SLMA counts revenue lossesNovember 25, 2020
… Incompetent administration challenged
By Abu Bakarr Kargbo
If allegations that the Sierra Leone Maritime Administration (SLMA) is plagued with tribalism, nepotism, and political division are something to go by, the government’s New Direction Agenda remains questionable in that institution. Since the sacking of the former Executive Director, Ken Paul Sondai, things are no longer at ease in a government institution that is tasked with the mandate of being more efficient in the delivery of services and to regulate and develop improved standards of performance, practice, and safety in the shipping industry in Sierra Leone, including the inland waterways transportation and protection of the marine environment.
There are allegations of widespread corruption at the SLMA, which requires an indebted investigation to ascertain who is or are the true rogues that are depriving the government of Sierra Leone of its much-needed revenue to support development programs. “Perhaps the former Executive Director could be of a major help in any intended investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) or an internal investigation by the current leadership,” a Maritime Source remarked.
One of the key issues suggested for investigation is the massive revenue losses realized in the past two years and also other major administrative setbacks that served as a bottleneck to the progress of the SLMA. Sources say the Minister of Transport and Aviation, Kabineh Kalloh could be of greater help to the investigation especially so after he has been accused of concealing a good number of receipt books whose serial numbers are published below. “We are spending restless moments at the SLMA to unearth issues of corruption to save the image of our institution,” an SLMA Senior Official said and added that the Board and Management are aware of allegations of revenue fraud for which they are more than willing to help in any would-be investigations. Over the years, a good number of SLMA Senior Officials have been investigated by the ACC and found guilty of corruption. The lucky ones are asked to refund their stolen monies and retained in their positions whilst others are sneezed to pay and later asked to take the exit door.
It could be recalled in May this year; eight senior officials were suspended by a presidential order which instituted an administrative inquiry into the activities of the institution. The Secretary to President in a letter dated 19th May 2020 stated that the inquiry was designed to look into “technical and financial management of the Sierra Leone Maritime as well as any other matter that may have impeded the proper and productive management” of the institution. Whether the said investigation was meant to find ways and means to kick out the former Executive Director, Paul Sondai or not is a matter of time will tell. But as at present the SLMA stands accused of not provide receipt books for audit purposes for January to June 2019, also that the Maritime Administration did not submit records of shipping documents covering the period January to September 2019 thereby affecting their ability to assess the exact amount of revenues collected from freight levy, licensing fees, and other revenue streams.
The report suggests that this is where the current Transport Minister should be roped in to explain whether he knows about some reported concealed receipt books to stall an investigation conducted by the sacked Executive Director or not.
So far, a purported leaked audit statement for 2019 stated thus: “A comparison between the revenue generated as per cashbook was Le68,744,053,669.74 and revenue as per bank statement as Le41,501,540,716.86, leaving a difference of Le27,242,512,952.88 not banked,” the auditors said, adding that the institution did not provide auditors with the requested receipt books to enable them to undertake complete audit exercise of SLMA’s financial activities for January to June 2019, the first half of the fiscal year.
The current Executive Director, Paul Sobba Massaquoi, according to report, is poised to ensure a corrupt-free environment but some old guards in the game are allegedly conniving with some authorities at the Transport Ministry to continue in siphoning revenue meant for the development of the nation. See more next edition.