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Sierra Leone News: State Counsel accused witness of conspiring to defraud the GoSL

State Counsel R.B. Kowa accused State Witness 10 (SW-10) during examination-in-chief that he conspired to defraud when they went about changing an agreement signed by the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL). SW-10, former Permanent Secretary Abdulai Koroma Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), was on Monday 4 March 2019 testifying at the Commission of Inquiry (COI) presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson. Koroma disagreed with the State’s accusation and was rescued by Defence Counsel Lansana Dumbuya when he objected. But the Commissioner stopped him saying that he is not the witness’s counsel. Lawyer Dumbuya then asked, “Are we as Defence Counsel going to take on witnesses like that?” The Commissioner replied that Lawyer Kowa has to put the State’s case in and Dumbuya cut in saying it is an investigation and questions are asked and not to accuse people. Justice Thompson then referred him to the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the COI as stated in the Constitutional Instrument. “These people have made certain allegations that are clearly the building block of those ToR; they have a right to put those matters before the persons they call as witnesses. I would not stop that otherwise the whole exercise will be in futility, you must understand,” he said. He added, “When you come to cross-examine you will have all the latitude to seek to destroy those allegations as embodied in the Constitutional Instrument, if they affect you,” he advised. Lawyer Dumbuya then responded saying that is why he waited for the witness to answer as not to interrupt. “I only got up as I wanted to put it on record that when I come to attack witnesses, I would not be told not to do that.” The Commissioner then assured him that he would not be prevented from seeking all the ammunition he has and deploying them to destroy the case the State has made, “it is a judicial obligation.” The issue came about when Lawyer Kowa asked him whether the contract for the procurement for the supply of fertiliser was amended after the Director of Crops and Senior Procurement Officer (SPO) decided to change the technical specifications from NPK 20:20:20 and NPK 0:20:20. This was said to be evident in several communications marked exhibit AG-6, 7, 8, 9 and 10. Koroma said they did not amend the contract because of the urgency of the procurement. “I would have expected the SPO to have advised that we need to amend it. He is very technical and legally minded. He should have drawn my attention to that we needed an amendment of the contract from NPK 20:20:20 and NPK 0:20:20. From all the correspondence, he testified, both the former Minister Monty Jones and two deputies were copied, which relates to the change of specification. He was asked whether any action was taken. He said that he had left the office long ago and cannot look at the files for him to check. Lawyer Kowa then asked again when he leave office he said 18 December 2017, “and these letters were done in the month of September and October, the witness then answered, “they did not.” It was put to him again, the letter to the contractor in which the technical specification was changed; they did not copy the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Solicitor General, who in an earlier correspondence to MAFFS advised that they go strictly by the original contract. SW-10 agreed that they did not. “When you decided to deviate, that was why they were not copied?” Lawyer Kowa enquired. Koroma responded that the letter was drafted by SPO and he only indicated those to be copied because he wrote the letter.

ZJ/5/3/19

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday March 06, 2019.

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