He went on to inform the court that his posting as PS at the MoHS coincided with the outbreak of Ebola in the country and that at the time the Minister of Health was Miatta Kargbo.
He further informed the commission that even though he was the PS, the Health Minister Miatta Kargbo preferred to consult with three men he named as Santigie Kabia, Abubakarr Kamara and Mohamed Masaqoui who he said he met working with the minister when he assumed office.
According to the witness, these three men were the ones the Health Minister consulted with daily and that, he (the witness), was only later informed and instructed to do the necessary paperwork for anything the minister and her ‘consultants’ had agreed on.
The witness informed the commission that when he spoke with the minister about this, her reply was that she had worked with the three men in question at the SPU (Strategic Policy Unit) when she was at State House.
Questioned about the procurement of twenty ambulances that were a matter of urgency during the Ebola epidemic, Paramount Chief Sadiq Kapuwa informed the commission that he only came to know about the contractor for the said ambulance procurement when he was invited to testify before the PAC (Parliamentary Accountability Committee) which looks into reported cases of misappropriation and other fiscal discrepancies within the civil service.
“It was my first time to meet the contractor at the PAC meeting. I was given instruction to do the documentation by the minister and I was not part of the team that went on a site visit to Kerry Town but I later received information that the visit was to ascertain whether the site would be suitable or not for a hospital and was led by the Case Management Director Dr. Bash Taqi via a memo dated 11th August, 2014,” the witness informed the commission.
Several documents were produced, numbered and tendered in evidence. The witness concluded his evidence by stating that he later received directives via a memo dated 11th August 2014 and signed by the Architectural Services Manager, Delphina Caulker (deceased) requesting “urgent” payment of Le1,760,000 (one billion, seven hundred and sixty million Leones). The witness said he re-directed this memo to the Minister of Health for her “urgent” approval as the case may be.
During cross-examination by Defence Counsel Yada Williams and Ady Macauley representing Miatta Kargbo and Palo Conteh respectively (both former ministers in the APC regime during the period under review), the witness established that he was constrained to perform his job as Permanent Secretary and Vote Controller following the creation of the Ebola Operations Center (EOC).
He agreed with Defence Counsel that a document from the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) that was also tendered in evidence stated among other things that: “The NPPA warns against reckless award of contracts” and that, due to the nature of the Ebola epidemic there was need for the EOC to take “urgent, exceptional measures” to be taken; which according to the witness made his role as PS “irrelevant”.
The witness informed the commission that “the EOC took over the functions of the MoHS. It comprised of the Minister of Health as chairman, but during the weekends, the President then would assume this position. Others in the EOC were the Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Deputy Chief medical Officer (DCMO), Director of Case Management, a representative of the WHO, the Minister of Social Welfare, representatives from various UN agencies and a host of others.”
He admitted however that he “was not happy” over the treatment meted to him, as he was the one that got invited before the PAC, when he was not the one that was carrying out procurement and other sensitive fiscal matters for the Health Ministry in the period under review.
The matter was adjourned to Wednesday 21st February, 2019 by Justice Biobele Georgewill to permit the Defence Counsel the time they asked to study documents and other evidences for them to respond appropriately.