Sierra Leone: At Commissions of Inquiry - Project Manager Denies Receiving U.S.$950,000 for Farm Tools

The Project Manager for the National Youth in Farm Project, Mustapha Turay, has told the Justice Biobele Commission of Inquiry that, he was not aware about the $950,000 paid to the West Stars General Supplies for the procurement of farm tools meant for the said Project.

"The award of contract for the Youth in Farm Project with the Managing Director of West Star General Supplies for the purchasing of farm equipment at a negotiated price of $950, is news to me," he said.

Turay made the said claim when asked by Lawyer K. Bangura, representing the state, to read a portion of a document that was tendered to the commission in respect of the said project.

He added that as far as the Youth Farm Project was concerned, he never paid any money to any service providers.

Turay said since the inception of the project, the ministry purchased 250 acres of land from three different families in Port Loko District at the cost of Le750, 000,000 for the said project.

He said the ministry did employ 100 youth in 2014, as beneficiaries of the project, but that the number was later reduced to 50 in 2016 by the former Minister, Mamoud Bai Bangura, because of lack of finance.

Meanwhile, three ceremonial chiefs, Pa Santigie Kargbo, Pa Santigie Sesay and Pa Santigie Kanu, representing the three families from whom the 250 acres of land was bought did give their testimonies.

Under cross-examination, Pa Santigie Kargbo from Berkecurve denied knowledge of having any transaction with Mamoud Bai Bangura.

He said the former Minister of Youth,Alimamy Kamara, met them and explained his interest in the 250 acres of land the ministry needed to do farming activities for the youth of Koya Chiefdom.

"We accepted because it was a government project and we all converged and went to the Paramount Chief and the land was demarcated. The minister promised to return, but after some time it was one MustaphaTuray that came. Upon his arrival, he said the minister gave him some money but was not going to give us until we meet with Paramount Chief Kompa Bombolie," he narrated.

The witness further explained under cross examination that before the money was given to them, Turay took some portion from it and claimed that it was an instruction from Freetown.

"He also took some money and told us that one cannot take out honey without one licking his hand. In the end Turay also demanded le10, 000,000 for himself which he told me to keep under the mattress," he added.

Pa Santigie Sesay, representing families from Masalia Koya Chiefdom also made similar narrative to the commission.

He told the commission that the money was paid in three instalments, with the first tranche of Le35, 000,000, second tranche Le25, 000,000,while Le10, 000,000 was paid as the third tranche.

"When they finally gave us the money, an amount was deducted on each instalment and Turay also demanded for his share on every occasion," he said.

He added that they didn't have any choice other than to accept what was given to them because it's only God that fights for the poor.

On the same payment, Lawyer Bangura asked the third witness, Pa Santigie Kanu, from Masorie about the amount given to his family for the purchased land.

Pa Kanu said Le42, 000,000 was given to his family on the first instalment,Le35, 000,000 for the second and Le30, 000,000 for the third.

Defence Lawyer, Ady Macauley asked the three witnesses whether in any occasion the former Minister gave money to them for the said land scheme.

But all of them responded in the negative, stating that it was Alpha Turay who made payment to them on all the occasions.

State Counsel, Robin Mason also cross-examined the Youth Chairman of the project in Koya Chiefdom, who also served as supervisor for the same project.

The witness stated that upon assuming office as Youth Chairman, he supervised the Youth farm and that he was paid Le350,000 per month, adding that he had to work for six months before they considered paying him.

On the produce of the project, he said during the initial stage, they were given the produce to Turay, who made deposit to the project account.

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