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Plan Int’ Money Choppers dragged to court over Le1 billion donor funds  

 

By Abu BakarrKargbo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lawyer AdyMacauley, ACC Boss

Things are no longer at ease at Plan International, an International Non-Governmental Organization that is supposed to be working in the interest of Sierra Leoneans helping poor children to appreciate their rights to education, health, livelihood and protection. The INGO is however not unconnected with allegations of corruption, which the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission has been investigating for several months now.

After completing the protracted investigations, the Commission has now charged to court seven (7) persons on various corruption offences including misappropriation of donor funds, which amounted to over One Billion Leones (Le 1,000,000,000), the amount being funds donated to Plan International by DFID for the benefit of people in Sierra Leone, contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act 2008. The accused persons are:  Akuna Daniel Shorunkeh Sawyer, Quality Assurance Officer of Plan International, 5 Smart Lane, New England Ville, and Freetown. He has been slammed with thirteen count- charge of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence and misappropriation of donor funds; Moses Ogendeh Kamara, Chief Executive Officer of Community Empowerment for Rural Development (CEFORD), Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura, Coordinator of the Bombali Youth in Action, residing at 49 Payne Street, Makeni, charged on four count- of- conspiracy to commit a corruption offence and misappropriation of donor funds.  Christian Clemens, Programme Accountant of Plan International, residing at 21, Thunder Hill Road, Kissy, Freetown, Abubakarr Kanu, Salesman at Eddican Investment Enterprises, residing at 2, Magburaka Road, Makeni and Hassan Bangura, Businessman at Klish Logistics of 83, Wellington Street, Freetown. He has been charged with two- count each of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence and misappropriation of donor funds.  Patrick Abubakarr Mahoi, former employee of Plan International residing at 7E, Willoughby Lane, Brookfields, Freetown is charged with one- count of conspiracy to commit a corruption offence.

Meanwhile, The High Court Holden in Freetown, presided over by Justice Alusine Sesay has acquitted and discharged Herbert H.I. Davies-Cole, Registrar of the Sierra Leone Law School, on all nine -count of abuse of office and one- count charge of deceiving a principal, contrary to the Anti-Corruption Act 2008.

 

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The alleged act of corruption was reportedly committed by staff members of Plan International and was reported after the whistle was blown by the Press to the Anti Corruption Commission and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).

Mr.Casely Ato Coleman is a Ghanaian National and the Country Director of Plan International, Sierra Leone. In his testimony to the ACC investigators, he reported that the NGO was involved in development programmes such as child-centered community development and was implementing programmes in health, education, water and sanitation, livelihoods and child protection. He informed the ACC investigators that the NGO has two international sources of funding derived from grants and sponsorship. Between April and June 2015, seven transfers were made to the various partners of Plan International. The partners to whom the transfers were made are CEFORD (Community Empowerment for Rural Development), Bombali Youth in Action (BOYA), Eddiecan Investment Enterprises (Eddiecan), NDUGA Construction Company (NDUGA) and Klish Logistics. The transfers were made by cheques in the following manner:

The first cheque identified as C1 was for the sum of Le 493,500,000.00 (four hundred and ninety-three million five hundred thousand Leones), dated 30th April 2015. It was made in favour of CEFORD, purportedly an advanced payment for decontamination activity in Bombali and Port Loko DFID Ret Project.

The second cheque according to him, identified as C2 was for the sum of Le 295,800,000.00 (two hundred and ninety-five million eight hundred thousand Leones) dated 29th June 2015. It was made to CEFORD, purportedly for an advanced payment for decontamination activity in Bombali and Port Loko DFID Ret Project.

The third cheque also identified as C3 was for the sum of Le 277,080,000.00 (two hundred and seventy-seven million eighty thousand Leones) and was dated 30th April 2015. It was made to BOYA, purportedly an advanced payment for decontamination activity in Bombali and Port Loko DFID Ret Project.

The fourth cheque identified as C4 was also for the sum of Le 113,750,000.00 (one hundred and thirteen million seven hundred and fifty thousand Leones) and dated 30th April 2015. It was made to NDUGA, purportedly payment for the rehabilitation of District Health Centre in Bombali (DFID Ret Project). The fifth cheque identified as C5 was for the sum of Le 97,400,000.00 (ninety-seven million four hundred thousand Leones and dated 30th April 2015, was made to Eddiecan, purportedly payment for assorted stationery supply and decontamination items in Bombali (DFID Ret Project). The sixth cheque identified as C6 was for the sum of Le 203,312,396 (two hundred and three million, three hundred and twelve thousand three hundred and ninety-six Leones) and was dated 14th May 2015. It was made to CEFORD, purportedly payment for the implementation of EQUIP project. The seventh cheque identified as C7 was for the sum of Le 72,000,000 (seventy-two million) and dated 29th May 2015. It was made to Klish Logistics, purportedly payment for vehicle hire for SIDA project. The ACC investigators discovered during the investigation that all the transactions were fictitious except for C6, which means that the bank transfers were not related to any activity planned or implemented. The total amount of the six questionable transaction amounted to Le 1,349,530,000.00 (one billion three hundred and forty-nine million, five hundred and thirty thousand Leones). All the money was credited into the bank accounts, of the partners; which were withdrawn and never returned to Plan International. CEFORD benefitted from two (2) of the fictitious bank transfers (C1 and 2) amounted to a total of Le 789,300,000.00 (seven hundred and eighty nine million, three hundred thousand Leones). Its Executive Director, Moses Ogendeh Kamara confirmed receipt of all the money which was withdrawn on diverse dates, though in bits but from the account by his staff in Makeni (Alhaji Musa Conteh with the help of Alex Andrew Turay (Finance Manager) and Alhaji Bangura (driver)) upon his instructions. Moses Ogendeh Kamara confirmed that he had instructed Alhaji Musa Conteh (coordinator CEFORD, Bombali) that Akuna Sawyer had contacted him on phone and informed him about the monies, claiming they were meant for senior officials of the organization. Moses Ogendeh Kamara also said that he returned the monies to Akuna Sawyer, the Finance Manager of Plan International but has no piece of evidence to show that he did. Moses Ogendeh Kamara also said that Akuna called him on 2nd March 2016, asking him to tell his regional coordinator in Bombali, Alhaji Musa, to go underground and to implicate Patrick Mahoi in the investigations that had commenced. However, Moses Ogendeh Kamara told Akuna to give Alhaji Musa Conteh the instructions himself. Moses Ogendeh Kamara received information from Alhaji Musa Conteh that Akuna made the call to Alhaji Musa Conteh and made the same request to him. Among the documents submitted by Airtel to the ACC investigators, there was an extract of call logs made by Akuna Sawyer to several people, one of whom was Moses Ogendeh Kamara. The extract showed that on 2nd March 2016, Akuna called Moses Ogendeh Kamara at 7:59:11 p.m. Therefore, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary and in light of Akuna’s statement to the ACC investigators, this medium is left with no option but to believe that Moses Ogendeh Kamara’s story is more probably true than not.  BOYA and NDUGA are co-managed by Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura (MIB) who was reportedly at large and hibernating in an undisclosed location. The amount transferred to the two NGOs, as indicated by C3 and C4, by Plan International was Le 390,830,000 (three hundred and ninety million, eight hundred and thirty thousand Leones).The Programme Manager for BOYA, Mr. Sulaiman Bangura, is a co-signatory to the account and explained that the money was not related to any activity they undertook. He asserted that MIB (his boss) had informed him that the money belonged to Patrick Mahoi (former employee of Plan International).  According to him the source of the money was rent allowance paid by some peace corps, who were Mr. Mahoi’s tenants at one of his properties in Freetown. When Mr. Sulaiman Bangura got that information, he signed some blank cheques giving to him by MIB. However, he said that he does not know what MIB did with them. Perusal of the bank statement from Rokel Commercial Bank identified as RCB showed that on 8th January 2015, Mohamed I. Bangura made a deposit of Le 20,000,000.00 (twenty million Leones) into Patrick Abubakarr Mahoi’s account. When asked by ACC investigations whether this Mohamed I. Bangura was the coordinator for BOYA, Patrick Mahoi replied in the affirmative. Patrick Mahoi, when responding to question in his statement, informed the investigators that the Le 20,000,000.00 (twenty million Leones), Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura paid him was for a 4runner jeep that he (Patrick Mahoi) had sold to him. Although the payment of this sum of money predates the encashment of C3, it is noteworthy that Patrick Mahoi and Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura, currently on the run, have had dealings in the past which Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura paid money into Patrick Mahoi’s account. Mr. Sulaiman Bangura said that he tried to follow up on that story with Patrick Mahoi. However, Patrick Mahoi told him that he will talk further with him on the subject when he gets to Makeni. Sulaiman Bangura said that Patrick Mahoi never got back to him. As earlier stated, MIB took to his heels when he learnt of the investigation. C5 indicates that Eddiecan received a bank transfer of Le 97,400,000 (ninety-seven million four hundred thousand Leones).Eddiecan is owned by the father of Abubakarr Kanu, the current salesman in Makeni. When Abubakarr Kanu was first interviewed by the police, he stated that the payment was for accumulated stationery supplies he made to Plan International, Bombali Office. In an additional statement to the Police, he alleged that the money paid was for Patrick Mahoi, former Plan International Programme Unit Manager in Bombali. According to Abubakarr Kanu, Patrick Mahoi had contacted him earlier and notified him about the money. Abubakarr Kanu states that he made a total of two encashment of C5 from the bank.

The first encashment was for the amount of Le 45,000,000.00 (forty-five million) which was giving to Mohamed Ishmyle Bangura, whom Abubakarr Kanu alleged Mahoi sent to collect the money on his behalf. Abubakarr Kanu also revealed that his nephew Tejan Kargbo withdrew Le 50,000,000.00 (fifty million Leones) from the bank on 18th May 2015, which Tejan Kargbo later gave to him. Le 52,000,000.00 (fifty-two million Leones) was put together by Abubakarr Kanu for Patrick Mahoi, which he collected himself.

Tejan Kargbo withdrew the money from the bank and was allegedly present when MIB went to collect his money. Tejan Kargbo told ACC investigators that in 2015, Abubakarr Kanu informed him of the deposit of Le 97,400,000.00 (ninety-seven million four hundred thousand Leones). He explained that sometime in May 2015, MIB came to Abubakarr Kanu’s place of business and told Abubakarr Kanu that it was Patrick Mahoi who had sent him to collect the money. Tejan Kargbo said that at that point Abubakarr Kanu made a telephone call to Patrick Mahoi and confirmed same. After which, the said money was handed over to MIB and he left. There was a second withdrawal made by Tejan Kargbo on behalf of Abubakarr Kanu. Tejan Kargbo said that Patrick Mahoi collected the money himself. Tejan Kargbo also said that Abubakarr told him that on the occasion of the second transaction, Patrick Mahoi gave him (Tejan Kargbo) Le 4,700,000.00 (four million seven hundred thousand Leones) as compensation and Tejan Kargbo was made privy to this information by Abubakarr Kanu after Patrick Mahoi had left the shop where he and Abubakarr Kanu had met. Another perusal of Patrick Mahoi’s RCB bank account showed that Patrick Mahoi’s bank account was credited with Le 47,000,000.00 by an unknown individual on 18th May 2015.The information showed ties with the information given by Abubakarr Kanu in his statement to the ACC.However, when asked by ACC investigators what the source of the money was, Patrick Mahoi said he could not remember, even though he could remember the sources of lesser amounts. Hassan Bangura is the proprietor of Klish Logistics and affirmed that the receipt of C7 was from Plan International. According to Hassan Bangura, the bank transfer was not related to any activity carried out or planned. Hassan Bangura added that it was through Christian Clemens, a tenant of his, who is also employed by the services of Plan International as an accountant said that he was informed that his account had been credited. According to him, Christian Clemens asked Hassan Bangura to withdraw the money from his account and give same to him (Christian Clemens) so that the latter can return it to Plan International. Hassan Bangura told the ACC investigators that he believed Christian Clemens did as he was asked.  However, Hassan Bangura and Christian Clemens went to Ecobank and withdrew the money, which he (Hassan Bangura) handed over to Christian Clemens. A perusal of the bank statement of Klisch Logistics showed that the Le 72,000,000.00 (seventy-two million Leones) in question was paid and withdrawn from the Klisch Logistics bank account on the same day; to wit, 1st May 2015.Christian Clemens, the Programme Accountant at Plan International, confirmed receipt of the money from Hassan Bangura. However, he said that he collected only Le 50,000,000.00 (fifty million Leones) from Hassan Bangura and handed it over to Akuna in the presence of another colleague called Bassie Turay. He had no piece of evidence to show that he handed over the money to Akuna. Christian Clemens also did not have any information on what happened to the remaining Le 22,000,000.00 (twenty-two million Leones) that Hassan Bangura allegedly gave him. There is no indication that Christian Clemens paid the Le 72,000,000.00 (seventy-two million Leones) or Le 50,000,000.00 (fifty Million Leones) into his United Bank of Africa identified as UBA bank account. However, considering that Christian Clemens’ statement to ACC investigators was an admission of part of the allegation put to him and that Hassan Bangura is the sole outsider to this transaction between himself, Christian Clemens and Akuna Sawyer, this author would advise that instead of charging Hassan Bangura, he be used as a witness. Furthermore, it would be of great help if ACC investigators can determine whether or not Hassan Bangura’s story can be corroborated by a witness.Biasie Turay, Finance Assistant at Plan International, denied ever witnessing such a transaction. Akuna did say that he had given instructions to Biasie Turay to input information on folios C1, C3, C4, C5 and C7 into the financial system. He was not sure whether C2 and C6 were inputted into the financial system upon his instructions until he had access to the system. Akuna Daniel Shorunkeh Sawyer is one of two Quality Assurance Officers at Plan International. Before that he was country accountant for the organization from 2012 to May 2015, inclusive of the period under review. As country accountant, he was responsible for the daily finances of the organization, dealt with cash management, payment processing, corporate financial reporting, treasury management and providing support to Project Staff Managers and Project Unit Accountants. As Quality Assurance Officer, he coordinates support to all external grant audits and external auditors. When he was country accountant, he reported directly to Margaret Otim. He was succeeded by Lahai Braima whom he alleged he did a formal handing over to. Although he denied receiving any of the monies allegedly given to him, perusal of call logs from Airtel (as it then was) indicate that Akuna called Mr. Moses Ogendeh Kamara on 2nd March 2016, although Akuna had earlier denied doing same. Between 29th February 2016 and this date, the Sierra Leone Police (SLP) had obtained a statement from several suspects and placed Abubakarr Kanu (Salesman at Eddiecan Investments) and Sulaiman Bangura (Programme Manager at BOYA) in custody. The call logs also showed that he called two other Plan International staff members (Joseph Kanu and Abdullai Jalloh) whilst they had accompanied the police team to Bombali that commenced the investigation on this matter. Akuna had also previously denied the allegation,

but perusal of Akuna’s bank statement from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank identified as SLCB) showed huge sums of money being deposited into the account in May 2014 and June 2014.When asked about the sources of the money, Akuna stated that the money was proceeds from the sale of a house to Mr. Charles Olufemi Smith, proceeds from a joint car business he had with one Chernor who was receiving proceeds from the sales through his uncle as he was based out of the country, various thrift and leave allowances. Mr. Alhaji Amadu Baldeh, whom Akuna alleged was Chernor’s uncle was contacted and he told the ACC that his son whom he called Mohamed Sallieu Bah had never had any such business with Akuna.  Margaret Otim, submitted a copy of the Plan International Sierra Leone Payroll for January 2015 which provided annual leave allowance details for Daniel Akuna Sawyer for 2014. The document showed that Akuna’s explanation showed that part of the huge sums of money was his leave allowance is untenable as his leave allowance was not paid into his account during the period under review but in January 2015. Joseph Kanu and Abdullai Jalloh had alleged that Akuna had contacted them during a trip to prevail on them not to disclose to authorities at the Country Office of Plan International in Freetown. The initial fraud was detected in Bombali and Patrick Mahoi is a former employee of Plan International. He served the organization from February 2006 to December 2015, inclusive of the period under review, when his services were terminated for alleged misconduct. An investigation was carried out, following which he was exonerated. His benefits were paid to him afterwards. Between May 2008 and 11th March 2015, he was the Programme Unit Manager for the Bombali Office and he told the ACC investigators that C1-7 transactions occurred when he had left Plan International. He denied receiving monies from anyone, but did confirm knowing Abubakarr Kanu through his father, Edward Kanu, who was a friend of his.

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