State Witness No. 14, who was previously attached to the Ministry of Information, has told the Commission of Inquiry that the Ex-Minister of the said ministry, Mohamed Bangura, failed to account for $44,000 he received from the National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) as Daily Sustenance Allowance (DSA).
Donald Newman said amongst his responsibilities were to advise the Vault Controller -the Permanent Secretary on financial matters, serve as heard of account division and any other duties assigned to him by the minister or the Vault Controller.
“Though these standard procedures as outlined in the Financial Management Regulations were not followed, I had to prepare the payment voucher and upon his (Bangura) return, I told him that there are documents for him to sign regarding the $44, 000 which he never signed for. I agree that there should be retirements for all monies received by any individual or group of individuals, but the Minister did not sign for the money I gave to him,” he stated.
He told the Justice Bankole Thompson Commission of Inquiry that sometimes back, he was in his office when he was called upon by the then Minister of Information, who instructed him to go to NATCOM and collect the said amount as he had to attend a pending meeting relating to ICT.
He added that the erstwhile minister informed him that a letter had already been sent to NATCOM concerning the said money and that he was only going there to collect it.
“Upon my arrival at NATCOM, based on the minister’s instruction, I asked for the Finance Director and I introduced myself to him and I told him exactly that the minister had asked me to collect the said money from him,” he said.
Newman stated that after a while, a bank instruction payment was handed over to him with his name on the cheque, to collect the money at Zenith Bank as the payee.
He told the commission that he was baffled and called the former minister as to why his name was written on the cheque.
He informed the Commission that the minister responded that the payment was urgent and that he would have to leave for a trip on the same day, adding that if the money was sent to the ministry’s account, there would have been a delay in accessing it.
“As I was at the bank, I received several phone calls from him, stating that I should hurry up and that time is not in his favour. Eventually the money was given to me by the cashier and I then returned to the ministry immediately. I was ushered into his office and I gave him the money and I had to go back to my office based on the fact that they were in a hurry” he said.
He told the Commission that there were procedures as to how monies were to be given out, but that they were not followed in the instant case based on the fact that his name was written on the cheque.
He added that payment vouchers should have been prepared for him to sign.
“This case was a different one as it is a one-off case based on the fact that I was instructed to go and collect money for the minister. So, I was expecting that money would have been given to me on behalf of the minister and not a cheque that bears my name to cash it at the bank, which makes it more different from all other transactions. This was not the first time I collected money for the minister,” he revealed.
He also informed the commission that he had no idea as to whether the then minister travelled alone or with a group of people as he was not privy to the correspondence concerning the trip.
He said no written document was given to him to collect the said money, but verbal instructions.
He noted that when monies were to be dished out to individuals or group of individuals, the Permanent Secretary does it directly, but in the instant case the Permanent Secretary was not around which caused him to give the Minister the said money as he claimed to be in a hurry.
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