19 March 2019

Sierra Leone: Fertilizer Saga - Director of Crops Adduces More Evidence

Director of Crops at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Henry Kargbo, has told the Commission of Inquiry presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson that the reason for the procurement of the 250,000 bags fertilizer was to increase rice and vegetable production and productivity in the country.

"The reason I wanted NPK 0-20-20 was that the initial take of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security was to increase rice production and productivity of especially vegetables, with the intention to reduce importation of those goods and control foreign exchange," he said.

Director Kargbo was yesterday responding to cross-examination by Lawyer Lansana Dumbuya, who is representing the former Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, Professor Monti P. Jones, as person of interest.

He told the Commission of Inquiry that from day one, he had indicated in his technical advice that for better rice production and productivity, the ministry should procure NPK 0-20-20, NPK 15-15-15 and urea 40% fertilizer.

He further that he started working at the ministry since 1986, but that he could not recall if at any point in time the ministry had procured NPK 20-20-20 fertilizer.

He promised to help the Commission with the database of fertilizer procurement by the ministry from 1996 to date.

Director Henry Kargbo, who was on Wednesday, 13th March, led by State Prosecutor Robert B. Kowa, testified before the Commission that he had advised the procurement officer to procure NPK 0-20-20-20, but that they went ahead and procured NPK 20-20-20.

He his duties include to help formulate and ensure the implementation of policies in the crop sector, as well as coordinate and supervise crop activities nationwide.

He said he also carry out functions delegated to him by the Executive Management Committee (EMC) of the ministry.

He said as Director of Crops, he was not part of the EMC during the procurement of the fertilizer in 2016, but that in 2017 and 2018, he served as secretary to the EMC after he was promoted to Deputy Chief Agriculture Officer.

The director continued that the EMC was established after the assumption of office by the former Minister of Agriculture, Professor Monti P. Jones, and that it was serving as an oversight committee for the entire ministry.

He said the EMC approved major decisions for the infective and efficient running of the ministry, as it was the highest decision making body in the ministry.

He narrated that in 2016 and 2017, the ministry purchased three types of fertilizer, including Urea, NPK 0-20-20 and NPK 15-15-15, and that he was once asked by the procurement officer to provide types and specification of fertilizer they were to procure.

He said before the procurement officer approached him for the specification, the EMC chaired by the minister had come up with a flagship programme to increase production and productivity of rice and other crops, which required the use of fertilizer.

He said the idea was discussed by the EMC and that a decision was reached at for the purchase of two hundred and fifty thousand bags of fertilizer.

He said in his capacity as Director of Crops, he provided specification and types of fertilizer in written.

He admitted that the Directorate of Crops was part of the procurement committee, but that he can't tell if the Chief Agriculture Officer was also part of the committee, noting that he was only invited when there were procurement issues relating to crops.

He said he had attended meetings of procurement relating to crops and members at that meeting were normally the Permanent Secretary, the Chief Agriculture Officer, the Chief Accountant, the Directorate or representative of Crops, the Procurement Officer and sometimes a representative from the ministry of finance.

He further told the commission that it was not the responsibility of the end-user to conduct market price survey on fertilizer, but that he only provided the type and specification of fertilizer to be procured.

He noted that he never prepared or initiated any procurement recitation for the procurement of the two hundred and fifty thousand bags of fertilizer.

He recognised certain documents-invitation to various bidders for the supply of the fertilizer and that he was copied, but that he had problem with the specification of NPK 20-20-20, because the one he had advised on was NPK 0-20-20.

He said the manager of one of the bidders- Balsam Enterprises-had written a letter to the ministry, requesting clarification on the specification of that fertilizer.

He added that he was copied and he recalled replying to the letter that the specification should be NPK 0-20-20 and not NPK 20-20-20.

He also identified a valuation report document, which, he said was prepared by the Ministry but that he was not part of the valuation team, whose report was approved on 19th July, 2016.

He said the type of fertilizer contained in the valuation report corresponded to the executive clearance of former President Ernest Bai Koroma.

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