD 1$ million from GAVI grant.

Freetown, Sierra Leone – 4 February 2013

Dear Bill and Melinda Gates,

As Concerned Sierra Leoneans, we would like to thank you for the support you have given to our country through Foundation grantees and GAVI to Sierra Leone. We also welcome the efforts GAVI and the government are beginning to make to follow up with the investigation of USD$ 1 million which was missing from a $1.7 million Gates grant to the Ministry of Health. With this letter we would like to request that the Gates Foundation support GAVI and follow up and put pressure on both the UNSG and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone to conduct a thorough investigation on the missing funds and to hold the relevant people accountable – including senior staff. Zainab Hawa Bangura was the Minister of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone and responsible for the Ministry budget when the USD $1 Million went missing. She is currently the UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict. Due to internal and external pressure (see attached GAVI letter, Reuters, AFP reports etc), the Anti-corruption Commission investigation in Sierra Leone – which took six months to start investigating – have now begun investigating and have suspended ten senior health officials. This is a good start, but does not in any way get to the core of the problem, which begins with corruption at the highest level – including at a Ministerial level – i.e. Mrs. Bangura and the other ministers who also had oversight of the Ministry.  It is now widely known that the press release which was published in the press on January 6th, on Ministry of Health and Sanitation headed paper, exonerating Mrs. Bangura from being involved in the GAVI grant during her time as Minister, was not officially written or issued by the Ministry of Health.  It is widely reported from GAVI and Government sources that receipts and invoice of more than USD $ 500 000 USD were allegedly “thrown away by cleaners”. It is also well known in Freetown, that this could well be the tip of the iceberg (see 2011 Auditor General’s report). Either way, it is clear that a million or more does not go missing without sign off and involvement at the highest level. However, without pressure at the highest level, i.e. also from you and the Foundation in Seattle, embezzlement at every level just becomes business as usual or the “cost of doing business in Africa” – at the cost of the health and well being of future generations.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and grantees like GAVI generally have a good reputation for caring about recipients and corruption. The challenge and responsibility is to also ensure ethical and effective use and management of these grants in country to ensure the funds are not diverted to purchase properties and vehicles for individuals in Sierra Leone and abroad, but that they actually reach and help the intended beneficiaries. This is why we are writing to you to also put pressure on the UNSG and on the Government of Sierra Leone to hold the Mrs Bangura, former ministers and her senior staff accountable and to not be let off just because she now has a United Nations passport. We realize that at the UN global programs cost millions and millions, but in a country like Sierra Leone, it is important to note that the monthly average wage of a civil servant is around 100 USD (450,000 Leones).  So when USD 1$ million dollars (4.6 Billion Leones) goes missing; when missing receipts for over half a million USD are blamed on the cleaners; When the remaining half a million USD are fake and fabricated invoices and GAVI accepts them; and when press releases are forged on Ministry of Health headed paper by someone powerful enough to get them published, when billions of Leones are unaccounted for during the 2011 audit, there is clearly a serious problem which needs investigation at the highest level. We are concerned that the lax attitude and failure of accountability by donors fuels and perpetuates bad governance and rewards the corrupt officials and in fact rewards them as they are rarely prosecuted. Without clear action and letters on your side to fight corruption, this missing million in Sierra Leone will just be seen as a license to embezzle and gain personal profit from Gates grants at the cost of our children.

With sincere thanks and appreciation,

Sheku Boima

Concerned Sierra Leoneans

CC: President and Vice-President of the Republic of Sierra Leone, ,

 

RE: UNSG follow up on 15 January 2013 letter re Corruption and press intimidation in UNSG cabinet team.

Freetown, Sierra Leone – 4 February 2013

Dear UNSG,

This is a follow up to the letter sent to you on the 15 January 2012 expressing concern about the fact that over USD 1$ million dollars went missing from a Gates funded vaccine grant in Sierra Leone while UN Special Representative, Zainab Hawa Bangura, was responsible for the Ministry of Health and Health Campaigns. In this letter, as Concerned Sierra Leoneans, we also kindly asked that you and your UNSG team investigate further to ensure that UN Special Representative Zainab Bangura 1) takes responsibility and collaborates with the national investigation and 2) is suspended from her duties and actively prevented from misappropriating funds and intimidating the press elsewhere. With this letter today, we would also like to know what follow up is being done by your office and the United Nations to assist with the corruption investigation which involves a member of your executive team.

Since we last wrote to you, a couple of other key developments have come to light. The letter we sent to you, copied to numerous key people, has been widely forwarded and circulated within the government and around the world and has given impetus to the Sierra Leone investigation.

On the 16th of January, the Anti Corruption Commission began to investigate the missing funds. There is now a moratorium on travel for senior staff in the Ministry of Health who was in the Ministry when Mrs Bangura was Minister, when the funds went missing.

Ministry staffs at all levels have been questioned. It is widely reported from GAVI and Government sources that receipts and invoice of more than 500,000 USD were allegedly “thrown away by cleaners” and that another half a million USD of receipts have hurriedly been created or forged. In addition, it is now widely known that the press release which was published in the press on January 6th, on Ministry of Health and Sanitation headed paper, exonerating Mrs Bangura from being involved in the GAVI grant during her time as Minister, was not officially written or issued by the Ministry of Health. There s a clear campaign of cover-up, propaganda and misinformation aimed at exonerating Mrs. Bangura. Despite various problems in our country, the Ministry still has checking procedures and generally does not issue press releases without a proper date or signature, or with grammatical and spelling errors! On such an important issue it is also likely that any official Ministry of Health press release would focus on the public health issues, would not exclusively focus on the role of the individual with no concern for the missing funds or affected programs. In the original Reuters report Dated 20 December 2012, Mrs Bangura said she told the President and the former Minister of Finance what happened to the missing funds. Was this in writing, formally or informally and what did she say? Why has this not been made public to the ACC? Newspapers have reported that Administrative Investigator from your office have been sent to investigate allegations of corruption by Mrs. Bangura. We urgently seek clarification from your office on the status of any investigation that supersedes. If such an investigation was undertaken, will the finding be made available to the ACC that had opened the investigations with sovereign authority? If no investigation has been undertaken by your office. As concerned Sierra Leoneans we urge your office to clarify this position as a matter of urgency. While Mrs. Bangura remains innocent until proven guilty as a representative of the SG her continued high profile role of the SG hampers a full and thorough investigation of this matter and brings the office of the UNSG and UN as a whole in disrepute. We realize that at the UN global programs cost millions and millions, but in a country like Sierra Leone, it is important to note that the monthly average wage of a civil servant is around 100 USD (450,000 Leones). So when USD 1$ million dollars (4.6 Billion Leones) goes missing; when missing receipts for over half a million USD are blamed on the cleaners; and when press releases are forged on Ministry of Health headed paper by someone powerful enough to get them published, there is clearly a serious problem which needs investigation at the highest level. Zainab Bangura was responsible for the Ministry of Health at the time GAVI’s USD $1 million went missing and additional billions of Leones went missing (See 2011 Auditor-General’s Report below). Given that Mrs Bangura is now under suspicion and investigation in Sierra Leone, it would make sense to immediately suspend her from her duties at the United Nations and send her back to Sierra Leone to cooperate fully with the investigation. By not taking clear action to assist with the investigation of the missing million and by continuing to be represented by someone who is suspected of corruption, embezzlement and fraud, you risk soiling the name and reputation of the United Nations in Sierra Leone and around the world, and will effectively be seen to condone corruption and embezzlement by senior members of your team. With sincere thanks and appreciation,

Sheku Boima

For Concerned Sierra Leoneans (Published Verbatim)

 

Department of Environmental Health Sciences

School of Community Health Sciences

Njala University Bo Campus                                                  Telephone: 232-7865-5460 Email:nuphasl@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 4rd February 2013

PRESS RELEASE

 

RE: GAVI FUND INVESTIGATION SHOULD BE SWIFT, THOROUGH AND ADEQUATE

The Njala University Public Health Association (NUPHA) today lauds the action of the Government of Sierra Leone to probe ten senior officials of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) through its anti-graft agency but calls for such investigation to be swift, thorough and adequate. NUPHA is thus calling on the Sierra Leone government through the Anti-Corruption Commission  (ACC) to ensure that ‘all those that bears the greatest responsibility’ in the alleged swindling of the GAVI Alliance funds in Sierra Leone be prosecuted. The Sierra Leone government through the ACC last week mounted an investigation on the misappropriation of $1million of GAVI Alliance funds meant for Sierra Leone’s health sector. NUPHA’s Special Director Jia Kangbai says it is disheartening to learn that funds provided to help reduced infant mortality rates in Sierra Leone could be tampered with by unscrupulous persons at the MoHS and warned that the country risked losing substantially both in terms of finance and logistics in the field of public health if the situation is not reversed. “It was only last year the MoHS through the initiative of NUPHA started negotiating with the International Association of Public Health Institute (IANPHI) that is jointly based in the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and Emory University in Atlanta, USA for the establishment of a national public health institute in Sierra Leone” Kangbai noted while lamenting that this swindling of GAVI Alliance funds allegedly by senior MoHS officials will be sending the wrong signals for potential funding of public health programs especially from the United States. According to the NUPHA Special Director, a fact finding visit by Dr Peter Bloland -Director of Public Health Systems and Health Work Force Development at the CDC, and Kathy Cahill the Director of Partnership at IANPHI in Emory University- to Freetown last July assessed the country’s readiness for the establishment of a national public health institute. Kangbai said one product of that visit is that Sierra Leone is been considered alongside other countries for the creation of a national public health institute but however raises the fear that the swindling of the GAVI Alliance funds allegedly by senior MoHS senior officials may scupper such negotiation and many others.  NUPHA’s Executive President Bernard Sifoi Moigula says tampering with donors’ fund by any government officials in Sierra Leone is a crime under the Anti Corruption Act and hence all those found wanting should be made to bear the full penalty of the law. “ Donors’ funds are meant to alleviate the pains and sufferings of the under-privileged Sierra Leoneans and so any attempt to siphon such monies should be countered by a robust force of legal action” Moigula noted. Last week Sierra Leone’s Chief Medical officer Dr. Kisito Dao and nine other senior officials of the Ministry of Health and Sanitation were suspended from duty following the commencement of the probe by the anti-graft agency into the alleged fraud of the donor funds. Also involved in the investigation are two permanent secretaries and the Procurement Manager. Senior officials of the MoHS suspended are; Dr. Magnus Ken Gborie, Director of Planning & Information, Dr. Thomas Takpan Samba, Program Manager EPI, Dr. Michael Amara, Principal Health Economist, Dr. Edward Magbity, Principal M & E Officer, Mr. Joseph Tekman Kanu, Snr. Permanent Secretary, Mr. Amara Sanimeh Koroma, Principal Accountant – MoHS, Mr. Mohammed Kallon Procurement Manager, MoHS, Mr. Edward Bai Kamara, Permanent Secretary, MEST, formerly Perm. Sec. of MoHS, Osman Bangura, Assistant Accountant, MoHS. NUPHA is an apolitical academic-oriented organisation that draws its membership predominantly from Njala University staffs and students who have interest in public health and other health-related issues. The association sensitizes and raises awareness on public health issues among its membership and Sierra Leoneans in general.

Yours faithfully,

PaulMansarayS

Paul S. Mansaray

Secretary General

Njala University Public Health Association-NUPHA

Department of Environmental Health Sciences

Njala University-Bo Campus Torwama

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