Office of the Attorney General and NATCOM have still not come clean over US$600,000 (correspondingly Le4.5 billion) allegedly spent on legal fees in a matter before the UK courts between Slone Telecommunication Limited versus NATCOM.
Although country’s Attorney General last week told the Global Times that government has unfortunately spent a whooping Le4.5 billion on legal fees in London, he has still not explained how such an enormous amount have been spent just like that.
It is also still not known whether the said amount had come from the consolidated fund or directly from funds generated by NATCOM.
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 NATCOM being asked to pay US$150M compensation for its unreasonable annulment of gateways monitoring contract awarded Slone; an Irish owned telecommunication company.
Joseph Fitzerald Kamara, weeks ago, confirmed that a suit costing US$150M is before the UK court against NATCOM, but said his office (office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice) is pushing for ‘an out of court settlement.’
He further claimed that the government of Sierra Leone has spent US$600,000 (4.5 Billion Leones) on legal fees, but failed to explain how the amount was spent on sheer legal fees alone.
He has nonetheless not also answer to questions relating to the merit of complaint against NATCOM, whether Slone did its part of the contract formerly awarded them, whether Slone has asked for a 10% of the US$150 million suit as out of court settlement package, whether copy of the writ of summon can be given to the media for public consumption and, of course, whether he (Kamara), as country’s Attorney General, has at any point visited the UK with handful of NATCOM officials for a meeting undisclosed, etc.
Our attention has been drawn to the fact that NATCOM’s letter of cancellation on the gateways contract to Slone, dated 14th January 2015, seems not explain any reason (s) at all, rather, in a singular paragraph, merely stated: “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 gateways monitoring services is hereby cancelled.”
This, to right thinking Sierra Leoneans, queries not just the credibility of management of NATCOM and office of the Attorney General, but the presumed wisdom of the board of NATCOM, who, no doubt, are paid from country’s taxpayers’ money.
It is true Slone Telecommunication Limited was contracted by NATCOM to monitor the Sierra Leone gateways on 12 August, 2014, amended on 21 August 2015 respectively.
In the contract, it was agreed that Slone should pay US$17M annually to government.
But NATCOM under the chairmanship of Momoh Konte, on 14 January 2015, cancelled contractual services for the monitoring of international gateways in Sierra Leone between NATCOM and Slone.
In paragraph three of the letter of cancellation, it is stated however that the above was done owing to ‘unforeseen’ circumstances,’ and just that.
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.
Sources say that the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) gave their professional advice preceding the cancellation of the Slone-NATCOM contract by NATCOM, but was given hard hearing ears.
The above and other reasons were the cause for what has seen Sierra Leone now being sued in UK courts, where they recently claim to have spent US$600,000 (Le4.5 billion) of taxpayers’ money on mere legal fees just like that.
Disheartening anyway is the fact that in the agreement between Slone and NATCOM, Sierra Leone may have benefitted US$17M yearly, and may have 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 gateways barely commenced operations six months after it was given the contract, and as we speak, the company is reportedly regretfully 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.
The contracted gateways monitor, Suba, is yet to own itself a better office space, rather now sharing facilities owned by Sierratel at Aberdeen.
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.”