Sierra Leone Takes in Seeking Justice for Misused Ebola Fund as Liberia Still Relaxed over Corruption Allegation
Monrovia – Since June 2018, the Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission (LACC) recommended to the Ministry of Justice to prosecute top officials of the Liberia National Red Cross Society based on a whistle-blower allegation in November 2015 relating to acts of corruption.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
However, the recommendation was ignored.
The LACC investigation found Emmanuel O. Kparh responsible for not accounting for US$52,000.00.
The Anti-graft body then recommended that Kparh be charged under the relevant provisions of the Penal Law for theft of property, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy, and fraud.
The complaint revealed that two contracts for the supply of hygienic materials during the “Ebola crisis” in 2014 and the renovation on the Red Cross building were awarded on the basis of non-competitive procurement methods, which included suppliers’ collusion, forged and fabricated bids.
Ebola spread across Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea prompting the Red Cross Federation in Geneva, Switzerland to disburse cash donations to the national Red Cross societies in each of three countries, summing up to about US$100 million.
An investigation by Red Cross auditors has revealed that in Liberia US$2.7m disappeared in fraudulently overpriced supplies, or in salaries for non-existent aid workers.
In Sierra Leone, Red Cross staff apparently colluded with local bank workers to skim off over US$2 million.
Investigations are ongoing amid news that US$1m disappeared in fake customs bills.
Though the Liberian Government has failed to prosecute despite increase calls by Ebola survivors demanding the prosecutions for fraud and corruption that cost lives.
Two Ebola survivors and an NGO have sued the Sierra Leone government at the ECOWAS Court in Nigeria, that the misappropriated Ebola funds led to the aggravation and needless death of citizens in numbers which otherwise should not have been.
The Sierra Leone survivors are suing their government in the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court in Abuja, Nigeria.
The court’s rulings are legally binding, but some past decisions have, in practice, been ignored by member states.
Sierra Leone’s Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) help brought the case to court.
The plaintiffs are seeking financial compensation, an acknowledgement that their rights were violated, and the formation of a national commission to investigate civil and criminal liability from the alleged misuse of funds.
The case was filed in January 2018 by CARL and two Ebola survivors (plaintiffs). The Sierra Leone Government has written twice (in July and Nov 2018) to the plaintiffs that they preferred the case out of court.
Yet, the Government has not come forth to settle up till today.
On February 26, 2019, the court dismissed the NGO request for joining the other parties in the case, the Sierra Leonean Association of Ebola Saviors (SLAES), on grounds that the organization is not a legal one.
SLAES president Yusuf Kabba said that it was unfortunate that the court denied their request to be one of the plaintiffs in the case.
He disclosed that the group is made of 4,052 Ebola survivors.
‘We survived the virus we might also survive this,” he narrates.
SLAES president said the group was established on January 17, 2015, and is resolved to go to the court because the Government failed to undertake its responsibility.
For his part, state lawyers Osman Kanu said he will consult with the Attorney General on the way forward.
He noted that there is no settlement yet, and they are yet to file their defense because the matter has been adjoined to July and they are awaiting instruction from the office of the Attorney General.
SLAES lawyers Yasmin Jusu said although ‘SLAES’ was not added as a plaintiff but expressed gladness that the court had asked the government to consider compensating the survivors.
Mr. Oludayo Fagbemi, CARL legal counsel, said his team got a request from the government in July to settle the case outside of the court but they have not heard from them.
“If the government does not want to proceed with the settlement, we remain also available to go into the merit of the case. For now, we just wait for the government to see what they will do,” he said.