From Awareness Times Newspaper in
Sierra Leone Cabinet Minister Calls On Police to Investigate Conspiracy to Defraud Donor Funds
By Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Jul 22, 2016, 17:17
Hon. Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden Reports a Criminal Conspiracy to Defraud Salone of Donor Funds
Honourable Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs
New England Ville, Freetown, Republic of Sierra Leone
MONDAY 18TH JULY 2016
TO: Inspector General of Police
TO: Assistant Inspector General of Police for Crime Services
TO: Director of Criminal Investigations Department of Sierra Leone Police
COPY: His Excellency the President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma
COPY: The Honourable Vice President Dr. Victor Bockarie Foh
CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD GOVERNMENT OF DONOR FUNDS
This is a Report of a Conspiracy and it is being reported against a foreign-owned Internet company called AFCOM SL Ltd, my predecessor Alhaji Moijue Kaikai and some staff of Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) which ministry I currently head. I upfront wish to inform that this is a sensitive matter because of the following reasons:
1. AFCOM’s Managing Director, Adel Suliman, a Sudanese foreigner, is on record to be a close associate of senior government officials.
2. Secondly, AFCOM has the ability to manipulate its way through our government and get away with outrageous acts of criminality. For example, they were recently caught in SIMBox fraud and they wriggled out of it.
3. Alhaji Moijue Kaikai is seen as an important member of the ruling All Peoples Congress (APC) party and a proverbial ‘sacred cow’ by some.
4. Key AFCOM Director Honourable Ansumana Kaikai is an elected member of Parliament under the opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP).
It is against the above backdrop that I am submitting my Criminal complaint today with a hope that the Sierra Leone Police will be able to investigate this matter without being subjected to any intimidation or fear of powerful persons who might have interest in quelling this serious report of a grand criminal conspiracy.
Now, my predecessor Alhaji Moijue Kaikai, most curiously refused to do a formal handing-over of Office of Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs so I have had to diligently find out on my own, what the state of affairs are.
In that vein, on assuming office in April 2016 with no guidance notes, I asked the ministry’s Head of Professional Services (Joseph Sinnah), the Deputy Head of Professional Services (Mrs. Mariatu Bangura), each of the four Directors and an alleged Child Protection Consultant (Tina Davies) to submit to me a Status Report on their Activities. I also asked Head of ICT (Mrs. Mariama Yormah) to submit to me a Status Report on the fast Internet Connectivity, which my predecessor (Alhaji Moijue Kaikai) had announced in the print, electronic and social media was now working in every single district of Sierra Leone. Please find one such media report quoting Moijue Kaikai (Exclusive Newspaper of 10th March 2016) attached to this complaint as Annex A1/A2. In that news interview which was referenced on front page of Exclusive Newspaper as his “legacy” he was leaving behind, my predecessor is quoted inter alia thus:
“Under my watch as Minister, all the 14 districts including the Western Rural District and the headquarters can boast of having ultra modern offices, equipped with solar light and Wi-Fi Internet facility”
Please find the April 2016 report from Mariama Yormah attached as Annex B. In that report, she claims the contracted internet installations were working “effectively” in listed locations. Important to note at this point that what was contracted was not just any kind of Internet but installation of high speed and very expensive ($700/month) VSAT Internet service.
Please find report of Director of Children’s Affairs (Mrs. Kadi Buya-Kamara) attached as Annex C-1 alongside a draft attached as Annex C-2 which had been initially done by her deputy. On the day I took over, Mrs. Buya Kamara had not been to work and her deputy had drafted the status report on behalf of that directorate but Mrs. Buya Kamara on eventually appearing for work, vehemently rejected that draft as not being reflective of the facts so she refused to sign it.
The vehemence with which Mrs. Kadi Buya Kamara had rejected the draft done by her deputy, drew my curiousity and I enquired of this. In response, Mrs. Buya Kamara took her time to explain issues including the fact that though a contracted Internet Connectivity for all 13 districts (including Western Rural district) by Afcom was supposed to be under her mandate as it was a Child Protection programme, she, as Director of Children’s Affairs, had been sidelined from it and from another psychosocial support by my predecessor Moijue Kaikai, Madam Tina Davies, Joseph Sinnah, Mariatu Bangura and Mariama Yormah.
I then advised her to re-write the Report in a way she considered as factual and to express her concerns in the re-written report. So the two reports are here attached as Annex C1 (Buya Kamara’s) and Annex C2 (rejected version).
Also, a Joint Report by Mrs. Tina Davies, Mr. Joseph Sinnah and Mrs. Mariatu Bangura is attached as Annex D1. It can be seen Mrs. Kadi Buya-Kamara’s name was typed as a proposed co-signer of the Report but again, Buya-Kamara refused to sign that joint report; giving me the same reasons she had earlier stated:- that she could not vouch for the correctness of the claims contained in the Joint Report so she will not sign the report. The three other co-signers on Page 7 of their report, fully endorsed as factual, their referenced attachment which was a special report on “Case Management & Information Management Systems”. That CMIMS report was authored and signed specifically by Mrs. Mariatu Bangura, the Deputy Head of Professional Services and is here attached as Annex D2.
Mr. Charles Vandi, Director of Gender who had been doubling as MSWGCA Sector Lead in post-Ebola Presidential Delivery Team (PDT), gave me copies of Weekly updates (Dashboard Reports) that he had been submitting to His Excellency the President at State House about activities of the 6-9 months President’s Post-Ebola Recovery priorities. According to submissions he made on March 24th 2016 and March 31st 2016, Mr. Charles Vandi informed His Excellency the President that Internet Services had been installed in all 14 locations. As this complaint will show, that was a brazen lie by Mr. Vandi which indicated very high level of utter disrespect for the President. I was to later request from Dr. Yakama Jones, the Data Manager at the PDT for copies of all of what Mr. Charles Vandi had presented to the President at State House about the ministry’s programmes. Dr. Jones sent me data in her possession which had been submitted to His Excellency the President by Mr. Charles Vandi. Dr. Jones’ data she gave me for March 2016, was identical to what I received from Mr. Charles Vandi and they falsely indicated Internet had been installed in 14 locations around Sierra Leone. The March 24th and March 31st reports are here attached as Annex E1 and Annex E2.
Also attached here as Annex F, is a report on the ministry’s EVD Response by Charles Vandi. On Page 3 of that report, under accomplishments, he categorically informs that CMIMS (Case Management and Information Management System) equipment was installed in all districts and delivering service effectively. It was untrue and part of the conspiracy to pretend Internet service was being delivered.
Also attached here as Annex G1 is another document that I received from Mr. Sinnah, professional head at MSWGCA which was an Original Invoice prepared by Mr. ADEL SULIMAN who is CEO of Afcom (SL) Limited, a foreigner from Sudan and also a flight risk should investigations commence. That Afcom Invoice dated March 29th 2016 was demanding full balance payment that Adel Suliman claimed was “outstanding” payment for services worth $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Dollars). These alleged completed services included installation of Internet Services to 14 locations at a cost of $14,000; annual Internet Subscription for 14 locations at cost of $117,600 (One Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred Dollars); amongst others.
The Invoice stated Afcom had been paid, a little over 40% of total ($82,142.86) and was demanding “outstanding” balance of $117,857.14 (One Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Eight Hundred & Fifty Seven Dollars and Fourteen Cents).
I requested of Permanent Secretary (P.S.) Momo Bockarie Foh for understanding of the Afcom and district Internet installations. In replying, he informed that although he was the Permanent Secretary, he had no idea about the Afcom contract. I found that very strange and I told him so. He furthered that it was my predecessor Alhaji Moijue Kaikai who was the mastermind behind entire Afcom contract. He drew my attention to actual VSAT Contract signed with Afcom and pointed out that though he should have signed it, my predecessor had manipulated to have Head of Professional Services, Joseph Sinnah sign it without P.S. knowledge as to how it came about.
I was quite intrigued at it all especially as both the Permanent Secretary and the Director of Children’s Affairs who were both supposed to know about this Child Protection Internet service, were vehemently distancing themselves from any knowledge of what was happening with Afcom. So, using my journalism skills, I undertook some quiet investigations and learnt that infact, Afcom in connivance with Alhaji Moijue Kaikai and other staff of my ministry, were actually conspiring to defraud the Government into paying for services not ever rendered and that all the media interviews given by Moijue Kaikai claiming he left Internet installed in every district, were all part of a larger conspiracy to hoodwink His Excellency the President, Donor Partners and the general public. The facts which quietly unfolded were startling. It was clear that even beyond the $200,000 conspiracy, a Multi-Million Dollars Donor-funded project to, amongst other things, provide VSAT Internet service to all district offices, was not functional and had failed on many aspects due to fraud and incompetence.
Armed with that information I had quietly gathered, on Friday 15th April 2016, exactly one week after I took office, I decided to undertake a whirlwind nation-wide tour of the entire country in order to elicit the reasons why a Multi-Million Dollars Donor-funded project to, amongst other things, provide VSAT Internet service to all district offices, was not functional despite the contract signed by Afcom SL Limited with the Ministry to provide such 12 months internet service at cost of $182,400 (One Hundred and Eighty Two Thousand, Four Hundred U.S. Dollars) alongside provide another totally different supply of Call Center equipment and configuration at $17,600 (Seventeen Thousand, Six Hundred U.S. Dollars) for a grand total of $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand U.S. Dollars).
The proposed VSAT Internet Service that was contracted in 2015, was primarily to ensure every district office (including Western Rural & Headquarters) could use an expensive UNICEF-procured, Internet-based software called PRIMERO to upload on to a secure web-based online computer server, critical information on cases of children needing various forms of social protection around Sierra Leone. A second benefit was that it will expand reach of a proposed 116 Call Center that was to have been installed at the ministry’s headquarters so it could also receive free calls concerning child protection from all the districts.
At this point, I wish to remind the Sierra Leone Police that in addition to being a fully trained and qualified medical doctor, I am also a well experienced Internet Consultant who operated my own Internet Consultancy company here in Sierra Leone, other African countries and in America. In Washington DC, USA, my company, known as WEST AFRICA DOT NET LIMITED was registered by the Government of Washington DC with me as the President & Chief Executive Officer. At the turn of this 21st Century, that my Internet company was the foremost Internet service consultant serving the West African subregion from the capital of the United States. In such capacity, I assisted West African leaders and governments to unravel complicated Internet issues. See Annex H for a news report on how 14 years ago, I assisted the Sierra Leone Police to use Internet to catch criminals in December 2002.
In my capacity as an Internet Consultant, I now wish to advise Sierra Leone Police of the difference between a VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) satellite ground station which delivers fast Internet service and a microwave Radio link ‘line-of-sight’ Internet service. Firstly, it is important to note that a VSAT Internet service can be up to ten times (x10) more expensive than a microwave/radio service.
Most critically for this scenario is that VSAT Internet service only needs electricity supply on location for it to connect to Satellite supplying it but in sharp contrast, a line-of-sight radio link is piggybacking off a local base station that must be within visible distance. So, even if a radio link has electricity supply at its installed location, if the “line-of-sight” base station it is accessing Internet service from is not powered with electricity, the radio link cant supply Internet to that location.
Therefore, for this critical child protection Case Management Internet/computer software system, a VSAT satellite system is much better for rural district offices than an unreliable microwave Radio link. This against backdrop that the proposed Case Management & Information Management Systems (CMIMS) with PRIMERO software should be accessible 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to my ministry and Partners; all at huge cost of US$2,114,333.00 (Two Million, One Hundred and Fourteen Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty Three United States Dollars).
So it was that on 28th September 2015, MSWGCA signed a contract with Afcom to install very expensive VSAT Internet services ($700 per month per district) in all district offices - based on Afcom’s 9th September 2015 Technical and Financial offerings. Please see the Contract itself, the Financial Proposal and the Technical Proposal attached as Annex I, Annex J and Annex K respectively.
As is seen from the Contract in its Title, Preamble and Article 1.1(c), Afcom was to have deployed a very expensive VSAT Internet service to all my ministry’s district offices including the one in Western Rural Area at Waterloo as well as to Western Urban headquarters location. According to terms of contract, Afcom was to take no more than 3 weeks to install the VSAT Internet services at each district offices and no more than 5 weeks to complete entire $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Dollars) contract. Immediately after signing the Contract last year, the United Nations Child Protection agency, UNICEF, paid out the sum of $82,142.86 to Afcom from designated African Development Bank donor funds based on terms of Contract signed with my ministry.
Annex G1 is the March 29th 2016 Invoice prepared by Mr. Adel Suleiman himself and addressed to my Ministry in which Afcom is demanding for the sum of US$117,857.14 they claim is an “outstanding balance” on the $200,000.00. I want to draw attention to the DATE of that Invoice. It was issued between the time my predecessor was sacked on March 7th 2016 and the time I took up office on April 7th 2016. It was issued following several media interviews of the sacked Moijue Kaikai wherein he had claimed he left all 14 locations (districts & headquarters) installed with Internet access. The Conspiracy to defraud is glaring.
As I had earlier stated, upon me sensing something was not correct about the Invoice and Contract, I ordered for payment to be halted and for more background information to be given to me on this service for which we were to pay $200,000. I was given responses but they were not satisfactory and so since I did not have a single Handing Over note from my predecessor Moijue Kaikai, I decided to physically check so-called VSAT Internet services purportedly installed at my ministry’s various district offices. I invited both UNICEF and AFCOM to travel with me as I did the inspection between April 15th 2016 and April 18th 2016. (See Annex L).
My findings were abysmal. I was shocked at the brazen extent of the Conspiracy to defraud. There was no VSAT Internet service installed in any of the 13 district offices or Headquarters. Only very unstable and dysfunctional Microwave Radio-linked “line of sight” Internet equipment were installed – and even at that, only in 11 locations. So, the Internet either did not work or had never been installed at many locations. Furthermore, at those districts where Internet was accessible, district staff swiftly confirmed that stability and speed of the Internet were usually of poor quality but Afcom deceptively improved service to coincide with my visit.
In Bonthe and Port Loko districts, Afcom had not even bothered to even do any internet service but they were demanding to be paid $200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Dollars) in full. This was nothing other than Brazen Thievery. When placed against the media utterances of my predecessor Alhaji Moijue Kaikai that he had left office with Internet installed and working in all districts together with the reports of Charles Vandi, Tina Davies, Joseph Sinnah and Mariatu Bangura, a grand conspiracy to defraud Government of Donor Funds and to perpetuate Brazen thievery, clearly unfolds. The Conspirators also had no fear of being caught neither did they have required respect for His Excellency the President as evidenced by the submission of Mr. Charles Vandi to no less a person but the President himself that Internet Services had been installed in all 14 locations as of March 24th 2016 and March 31st 2016. It must be noted that it was in person that Mr. Charles Vandi submitted Updates to His Excellency the President. The brazenness of the conspiracy is grievous.
What this all means is that, Afcom had no business sending out that March 29th 2016 Invoice requesting for “outstanding balance” so as to be settled for all the $200,000 and my ministry staff had no business encouraging Afcom to send in such Invoice.
There was another poignant aspect. As a new Cabinet Minister who took up office on 7th April 2016, I was also faced with a situation wherein I received strong warnings from UNICEF urging me to proceed “before May 7th 2016” with disbursing remaining funds totalling over $1,000,000 (one million dollars) from an African Development Bank (AfDB) Grant ‘SM140052’ entitled: “STRENGTHENING COORDINATION AND OVERSIGHT CAPACITY TO PROVIDE CARE AND SUPPORT TO EBOLA AFFECTED CHILDREN” from which $2,114,333.00 Grant, the payment to Afcom was to be made. UNICEF alerted me both verbally and in writing that they doubted if AfDB will do another extension after May 7th since the Bank already did an extension in December 2015. UNICEF wrote to AfDB exploring possibility of such another extension beyond May 7th 2016. (Please see Annex M). In the letter, the remoteness of such extension was implied.
The entire expenditure for this failed Child Protection Case Management system is in excess of two million dollars. This very expensive venture cannot work if there is no Internet installed at the districts. Afcom cannot be paid by UNICEF unless I approve that they have completed installation as contracted for. If they did not complete the Installation by May 7th 2016, the funds will be lost and the entire project would have crumbled.
I was placed under tremendous pressure by my staff, UNICEF staff and other persons for me to approve the disbursement of over one million dollars before May 7th 2016. I however believed that the children of Sierra Leone deserved better than what was turning out to be a failed Child Protection system. So, I stood my ground and refused to approve for disbursement of balance payments. I only approved for two months salaries for contracted social workers and for continuing the programme’s coordination. I stopped all other payments including that which Afcom was demanding to be paid.
As the clock ticked towards May 7th 2016, the pressure on me to pay AFCOM and disburse the over one million dollars, reached astronomical levels. On May 3rd 2016, just four (4) days to deadline of May 7th 2016, I had cause to call the Police when we discovered a foreign herbalist (Juju-man) from Niger with an AFCOM staff; complete with a bag full of African black magic implements hunched down together just few feet from the secluded enclave entrance to my Minister Office door where I had been set to pass by. Both the 32 years old herbalist and AFCOM staff had no business being there. They were handed to Police for investigations.
I continued to stand my ground that I will not approve disbursement of the funds. Most interestingly, reason prevailed and suddenly on May 6th 2016, UNICEF informed me that AfDB was now pliable for my humble self to sign to extend the usage of the Grant beyond May 7th 2016 until September 30th 2016. This extension automatically gave leeway for Afcom to regularise the status quo by doing what they had signed contract to do which was to install expensive VSAT Internet service in 14 locations. I agreed to the extension in principle and patiently bade my time watching to see if the Conspirators will amend attempt to defraud the Government of Donor Funds.
I want to here state that when I raised an alarm during my April trip to the Provinces, a “Public Notice” from Afcom (Annex N) that publicly attacked my person, gave excuses as to why Afcom could not install the VSAT Internet systems they were contracted to install in the district offices. I can assure that none of those stated excuses are tenable. All they point to, is a criminal collaboration between Afcom, my predecessor and some of my ministry’s staff.
After I used my ICT skills to scientifically debunk their excuses and upon them realising my resolve not to honour their Invoice for uncompleted Internet services, Afcom then proceeded to write an open Apology (Annex O) to me; distancing themselves from the “Public Notice” which they publicly disowned with an amusing claim that they did not know where it originated from.
With a respite now given - that the AfDB Grant will be extended to September 30th 2016 - Afcom proceeded to carry out Internet installations in Port Loko and Bonthe for the first time ever since they signed the Contract in 2015. In other words, despite their earlier criminal attempt to collect Donor Funds for services which they had not rendered, it was only in June that they finally installed Internet to Port Loko and Bonthe. However, as earlier stated, the Internet they have installed in Port Loko is not the VSAT which we contracted them to do. Similarly, the Internet in Bonthe, whilst supposedly being VSAT, is not stable or reliable. The 14th location which should have been the Headquarters, is yet to receive any VSAT Internet connectivity. Since I took up office, all I have been using is Internet Service from another company known as IPTEL whilst the rest of MSWGCA staff are using government’s ECOWAN K-1 Internet services.
When I first raised an alarm back in April 2016, Mr. Adel Suliman, the CEO of Afcom simply packed his bags and flew out of the country. He is a foreigner from Sudan. I wish to reiterate that Mr. Adel Suliman is a flight risk and so during the Police investigations, this must be taken due note of. Since I knew Mr. Suliman was quite key to the criminal investigations that this matter deserved, I patiently awaited his return from his flight overseas. He has since returned to the country and has now, sent yet another Invoice he prepared to my ministry, requesting to be paid. Interestingly, this latest Invoice was prepared by Mr. Adel Suliman twice. The first one had an error in the date which was botched as “Billing Period: July-March 1 2016”; it was a modification of the March 2016 one. Realising his error, Mr. Adel Suliman later that same day, sent a second one which had error corrected and Invoice re-dated as 29 June 2016 (29/06/2016). These Invoice were verbatim of 29th March 2016 demand for $117,857.14 (One Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Eight Hundred & Fifty Seven Dollars and Fourteen Cents). The June Invoice got accompanied by a covering letter from Afcom’s Managing Director Mahmoud Idriss in which he describes it as Afcom’s “final invoice for the service” and gives another document which he claims are “complete scope of deliverables, indicating completion for all items” they were contracted for. The two June Invoices and accompanying letter & attachments are all here attached as Annex-G2, Annex-G3, Annex-G4 and Annex-G5.
However, it is clear that contrary to succinct Title, Preamble & Article 1.1(c) of the Contract (Annex I) defining the Internet service to be installed was through VSAT systems, in reality, not a single VSAT Internet installation has been installed in 13 locations whilst the only VSAT Internet installation supposedly done in Bonthe (yet to be verified if it is indeed VSAT), is not reliable. Despite this glaring lack of service, Afcom is again writing to demand payment and brazenly copied UNICEF Country Director into this their latest demand letter. The Conspiracy to defraud the Government of Donor Funds is still continuing.
Attached here as Annex P is also a report dated July 7th 2016 by Mariama Yormah in which she states under “key deliverables #3” Afcom has completed Internet Service they got contracted for; but Afcom contract is to deliver VSAT Internet service so Where are the VSATs?
In light of all the above and in a bid to set an example that will act as a deterrent, I hereby request that a criminal investigation be opened into what I see as Grand Conspiracy. I am forwarding this matter to Criminal Investigations Department of Sierra Leone Police and not directly to the Anti Corruption Commission as it is not a corruption case but rather a criminal attempt to defraud Government through a widescale conspiracy. This falls squarely under purview of the Sierra Leone Police.
This is furthermore, a Conspiracy which has the potential to deprive the children of this country from getting benefits of a Donor-funded Programme that was in excess of two million dollars.
Indeed, whilst this complaint focuses on aspect of failure to install VSAT Internet as contracted for but yet still conspiring to defraud the State for services not rendered, I will like the Sierra Leone Police to also be aware that there are other areas of criminal activities perpetuated at MSWGCA under the 6-9 months Post-Ebola programme. For example, if you look at the Dashboard Reports submitted by Charles Vandi (Annex E1/E2), he makes claim about “Case management tools being used by Social Workers & NGOs”. That entire issue of “Case Management Tools” and “Social Workers” is engulfed in deception, corruption and fraud.The Police might wish to open an investigation into that matter if they so desire.
Indeed, some ministry staff have glaring criminal culpability in this conspiracy but from my initial findings so far, I may wish to exclude Permanent Secretary Mr. Momoh Bockarie Foh and Director of Children’s Affairs Mrs. Kadi Buya-Kamara who could both however help police investigators shed light on this serious malfeasance of ongoing conspiracy to defraud Sierra Leone of Donor Funds.
The following should however be very helpful during Police investigations:
· MR. CHARLES VANDI, the Gender Director at MSWGCA
· MR. JOSEPH CHARLES SINNAH, Head of Professional Services, MSWGCA
· MRS. MARIATU BANGURA, Deputy Head of Professional Services, MSWGCA
· MRS. MARIAMA YORMAH, the Head of ICT attached to MSWGCA
· MRS. TINA DAVIES, the former Child Protection Consultant at MSWGCA
· ALHAJI MOIJUE KAIKAI, former Minister whose relative is Afcom Director
· MR. ADEL SULEIMAN, the CEO of Afcom
· MR. MAHMOUD IDRISS, the Managing Director of Afcom
· MR. LATILEWA ROBERTS, Business Development Manager of Afcom
· MRS. FATIMA GBONDO, the Chief Finance Officer of Afcom who signs Invoices
For this particular complaint of conspiracy, given that even His Excellency the President was treated with such disrespect by Ministry officials feeding him with LIES at State House, all in bid to conspire to defraud Donor Funds, it is my greatest hope that Sierra Leone Police will treat this conspiracy to defraud matter with importance it deserves and that no matter the influence Mr. Adel Suliman, might wield in certain key circles, he would be brought to book for his role in this criminal conspiracy that affects the welfare of the Children of Sierra Leone.
Dr. Sylvia Olayinka Blyden
Hon. Minister of Social Welfare, Gender & Children’s Affairs.
CC: The Commissioner, Anti Corruption Commission
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