A suit believed to have been tabled before the International Commercial Court of Arbitration in London by Slone Telecommunication Limited against the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM), and by extension the government of Sierra Leone, has seen Sierra Leone’s Attorney General asserting that: “the government of Sierra Leone has spent about US$600,000 (4.5 Billion Leones) on legal fees alone.”
Joseph Fitzerald Kamara last week confirmed however that ‘a suit costing US$150M is now before the UK court against NATCOM, but that his office (office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice) seems pushing for ‘an out of court settlement.’
Kamara, sorry to say, still could not answer to questions relating to the merit of the complaint against NATCOM, whether Slone did its part of the contract awarded them by NATCOM, whether Slone has asked for a 10% of the US$150 million suit as out of court settlement package, whether copy of writ of summon can be made available for public consumption and, of course, whether he (Kamara) has at any point in time visited the UK with handful of NATCOM officials for a meeting undisclosed, etc.
Ridiculous nonetheless, is the fact that recent revelation by a local tabloid seems quoting Kamara, who recently has said that his government (the ruling APC) is pushing for ‘an out of court settlement’ with Slone, now saying that “the government of Sierra Leone has spent about US$600, 000” yet has failed to advance an explanation on how such an enormous sum (tax payers’ money) could have been regrettably washed-out, rather has inadequately claimed same was spent ‘on legal fees in London,’ Global Times Publication in Sierra Leone.
It is true Slone Telecommunication Limited was contracted by NATCOM to monitor the Sierra Leone gateway on 12 August, 2014, amended on 21 August 2015 respectively.
In the contract, it was agreed that Slone should be paying US$17M annually to government.
But that NATCOM under the chairmanship of Momoh Konte, on 14 January 2015 cancelled contractual services for the monitoring of international gateway in Sierra Leone between NATCOM and Slone.
In paragraph three of the letter of cancellation, it is woefully stated that: “however, we are sorry to inform you that due to ‘unforeseen’ circumstances, the commission wishes to state that the agreement between the commission and Slone (SL) Limited above mentioned on the international gateway monitoring services is hereby cancelled.”
This, according to Slone, was the basis of the nature of the suit, which has seen them compelling NATCOM and the Government of Sierra Leone pay US$150M as was calculated on the cancelled ten years contract, reportedly estimated at US$15M annually.
Disheartening anyway is the fact that in the agreement between Slone and NATCOM, Sierra Leone was to have been benefitting US$17M yearly, and may have also had the opportunity of using the very agreement in securing loan oversees, with payment including interest coming directly from Slone Limited.
That Suba, a Ghanaian Company, which sadly is the company that was eventually awarded the contract to monitor the Sierra Leone gateway barely commenced operations six months after it was given the contract, and as we speak, the company is said to be regrettably generating US$600,000 a month and paying a skimpy US$300 to NATCOM; which annually is totaling US$3.6M compared to Slone, which had opted paying US$17M annually.
Reference is further drawn to a situation in which one Dr. Marah, a Sierra Leonean living in South Africa, last year came with a conglomerate of South African companies, to, in effect, lure them spend over US$300M in the telecommunications industry of Sierra Leone but were discouraged following an alleged bribery scam.
It is reported also that an international company that recently vested interest on investing on roaming internet services in Sierra Leone, with an investment value of US$280M was likewise discouraged on a reason of 10% kickback of the total cost of investment.
Although the Attorney General has deliberately not responded to questions forwarded him by the NEW AGE, many have asked that the US$600,000 reportedly expended by the Sierra Leone government on legal fees in the ongoing Slone Vs NATCOM trial in London must be investigated by the Anti Corruption Commission.
Others say the AG must be compelled to fully give an account of how the US$600,000 correspondingly Le4.5 billion of Sierra Leone’s money was spent on legal fees.
The question as also asked by many is whether Sierra Leone no longer has state council lawyers to defend the country on issues of legalities in any court of law whatsoever.
The Director of Corporate Affairs, Abdul Kuyateh refused to comment on the issue rather referred NEW AGE to the Legal Adviser of NATCOM, Mohamed Nuru Kamara who also refused to comment on the matter because in his words, “the matter is in court.”
More details next edition.