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Environment Protection Agency writes Commercial Bank to cancel bounced Ebola Cheque and explain reasons for delay

By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya

The careless nature of some bank officials in executing their duties is still visible in the Commercial banks in Sierra Leone even at emergency situations when the corporation of any individual is needed. Sierra Leone is presently affected with Ebola disease like in other neighbouring countries of Guinea and Liberia which had killed more than 9000 people in the three Mano River countries. What could have been a good gesture in the form of contribution from other government institutions in Sierra Leone aimed at containing the deadly virus has turned out to be an embarrassment to not only those institutions but to the nation as a whole.

The Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone like other governmental and private institutions had been deeply embarrassed by the banking system in Sierra Leone. After heeding to the call of the President for all sectors to come to the aid of the Government towards containing the virus, the Agency who had already donated Personal Protective Equipments decided to make a donation of four hundred million Leones to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation who were then in charge of the operations of the virus in the country. The donation in the form of a cheque was made to the President at State House who in turn forwarded it to the Health Ministry for the fight against the Ebola in the country.

According to the Auditor General reports, a number of donations made by cheque were dishonoured at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and the Audit service “were unable to ascertain whether or not these cheques were dishonoured either because of insufficient funds or the fact that some of them carried values reaching or exceeding the Le50 million limit which was set by the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) for cheque payments”. The audit was undertaken by the Audit service in order to ascertain whether allocations and donations received directly by the GoSL, in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease were utilised with due regard to economy and efficiency and that internal controls were observed accordingly.

The Auditor General’s report on the management of the Ebola Funds shows twelve government and private institutions whose cheques with a total of Le1,670,000,000 were not honoured by the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank among them; the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Insurance, London Mining Company, Sea Coach Boat Company to name just a few.

Research at some of these institutions show the bank’s ineffective functions as well as the non-cooperativeness of officers at the Health Ministry may have delayed the process of transferring the donated amount of monies to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation or the National Ebola Response Committee. Speaking to the assistant Head of Finance at the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, Omotunde Godwin-Shears said the Agency on the 12th August 2014 authorised the Ecobank to transfer the sum of $100,000 from their licensing account to the Bank of Sierra Leone with the purpose of supporting the fight against the Ebola. Banking transactions/transfers are normally expected to last for periods not more than three working days. The Ecobank received the authorization note on the 14th August 2014 and were expected to have done the transfer on the 16th August 2014 to the EPASL operational account at the Bank of Sierra Leone.

Bearing in mind that the transfer should have been made at the BSL, Mr. Omotunde Godwin-Shears said his Agency wrote a Cheque bearing the name of the Health Ministry on the 18th August 2014 and presented it to the President at State House while State House also submitted it to the Health Ministry for encashment and use. On the 18th August 2014, the Ministry of Health presented the cheque of four hundred million Leones to the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank for encashment but because Ecobank could not perform their role effectively and as expected within the two working days, the cheque was not honoured by the Commercial bank. According to documentary evidence available at the Agency, they approached the bank again to honour the authorization and Ecobank only effect the transaction of the $100,000 to the BSL on the 16th September 2014 for onwards transfer to the MOHS’s account at SLCB. At this time, the donated cheque had already been presented to the SLCB but no cash was there at the time and the cheque was declared bounce.

The donated cheque was supposed to have been returned back to the Ministry of Health and sanitation who could have in turn returned it back to the issuer. As we went to press, Mr. Omotunde Godwin-Shears said his agency had not laid hands on the donated cheque in other for them to make new authorization to the now NERC instead of the MOHS. The MOHS neither the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank nor the Bank of Sierra Leone failed to comment on the way about of the declared bounced cheque.

Mr. Omotunde Godwin-Shears confirmed to Standard Times that the Agency had written a letter to the BSL and the SLCB to cancel the cheque if it is presented for payment while have also written an official letter to explain the reasons that caused the delays in the transactions and bring embarrassment to the government. On Tuesday 17th February 2015, the Environment Protection Agency had also written another letter authorising the withdrawal of payment at the Agency’s operational account at the Bank of Sierra Leone in respect of efforts towards containing the Ebola Virus but now to the National Ebola Response Committee.

Author@ kindamadumbuya@yahoo.com

 

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