From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

John Ben Blasts ‘Fraudulent’ GST Receipt Printing
By Our correspondent
Jun 24, 2010, 17:20

The National Chairman and leader of the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party who was also the country’s highly acclaimed, award-winning Finance Minister in the erstwhile SLPP Government, has in a strong reaction added his voice of condemnation to that made by the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Finance on the issue of the printing of receipt books for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The printing was undertaken by the National Revenue Authority through the Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Richard Konteh but has been termed as fraudulent with calls for Government to urgently investigate the transaction.

In an exclusive interview with the Awareness Times last evening, SLPP’s John Oponjo Benjamin said the $9.6m allegedly used to print those receipt books in another country would have been instead used by the APC government to upgrade the Government Printing Press established for such purposes if only the minister and top NRA officials did not enter into the deal for kick backs.

"These APC people are so enmeshed in corruption that they don’t do simple things to save more money for the development of this country," he charged, adding that what this government lacks is good investment policies because the players are only working for themselves.

The dynamic chairman further charged that the deal was a real waste of resources at the time when the country needed more money for development projects.

"Our position as an opposition party is that we want a thorough investigation into the matter to prevent further lapses in fraudulently siphoning from our national coffers," he furthered, adding that the APC are just wasting our resources because they met a solid foundation put in place by the Finance team he had headed as the erstwhile SLPP Finance Minister.

"They met the NRA, NASSIT, NPPA and other institutions working in a viable way left behind by the SLPP but they have no respect for procedures and fiscal policies we put in place so they are completely sabotaging the entire system. The result is that our people continue to suffer as the country is sliding backwards," John Benjamin said while questioning even the rational behind the printing of a large quantity of receipt books at one given time.

"The amount involved is very colossal for which citizens are demanding an explanation", he went on adding that it will also cost government a whopping amount of money to provide secured storage facilities, not to mention the field day created for thieves who will loot from such a large stock with impunity knowing they will not be easily caught as such huge stock would not be easy to effectively audit.

It could be recalled that the Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Finance recently visited the National Revenue Authority at their Bathurst Street Headquarters in Freetown to ascertain what is actually obtaining in that institution. One of the issues that stood out was that of the printing of the GST receipt books in Ghana which is alleged to have been the clandestine initiative of Dr. Richard Konteh. The assessment visit which culminated in an indoor meeting was centered on the said receipt books which printing contract was surreptitiously entered into by the deputy minister and his cohorts at NRA.

The matter is extremely topical at the moment and a local tabloid yesterday reported that it should be discussed at Cabinet level. As of last evening, no word had come out from the said cabinet Meeting held yesterday.

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