As investigations continue into the audited Ebola funds, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in the House of Parliament has on Tuesday 17th March 2015 ordered Charles Francis Mambu, Director for Health for all coalition, to pay back one hundred and sixty million Leones Le 160,900, 000 loan sought from the Ministry of Health and Sanitation last year. It could be recalled that the said sum was given as a loan to Health for All Coalition in August last year. The loan was intended to scale up Ebola intervention across the country.
This order came as Parliament continues to look at the 2014 Auditor General’s Report with regards payment from the Ebola Emergency Operations and Miscellaneous Accounts without adequate supporting documents.
According to the report, six cheques totaling Le360, 900,000 of payment disbursed between 9th June to 10th July 2014, were made in the name of Charles Mambu instead of Health for All Coalition. Furthermore, the report verified and confirmed that Le200, 000,000 was for Ebola sensitization campaigns and the balance of Le160, 900,000 was loan to HFAC.
The Deputy Auditor General, Tamba Momoh, claimed that there was no evidence provided to confirm that the loan amount of Le160, 900,000 was repaid by Health for All Coalition to the ministry.
Honourable Hassan Sheriff categorically stated that the Government of Sierra Leone does not give out loans except through Parliament. ‘’The money in question is tax payer’s money,’’ he said.
Explaining, Mr. Mambu said the HFAC is a key partner to the health ministry in popularizing its policies and carrying out campaigns over the years, adding that he has done a lot in that respect. He further explained that he was asked by the ministry to write a letter in respect to the noting that no other agreement was made between himself and the ministry.
“There was no agreement; the agreement was the letter I wrote. That was what I was told to do and that was what I did. I was not a party to the arrangement for the cheques to be written in my name,” the Executive Director for HFAC stated.
Charles Mambu pointed out that the former Minister of Health, Miatta Kargbo, was aware of the arrangement. She explained that based on the prevailing circumstances at the time that funding was not forthcoming from UNICEF, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation decided to pre-finance the HFAC Ebola campaign to the eastern districts of Kailahun and Kenema.
Miatta Kargbo however stated that the cheque was initially written in the name of HFAC, and it was in that respect that the money was supposed to be refunded after funds from UNICEF and WHO were made available. She however cleverly declined having knowledge of anything that had to do with writing the cheques in Charles Mambu’s name. “Perhaps the Director of Finance, Festus Kuyembeh, can help throw light in this direction, “the former Minister suggested.
Both the Director of Finance, Festus Kuyembeh and the former Permanent Secretary, Sadique M. Kapuwa, failed to convince members of the Committee as well as failed to provide any supporting documents on the issue. They also acknowledged the fact that they did not advise the former Health and Sanitation Minister with regards giving out loans.
The Chairman of the Public Account Committee (PAC), Hon. Chernor Maju Bah, who doubles as the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, put it to Mr. Mambu that he cannot legalise what is illegal and that he Charles Mambu is an accomplice indicating that his action is tantamount to what is criminal.
Hon. Chernor Bah was therefore left with no alternative but to order Charles Mambu to repay the loan of Le160, 900,000 to the health ministry.