From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, Accountant-General Opened Judiciary’s ECOBANK account
By Aruna Turay
Aug 19, 2010, 21:22

The Master & Registrar of the High Court, Elwyn Bailor Esq. has told a cross-section of local journalists that the Judiciary’s Bank Account held at ECOBANK(SL) Ltd. is an old Account which was procedurally opened over three years ago by the Accountant-General’s Office. The Master was speaking during an interactive session held by himself and the Consultant Master Julia Sarkodie-Mensah with local journalists in the Judiciary’s Conference Room in Freetown past Monday August 16th 2010.

The Meeting was the first interactive session between the Judiciary and members of the print media. It was called up following Judicial authorities realising that their age-old practise of being conservative with the media had not served the institution well and resulted in serious unfounded adverse publicity one of which was an allegation that Judiciary’s Bank Accounts had been moved from Government Banks to local subsidiaries of Foreign Banks.

Elaborating further on the issue of the ECOBANK account was Mrs. Julia Sarkodie Mensah who first of all debunked an allegation repeatedly published in a local tabloid that she specifically had closed the Judiciary’s Account at the Government owned Sierra Leone Commercial Bank and transferred it to a foreign subsidiary Bank, the ECOBANK.

“I have never closed any Bank Account in Sierra Leone. To be even more specific, we [Judiciary] have never closed one Bank Account at a Government Bank in order to move it to ECOBANK. That is simply an outright lie,” Sarkodie-Mensah insisted following which she laid out the procedure for which Bank Accounts are opened for Government institutions, the Judiciary included.

“No Government Department or Institution can just walk into a Bank and open a Bank Account. Only the Accountant-General opens Bank Accounts for any institution and even the Accountant General needs to first get clearance from the Financial Secretary and go through other processes before he can open the Bank Account and this is exactly how the ECOBANK Account was opened for the Judiciary,” Sarkodie-Mensah explained adding that contrary to recent tabloid allegations, the ECOBANK Account was not a newly opened one but had been opened over three years ago since the days of the former Chief Justice Dr. Ade Renner-Thomas.

According to Mrs. Sarkodie-Mensah, when the Judiciary got funds from the United Nations’ Peace Building Fund, there were certain conditions from the Donors which included the auditing and monitoring of the Bank Account transactions so they could not use their regular Bank Accounts already opened as the Donor funds could not be mixed with regular Government funds.

“So, we needed to open a brand new Account. This was during the tenure of the former Chief Justice Dr. Ade Renner-Thomas,” she explained.

Sarkodie-Mensah said the Judiciary looked at the options provided by all the operated Banks and concluded that ECOBANK,  “provided us with the best offer for our needs then so with the concurrence of the former Chief Justice, we made an application to the Accountant-General for him to open the Account for the Judiciary at ECOBANK. It was duly approved by the Accountant General back then by the name of Cyprian Kamaray after he got approval from the Financial Secretary back then Mr. Sambadeen Sesay”.

Buttressing her explanation was Master Elwyn Bailor who explained to journalists that what the Judiciary did was to “fill out the Mandate Forms, the Signature Cards and Application Forms with passport sized photographs and take all the completed forms and details to the Accountant-General with a request for approval for the Accountant-General to open the Bank Account”.

“It is the Accountant-General who after getting clearance from the Financial Secretary and the Bank of Sierra Leone who actually forwards the application, in the name of the Judiciary, to the relevant Banking authority so it is the Accountant General who gives the approval to any Bank to open a Government Institution’s Bank Account and this is exactly how the Judiciary’s ECOBANK Account was opened during the days of former Chief Justice Ade Renner-Thomas. We went strictly by the book and followed all rules and procedures to open the Special Account for Peace Building Funds at ECOBANK,” said Master Elwyn Bailor.

Master Bailor revealed the Judiciary currently had “two accounts running at the Sierra Leone Commercial bank and four at the Bank of Sierra Leone as well as the much talked about ECOBANK Account”. He insisted that if it had been Government policy for Institutions not to open Accounts at non-Governmental Banks, the Accountant-General would not have approved nor opened the Account for the Judiciary’s Peace Building Funds at the ECOBANK.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Sarkodie-Mensah said she was satisfied with the quality of service, especially the automated functions, that the PBF Account enjoyed at ECOBANK. She revealed that Donors were regularly monitoring the various Bank Accounts to ensure compliance and the Donors had never expressed dissatisfaction.

“All the time, we receive teams of auditors to check our compliance and we have never been found wanting in our Banking practice,” she boasted.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.