NATCOM in Le 500 Million “wheeling” and “dealing”

…evidence of wastefulness

By Unissa Bangura

The response by officials of the National Telecommunication Commission (NATCOM) in relation to Standard Times yesterday’s publication under the rubric EXTRAVAGANT NATCOM…dishes out Billions to furnish Commissioners Home Offices has been described by some members of the public as an insufficient defense to rebuild the confidence of the public relating to the NATCOM.

What may have sent chill into the spines of those whose faith has been bestowed on the Commission and its Commissioners is the raw indictment by top officials of the Commission against President Koroma whom they claimed blessed the wasteful spending. Also, they claimed that the Legislative House of Parliament supported the action to establish and furnish the home offices of past and present Commissioners of including the home office of the current Chairman, Dr. Thomas Robert Obaleh Kargbo.

The three key heads of NATCOM namely, Director General Mr. Mohamed Bangura, Director of Finance Mr. John Eddison Tarawallie and Commissioner Saidu Turay successfully downplayed the amount spent. The Director General in his solidarity defense unwillingly disclosed that the total expenditure involved in the refurbishment of Chairman Dr. Thomas Robert Obaleh Kargbo’s home office does not exceed over Forty Million Leones (Le40M). The exactness of the amount he refused to reveal.

However, it would appear that the secrecy code is highly respected by the Director General in his defense of the huge amount spent on the establishment and refurbishment of Commissioner’s home offices and the Chairman. Conditions that are not exclusively documented in the Telecommunications Act 2006 as amended in 2009.  On the other, Mr. Bangura, though showing respect for the secrecy code, inadvertently admitted that past Commissioners received reimbursement from the Commission in their first term which, according to him was not above Twenty-Five Million Leones per member, stating that three new commissioners are yet to benefit from the booty

Comissioner Saidu Turay has said that he would not be a party to extravagant spending of the Commission’s resources “ There is no extravagant spending at NATCOM” He said and went on “As Director of the sub-committee on finance, I cannot be seen to be a party to the abuse of funds meant for  the Commission with impunity”.

While trying to push the cap off their heads, it is not known whether allegations that bother on conspiracy involving the son of the Chairman and a “cyber cabal” that was operating at Sierratel and busted  by police would be accepted by them, or  will be denied by them.,

The matter of cyber theft involving Dr. Karbgo’s son, an employee of the National Telecommunication Company, where the current NATCOM Chairman served as the Board’s Chairman continues to dangle in the minds of the police, whether to charge or not to charge.

Already the suspects have been granted police bail, while the files are kept in the locker room of the Director of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)

Police sources say, since the alleged crime was committed by two individuals whose relatives are “heavy weight of the ruling APC Party” may have compromised the investigation and let them out off the hook. Police Officer 38, Sheku Kamara has since been treating the matter with courtesy, when he realized that the suspects are the son and relative of Dr. Kargbo and Minister Minkailu Mansaray.

It is sad to note that the police have exception when it comes to the commission of certain crimes. For others who are not connected with the “system” they are immediately charged to court and prosecuted.

The case of cyber crime allegedly committed by these individuals was discovered and reported by Teltac, the Gatekeeper of the Country’s Gateway and was reported to the Criminal Investigation Department for further investigation and necessary punitive action taken, but the investigation now seems to be experiencing “diving and docking”, thus making mockery of the Country’s security apparatus.

As the land deal involving NATCOM is probably considered a thing of the past, so with the cyber offence. NATCOM is reportedly struggling to pay the remaining sum of Le500 Million to a vendor for a large acreage of land bought by the Commission. The land located at a place called “Big Water York Rural” was negotiated for One Billion Leones and a down payment of Le500 Million was made to the vendor. Prior to the purchase of this land, Government through the Ministry of Lands, Country planning and the Environment had offered NATCOM a piece of land when it made the request that the Commission would wish to acquire a piece of land to establish its own structure.

At Hill Station, a portion of land was offered to NATCOM to establish its own structure, but refused to do so until the Minister of Lands, Country Planning and Environment decided to divide it and give NATCOM half of the total pieces of land. Till date NATCOM has taking no positive step to develop  this land, instead it went as far as York to pay for a land on the pretext that it is a suitable location to establish an office without taking into cognizance how long it would take for the vicinity to develop. Besides, it would cause official transaction to be completed miles away from the City of Freetown when Commission would have accomplished development on the land.

There have been several interpretations relating to the purchase of this land, using NATCOM resources. One school of thought is saying that the land was bought for the Chairman to build a Five-Star Hotel as the location is more conducive for hotels than official premises. Other School of thought is saying that it is an investment venture, something that is far from the portfolio and policy of the Commission. The situation as it stands now is a wait and see (NEXT EDITION-Who pays One Million Dollar to NATCOM that was not recorded in its coffer at the Bank?

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