PRESS RELEASE – KAREFA KARGBO LT.COL (RTD)
My attention has been drawn to the Government of Sierra Leone White Paper on the recently concluded Justice Biobele George-Will Commission of Inquiry more particularly, Chapter Nine on Investigation into the Activities of the Petroleum Directorate between the period November 2007 and April 2018. I note with grave concern and deep consternation, that my name has been mentioned with an unfortunate, seemingly calculated attempt to tarnish my reputation by the passing of a judgment against my person for acts of grave impropriety.
The White Paper in the main stated against my person in Chapter 9 page 22 as follows:
”Government notes the Commission’s findings (9.5, p.108) on H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; ii. Raymond Kargbo; iii. Emmanuel Beresford Oshoba Coker; iv. Karefa Kargbo; v. Momodu L. Kargbo; vi. Dr. Michael S. Kargbo; vii. Dr. Kaifala Marah and their collaborators. The Commission found, among others, acts of impropriety, misappropriation, corruption, gross abuse of office and maladministration. That the reckless manner in which the persons in question dealt with the finances of the Government under their care and failure to provide leadership led to the loss of the total amount of i. Le72, 254, 506, 000. 00; and ii. USD15, 413, 821. 00.”
The White Paper further states at Chapter 9, page 22 in respect of my person:
Government accepts recommendations 1-5
1. The following persons shall jointly and severally refund and pay into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Government of Sierra Leone the sum of Le70, 294, 264, 523. 00 that had remained unaccounted for as monies not transferred to the single treasury account in 2017 and monies paid out illegally as terminal benefits to staff whilst still in the service of the Petroleum Directorate: i. H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma; ii. Raymond Kargbo; iii. Karefa Kargbo;
I was resident in Sierra Leone during the entire period the Commissions of Inquiry were performing their work. I was never invited, notified expressly or implied that I was a person of interest or that my presence was required as a witness at the Commission of inquiries. I therefore fail to appreciate how an adverse finding, or a judgment could be passed on my person with materially adverse and life challenging implications for myself and my family without being given the opportunity to have rebutted any accusations.
I wish my entire family, friends and the general public both in Sierra Leone and the wider world to note the following:
1. I was engaged at the Petroleum Directorate in the Accounting Department as the Financial Controller between the period August 2011 and 9th January 2016. During my time in charge of the finances at the Directorate, Audit Service Sierra Leone has never found us wanting and were always able to provide a clean opinion on our Financial Statements. Our internal control and accounting practices were commended as one of the best amongst Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the Government of Sierra Leone.
2. Due to my intervention and renegotiation of the financial terms of several key agreements, Government saw a substantial increase in Revenue from the Petroleum Sector. For the first time in fact, Petroleum Companies paid signing bonuses directly to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, raising over US$30 million for the Government of Sierra Leone.
3. My employment with the Petroleum Directorate was terminated for “insubordination” on the 9th January 2016; it follows therefore that:
i. I was not at the Directorate when the Single Treasury Account came into force in October 2017. I could not therefore have been involved or had any influence on the decision to pay or not pay monies into the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 2018. How could judgement then be passed that I should refund monies that were unaccounted for and not transferred to the Single Treasury Account in 2017.
ii. I was also no longer at the Directorate in 2017 or 2018 when members of staff were paid terminal benefits. When this was sought to be done during my time at the Directorate, I vehemently resisted the move and never implemented it, a stand that was part of the reason I was accused of “Insubordination.”
iii. I was also not in the employ of the Directorate in 2018 when SMRT was given a US$3,000,000 loan to purchase Biometric Machines for elections; I could not therefore have been involved in this issue.
iv. Even though I was the Financial Controller, when the NCP Loan of US$14,000,000 was made, the records show that that I was completely excluded from all meetings and was never even consulted on that issue. I was out of the Country when the entire transaction was effected and was never even informed by e-mail or text that there were even conversations about a loan. Even the Report of the Commission excludes me from involvement in this transaction by not naming me as a party to the contract.
v. When I returned to work, I only found out about the loan when I queried my Accounting Manager and the Director General about the status of the balances in our accounts; It was then that documents were presented to me saying the Director General was duly authorized and had control over all the finances of the Directorate and that there was no legal requirement to inform me of what was being done.
vi. After perusing the agreement, I subsequently informed my Director General that the President must have been ill advised to give his approval to that deal and that it was one of “the most stupid agreements I had ever seen” noting that this was not based on proper advice and sound judgment.
I am not a legal mind but my accounting and auditing background informs that you give opportunity to the subject of your work to explain or justify the action no matter how gross the allegation against same. In my experience, even persons who have been caught red handed acts of thievery of Government property by the Anti-Corruption Commission, are given a right to a fair hearing. How the Commission of Inquiry therefore came about to make an adverse finding against me, and the Government of Sierra Leone duly accepted the recommendations leaves me questioning the very core foundation of the professionalism of the Commission on which Government relied.
What seems to have been displaced in the minds of all involved in these unfortunate actions against my persons, is that when you put in print matters of such grave nature the consequences could not only be life changing and far reaching but could also affect every fabric of a person’s being with irreversible consequences;.
I have striven to serve my country all my life first in the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and later as an accountant with the utmost commitment to upholding the highest standards of probity and professionalism. I have been a Licensed Certified Accountant for the past 22 years. My profession demands upholding the highest standards of probity and professionalism. I have worked both locally in Sierra Leone and internationally in premier institutions and I have never been found wanting for impropriety or otherwise.
I have been informed by the Government that a process of Appeals was put in place exactly for people in my position. I have therefore retained legal representation and intend to pursue the protection and enforcement of legal rights to the fullest extent provided by law and seek adequate compensation for this morass.
I thank my wife and entire family for standing by me in these challenging times. Thanks also to my friends and colleagues for the support I have been receiving. I have really been touched by the number of people who have reached out to me in support and that remains the silver lining in all this. Be assured I will clear my name of these spurious, baseless, unfounded, and libelous charges.
Karefa Kargbo LT.COL (RTD)