About three weeks ago, a faceless writer, who calls himself Idrissa Koroma, wrote an open letter to the Speaker of Parliament, urging him to investigate how $1million had been criminally withdrawn from an account operated by Universal Access Development Fund (UADF) that is being directly supervised by the Ministry of Information and Communications. The cowardly author also insinuated that, the Secretary to the President, E. B. Osho-Coker resigned as Chairman of the UADF Board because he did not want to be seen to be presiding over an empire of corruption. Both allegations turned out to be plainly false, misleading and very malicious.
At a Press Conference held on Tuesday 2nd August, 2016 the Minister of Information and Communications, Mohamed Bangura, made it abundantly clear that the Chairman of NATCOM has no control over bank accounts operated by UADF. Mr. Bangura praised Momoh Konte (the Chairman of NATCOM) for presiding over one of the most effectively run parastatals under his Ministry’s supervision. He said that he was extremely delighted about the management of NATCOM and the handling of the International Gateway Monitoring contract.
UADF is directly under the supervision of the Ministry of Information and Communications with the Permanent Secretary, Paul Sandi as the Acting Chairman of the Fund’s Board. Momoh Konte is not a signatory to the Fund’s account and does not sign cheques at NATCOM where he is Chairman of the Commission.
Mr. Osho-Coker resigned as UADF Board Chairman because of his heavy workload as Secretary to the President at State House. This point was emphasized by both Mr. Mohamed Bangura and Mr. Paul Sandi last Tuesday at a Press Conference held at NATCOM’s Headquarters. During that Press Conference, it became very clear that, the Fund (UADF) had been dormant for the past five years because of the lack of proper supervision and direction. The Fund’s core functions have still not been achieved since its establishment.
When Momoh Konte was appointed as Chairman of NATCOM, he moved the Fund to a new and conducive office facility and increased penetration rate from 0.2% to about 5% just within a space of 2½ years.
A massive restructuring of the Fund was initiated by the new Minister of Information and Communications which led to several positions being advertised and interviews conducted. The interview panel consisted of three GSM companies, NATCOM, and a representative of the ISPs (Internet Service Providers). On the issue of restructuring at NATCOM, even though Momoh Konte was not part of the committee, he endorsed its decision because the exercise is in line with International Best Practice. All directors that were promoted or recruited deserve what they got. The anomaly was corrected after it was discovered that, some people were carrying certain titles that they do not merit or were not qualified to carry.
It has to be emphasized that, Momoh Konte does not sign cheques at NATCOM, he is not a member of the Procurement Committee and not even a member of the recruitment committee at NATCOM.
The International Gateway Monitoring contract was advertised in the local press for nearly eight weeks and NATCOM ensured that procurement rules set by the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) were duly followed and implemented. The bid opening was performed by officials of NATCOM, World Bank, and a representative of DFID. This is one of the most transparent bid opening processes ever done in the history of this country because the international community was ably represented.
Only three out of the twelve companies that bought the bid documents met the 10 a.m. bid submission deadline. NATCOM has provided scientific evidence to show that, some bidders did not meet the bid submission deadline of 10 a.m.
Whether one likes it or not, Momoh Konte has introduced a lot of reforms at NATCOM. Fines imposed on errant operators like Airtel and Transnational (SL) Limited are now being openly disclosed to Journalists and civil society groups. These fines no longer end up in the deep pockets of some glutinous Commissioners and their political backers in Parliament.
There has been a high level of transparency in the operations of NATCOM since Momoh Konte assumed the role of Chairman. By and large, it can be safely said that, Momoh Konte is just a victim of transparency at NATCOM.
Some of us know how NATCOM was being run before Momoh Konte was brought in to salvage the Commission from collapsing under the heavy weight of monumental corruption. Mohamed Bangura was right to have publicly pointed out that Momoh Konte is a very good manager. What else can Momoh Konte ask for? Absolutely nothing!
By Sorie Fofana