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Sierra Leone News: Witness testifies to changing fertiliser specifications

State Witness testified that they changed the specification of the fertiliser, when he was responding to questions whether he was in receipt of any form of evidence from the Senior Procurement Officer (SPO), Francis Kaikai. This was to ascertain whether the clarification that was sought for the change of specification, came from the Director of Crops (DoC). On Monday 4 March 2019, the former Permanent Secretary, at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security (MAFFS), Abdulai Koroma, told the Commission of Inquiry, “Not at all. I relied on the SPO and the discussion which he says he had with the DoC.” According to exhibit X-1-62 (Performance Audit into Fertiliser Management by MAFFS), the contract agreement signed on the 6th of September 2016 between MAFFS and Balsam Enterprise stipulated that NPK 20:20:20 with a chemical composition of 20% Nitrogen, 20% Phosphorus and 20% Potassium fertilizer be supplied. Technical specifications prepared by the Ministry, bidding documents, and the signed contract agreement were all done in respect of NPK 20:20:20. However, physical inspection of the fertiliser delivered by Balsam Enterprises to MAFFS revealed that the supplier delivered NPK 0:20:20 which has a chemical composition of 0% Nitrogen, 20% Phosphorus and 20% Potassium instead of NPK 20:20:20 as stipulated in the contract. Led in examination-in-chief by lawyer R.B. Kowa, he was shown a letter dated 19 September 2016 marked exhibit AG-6 addressed to him from Balsam Enterprises, which was seeking clarification regarding the fertiliser specifications attached to the Bidding Document (exhibit AH-9) section of the agreement saying it is NPK 20:20:0 and not NPK 20:20:20 and the witness said, “yes”. He was asked to look at AH-9 and state what the technical specification was for; he replied that it was for NPK 20:20:20 and not NPK 20:20:0. “So you will agree with me that what is stated in this letter is incorrect,” Lawyer Kowa asked. Before the witness could respond, Lawyer Dumbuya objected that Kowa should not ask the question because the document he has read has already reflected the correct position. Lawyer Kowa then say that he is trying to establish his case as the technical specification stated in the AH-9 is not as the same as AG-6. He asked the witness if he would disagree with what the letter is saying. Lawyer Dumbuya objected again saying that Counsel for the State should be advised to allow the witness to give his testimony and not to suggest to him. He argued that he is concerned with the line of questioning under examination in chief. “Notwithstanding this is a COI but certain people have already been given to this Commission as whatever we call them now, interested persons they maybe what the police will usually refer to as the suspect or the court will say accused persons whatever the case they are been investigated,” he said. He said the issue of fairness in which the evidence is being put forward is really treated as such that there are people before the Judge you who are being investigated. “Learned Counsel of the State, we are in an area of contradiction here. Why bother? The documents speak for themselves whether this witness wants to answer or helps us in unravelling the mystery of the NKP’s, it is clear,” said Justice Thompson. Lawyer Dumbuya then requested that his Colleague call the technical people that will give him the reason for the change, “I have read.” The Judge then cautioned him that Counsel knows how he intends to presents his case and would not want to take advise from the Defense and that he also not venture advise him on how to defend his clients. Lawyer Kowa then informed the Commission that he will proceed the way he sees necessary and the Commissioner assured him that he has the liberty to present his case as he wants. He was asked to look at exhibit AG-7 in which the clarification was made. “You have earlier stated this letter was drafted by SPO and you only signed it. Were you opportune to have the advice from the expert, who is the crop officer?” Kowa asked. Witness Koroma answered by saying he wants to explain the second letter that he got. The Commissioner interrupted by saying, “Why don’t you want to respond? Is that a difficult question?” the Commissioner said. He then replied that there is a letter to the effect which he received and sent it to the SPO which was submitted to the DoC and was minuted back to the SPO. Lawyer Kowa then say that is the evidence we need. Koroma continued by saying that the SPO did not minute it to him, “he just drafted the letter which I just signed,” he testified. Kowa quizzed further to elicit information regarding the advice but Koroma insisted that he did not see those minutes and stressed, “I don’t know”. He then referred to a written letter to him by Balsam dated 10 October 2016. The Commissioner asked whether the witness is now abandoning the State’s line of questioning. Lawyer Kowa replied, “no my Lord, he wants to take us to that date and we are dealing with an issue that took place in September,” he said. The Commissioner said that the witness should not allow him to deviate from the line of questioning. At this point, Lawyer Dumbuya added, “As long as he said ‘discussion’, and that there was a discussion let us don’t jump that. I agree with you that there is a letter but there was also a discussion.” Commissioner Thompson then asked the witness to answer the question and listen carefully and answer as truthfully as he can. Lawyer Kowa asked him again, “You just told this tribunal that you relied on the SPO, that was why you signed the letter that he drafted.” Koroma said yes, and he continued “…if you look what was required in that letter was to determine according to the minutes to the DoC between NPK 20:20:20 and NPK 20:20:0” and the witness responded again in the affirmative. It was then put to him by Kowa that what he and the SPO put together was NPK 0:20:20 and he said yes. “That is what I want you to clearly explain,” the State said. He was asked again whether as Chairman of the Procurement Committee if he at any time summoned a procurement committee meeting when he received the letter or discussed it with members. He said, “not at all”.


By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Wednesday March 06, 2019.

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