Supplier of Mansakonko Area Council’s Covid-19 Food Relief Testifies

75

By Makutu Manneh

Almamo Dibba, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Nema-su Enterprise has testified before the Local Government Commission of Inquiry regarding the Covid-19 food supply he made to Mansakonko Area Council.

AlmamoDibba’sNema-su Enterprise was contracted to supply the Mansakonko Area Council rice and oil.

“Which company did you buy the rice from?” Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked.

“I cannot remember,” the witness replied.

“What was the cost of a bag of rice as it the time you purchased the bags of rice?” Chairperson Bah asked.

“I cannot remember,” the witness said.

The Commission was set up to do a full and impartial investigation into the local government councils from May 2018 to January 2023 through conducting a holistic and fair review of the financial and administrative activities of the councils in a view to enhance transparency and accountability.

He said at the time of applying for the contract, he was informed by the procurement officer of the Area Council, EbrimaSaidyleigh that there were other companies that applied for the supply of the food aid. He added that he had a meeting with the CEO and the procurement officer in the council before he was awarded the contract.

Counsel Patrick Gomez informed the witness that Jah Oil applied for the contract and offered a lesser and more reasonable price. The Lawyer said Nema-su Enterprise bid price was 600 Dalasi per bag of 25 kilogram of rice while Jah Oil bid price was 450 Dalasi per 25 kilogram of rice. Lawyer Gomez informed the witness that on 15 April 2020 the Contracts Committee of Mansakonko Area Council decided during their meeting that the contract will be awarded to Jah Oil.

“It changed and you were awarded,” Counsel Gomez said.

The witness said he was awarded the contract on 28 April 2020. He explained that he was called by the procurement officer while at his shop, who later received him in his office at the council, that he was awarded the contract for the supply of oil and rice.

“I met the procurement officer [EbrimaSaidyleigh] alone in his office. No one else was there apart from the two of us,” the witness said.

He testified that after being informed that he was awarded the contract he immediately requested for an advanced payment to be made to him. He said he was transferred 200 Thousand Dalasi and on the following he supplied the Mansakonko Area Council 655 bags of 25 kilograms of rice. He added that he charged the Council 650 Dalasi for a bag of 25 kg of rice. When asked the quantity of oil he supplied, the witness had this to say: “I did not see the invoice for oil. The demand note was for rice and oil, and I supplied oil, too.” Dibba said the demand for oil was 414 gallons and he charged the Council 600 Dalasi per gallon. CEO Dibba said he provided the Council with the invoice for oil. When asked whether he has the invoice, he said he does not have it. Dibba said he lost his records from 2018 to 2021.

The evidence of the witness was tested to discredit his testimony because it was inconsistent with the evidence before the Commission.

The first invoice the witness sent was dated 29 April 2020 for 655 bags of rice for Four Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Dalasi (D425,750).

“There is evidence that you were paid for the rice and you issued [the Council] receipt of payment,” Counsel Gomez said.

“Yes,” the witness replied.

CEO Dibba said a few days after the supply of the foodstuff, the Council called him for the contract to be rearranged to include sugar and for the price of rice to be lowered. He testified that after the discussion he decided to lower the price of rice from 650 Dalasi to 560 Dalasi while he charged them D1760 per bag of sugar because the Council needed 100 bags of sugar.

Counsel Patrick Gomez said by 19 May 2020 the witness was already paid Five Hundred and Forty-Two Thousand (D542,000) Dalasi – which was more than the agreed contract sum of Four Hundred and Twenty-Five Thousand Seven Hundred and Fifty Dalasi (D425,750). The total overpayment was One Hundred and Sixteen Thousand Two Hundred and Fifty Dalasi (D116,250).

CEO Dibba made a mysterious claim that the Council was at the time owing him Sixty-Eight Thousand Five Hundred Dalasi (D68,500). Dibba said the Area Council only paid him at the time they wanted extra supplies of foodstuff.

“They did not pay until the time they needed another supply of foodstuff,” the witness said.

“What foodstuff?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“I cannot remember,” the witness said.

The witness testified that the agreement he had with the Mansakonko Area Council was for the supply of foodstuff, but they did not indicate the specifications or amount needed. Counsel Gomez used the witness’ written and signed statement to confront him because his oral testimony contradicted his written statement. In the written statement, it was very clear as to what the Council wanted – rice and oil. Despite this, he still argued that the contract did not specifically say he was contracted to supply rice and oil. He would, however, later contradict himself in his testimony before the Commission.

Despite the payment of D542,000 for the supply that was supposed to be D425,750, the witness sent the Mansakonko Area Council another invoice and this time around he increased the amount to Six Hundred and One Thousand Five Hundred Dalasi (D601,500) in August 2020. This was four (4) months after the first invoice. According to the witness, the August invoice was an updated invoice for the April invoice. Remember, the April invoice was for D425,750 but the witness was D542,000. There was an overpayment of D116,250.

Despite all this, the witness was paid his new claimed amount of D601,500.

The witness account statement and the account statement of the Mansakonko Area Council indicated that he was paid over 1.1 Million Dalasi for the supply of rice and oil.

“You have received payments that you cannot justify. There were payments beyond the agreed amount,” Counsel Gomez said.

The witness disagreed saying he supplied the Council goods worth that value.

“You were paid and you still sent them an updated invoice,” Counsel Gomez said.

The witness kept silent and did not make a comment.

“Where is the invoice for the D601,000 in August 2020?” Counsel Patrick Gomez asked.

“I don’t have it,” the witness replied.

“You were paid monies that you never supplied,” Counsel Gomez said.

The witness repeated that he supplied the Council goods worth 1.1 Million Dalasi even though he said he does not have evidence to support his assertion.

On how he was paid for the D601,000, the statement of account and the receipts showed that the he was first paid 400 Thousand Dalasi and then 201 Thousand Dalasi.

Counsel Patrick Gomez referred the witness to his written statement and the statements he made over the media that he only supplied 655 bags of rice.

“Yes,” the witness said.

“What did you supply the Council for the D400,000cheque?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“Foodstuff,” the witness answered.

“What foodstuff?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“Rice, sugar and cooking oil,” the witness replied.

“The April transactions were done and dusted,” Counsel Gomez said.

The witness testified that the August transactions were not documented.

“Here we deal with evidence,” Counsel Gomez said.

“Ok,” the witness said.

The payments the Mansakono Area made to the witness were D200,000, D307,000, D350,000 and 4,000 by virtue.

“I supplied them good more than this,” the witness said.

“Do you have an invoice to show?” Counsel Gomez asked.

The witness said he has no invoice or delivery note to support his claim.

Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked the witness evidence to present before the Commission to support his claim that he supplied the Council more than 655 bags of rice. The witness said he has no evidence.

Later the witness changed his statement saying he has an invoice and receipt. The receipt he sought to rely on was the April’s D425,750 invoice. However, when confronted to corroborate his claim, he admitted that he has no evidence.

“Do not forget that you were already paid D542,000 and you were also paid D601,500 based on your updated invoice. It is in your statement of account. There is no room for error,” Counsel Gomez said, in response to the witness’ claim that there is possibility of errors.

The witness maintained he received the money but he supplied the foodstuff. He admitted that he has no evidence to present the Commission.

“What is clear here is that you supplied the Mansakonko Area Council only once,” Gomez told the witness.

“That is not correct,” the witness answered.

“Where is the evidence?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“I do not have it,” the witness replied.

The witness had testified that his company does not charge cost of transport to customers, but he was confronted with his own invoice sent to the Mansakonko Area Council requesting for 10 Thousand Dalasi for loading and unloading of the foodstuff. Counsel Patrick Gomez also used the witness’ own receipt of payment he gave the Council after he was paid the D10,000. In his reaction, the witness said it was payment for the boys that loaded the trucks and went for the distribution of the foodstuff.

Lead Counsel Yakar Cox confronted the witness with a payment voucher of the Mansakonko Area Council for the payment of 35 Thousand Dalasi. The witness was issued with a cheque of D35,000 by the Council. The voucher indicated that it was for the payment of D10,000 to the witness, D4700 for the media coverage for the distribution of the food supply, D15,180 as cost of transportation of the foodstuff, D3440 as cost of fuel and D1720.

“You were issued a cheque of D35,000,” Counsel Yakar Cox said.

“Yes,” the witness answered.

“But your invoice was for D10,000,” Counsel Cox told the witness.

“Yes,” the witness replied.

“If your invoice was D10,000, you should not be issued a D35,000 cheque?” asked Lawyer Cox.

“Of course, you are right,” the witness answered.

“What will you make up for the balance?” Counsel Cox asked.

The witness could not provide an answered. After follow up questions the witness said “If I give them an invoice of D10,000 they should have given me a D10,000 cheque.”

“What was the difference?” Counsel Cox asked.

“I cannot ascertain that,” the witness said.

“Did you return the money?” Counsel Cox asked.

“No,” the witness answered.

The justification he gave was “It could have been probably for my other transactions with them.”

He was discharged but could be called back when the Commission needs him.