An official at the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), yesterday told the Sierra Leone Telegraph that the former secretary to ex-president Koroma – Mr Osho Coker, is being investigated by the ACC for alleged laundering of public funds, using the country’s embassies.
Mr Osho Coker is one of the former senior officials of the Koroma government also named in the Governance Transition Team (GTT) Report for alleged corruption.
According to the GTT Report, Mr Coker rented his property to the Koroma government at exorbitant cost to the taxpayer, abusing his office as secretary to the president and breaching conflict of interests rules.
“Congruent with the sale of Government houses was President Koroma’s Government practice of renting of private buildings for offices at extortionate cost. Most of the rented property belongs to top APC officials or their relatives and close friends. A house belonging to Mr. Emmanuel Osho-Coker, then Secretary to former President Koroma, at Hill Station was rented to Petroleum Directorate – which happens to be nearly dilapidated – for US $145,000 a year,” says the GTT Report.
But today, Mr Coker (Photo) is being questioned by the ACC on a separate matter for alleged financial impropriety at the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM).
According to ACC sources, Mr Coker has used his powers as secretary to former president Koroma to grant Executive Orders on behalf of president Ernest Bai Koroma for implementation by the Board of NATCOM.
It is alleged that former president Koroma was using NATCOM to transfer huge amounts of funds from Sierra Leone to embassies overseas.
But what is not clear is the reason as to why the former president would use NATCOM in what many would regard as a convoluted money laundering scam, using the payment of the running costs and salaries of embassy staff as a cover.
The normal procedure for channelling funds from Freetown to the country’s embassies overseas starts with the ministry of international affairs requesting the ministry of finance to authorise payment, which then goes to the Bank of Sierra Leone; and then payment is received by the embassies from the government’s consolidated funds.
If the allegations are true, it would seem that the secretary to the former president – Osho Coker was signing Executive Orders on the behalf of president Koroma, requesting NATCOM management to forward monies collected from internet and mobile service providers to be dispatched overseas through the country’s embassies.
The question that the ACC must be looking into is whether NATCOM was being used by State House for the laundering of stolen public funds.
This is a question which only the former head of NATCOM – Mr Momoh Konteh (Photo) – who is also a grand chief patron of the opposition APC party led by former president Koroma, Mr Osho Coker, and heads of chancery in the embassies alleged to have been the recipients of those illegal funds, can provide answers.
In another development in the investigations into massive corruption at the National Revenue Authority (NRA), a source at the ACC informed the Sierra Leone Telegraph that the former head of the NRA – Ms Haja Kallah Kamara and her finance director were both granted bail on Tuesday, subject to further investigations by the ACC. Both are accused of misappropriation of revenues collected by the NRA.
In its Report commissioned by president Julius Maada Bio, the Governance Transition Team said it “has uncovered evidence of the former APC Government facilitating the inappropriate acquisition of state’s assets and properties by relatives and close friends of former President Koroma. There is also evidence of inflated Government contracts being inappropriately awarded to such relatives and friends. This unacceptable practice exacerbated poverty and illiteracy and helped erode confidence in the integrity of Government.”
Many in Sierra leone are now saying that the Koroma led APC government is the most corrupt administration seen in the country’s 57 years history, since independence in 1961.
President Bio has tabled a Bill in parliament that will see the establishment of two commissions of enquiry to examine the massive evidence of corruption cited in the GTT Report.