Sierra Leone: "I Never Used Political Influence to Get NATCOM Building Project"

-Ex-president Koroma's brother

The younger brother of Ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma, Thomas Koroma, yesterday told the Commission of the Inquiry presided over by Justice Bankole Thompson that during the time of his brother's reign, he never used political influence to get any government contract.

He made the above statement while being cross examined by Ady Macauley, who was representing the former Ministers of Information, Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo and Hon. Mohamed Bangura.

"I did agree in my last testimony that I am the younger brother of the former President of the country (Ernest Bai Koroma) but I have never, ever used political influence in gaining any contract in his country. My brother had advised all his family members including me not to get involved in any government contract. Professionally, I have always held the belief that I am competent and capable to handle national infrastructural project and I have handle myself within my professional competence," he stated.

Koroma stated that in 2007, he was not implementing any government consulting job because he was then a public servant.

He told the commission that while he was a Public Officer, he did consultations for private individuals and companies and also collaborated with other Engineering and Architecture offices in the private sector that were similar to that of NATCOM project.

He stated that when Momoh Konteh took over the leadership at NATCOM, they were called for re-negotiation on the consultancy fee, which was brought down to 10%.

He said for the past 32 years in the architecture world, he was not aware of any law or custom that prevents him from seeking government contracts.

He told the Commission that there were documents to show their initial partnership between TS& Co. Company in which they told NATCOM that the former were responsible for all works.

Koroma argued that it was a normal practice that before designs and Bills Of Quantities (BOQ) were produced, there was need to enter into a contract with the Consultant with a preliminary budget.

"It is based on that requirement that the Consulting Firm produces designs and Bills of Quantities based on the prevailing rates," he said.

He explained that after such documents were produced, the procurement of the contractors will then commence.

He added that "The Contractors will complete the BOQ based on their own price rate which in most cases are different from the Consultant rate. There is always a difference between Consultancy cost which is normally called the 'confidential estimate' and the final bid price of the most responsive contractor."

At that juncture, the judge interjected for thorough explanations for the understanding of the commission on 'responsive contractor'.

Koroma explained that responsiveness simply depends on the procurement system where someone looks for the lowest bidder/price, whilst the others could be the highest bidders, but the rate might be at the closest to that of the Consultant rate, and that they are assessed as being very realistic then the contract could be awarded.

He stated that the initial contract for the consultant was computed on 10% of the total budget of $7million but that it was later moved to 15%.

"By this exhibit, it is stated that our consultancy services are being engaged for a sum of15% of the said $7million," he said.

On the issue of the many variations, Koroma agreed on it and told the commission that NATCOM did approve the document with all the differences.

He continued that there were also a set of document which was approved by the National Public Procurement Authority before it was constituted as part of the contract.

Koroma said the initial observation of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) was that the price for the construction of the NATCOM building- $7million- was extravagant.

Meanwhile, under cross examination, State Counsel, Robert B. Kowa, questioned the witness as to whether TS & Co. Consultancy accepted the observation proffer by NPPA not to grant a no-objection to the procurement Committee on the approval of the variations and if he was knowledgeable about the Procurement Regulations.

The witness noted that he was aware of the Procurement Regulations, but that based on the system of the construction, there were variation of sub-structure and a number of things to be carried out.

"The variations were higher than the initial price bills. This is however due to the fact that construction works are priced and rated but final cost is dependent upon measured work, that was why in the BOQ, most of the sub-structured works were priced as provisional sums," the witness said.

He agreed that it was because of the additional work that the cost was increased to 25%, which was why it necessitated the approval of the NPPA with no advertisement made.

The Judge commended Thomas Koroma for assisting the Commission since the day he was called upon.

"I must commend you for assisting the Commission with specific information and the Commission reserves the right to state the values of such evidence provided. At this point in time, you will not be called for cross examination, but if we need you at any time, please make yourself available," he said.

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