Thursday, November 30, 2023

Corruption Trial: Balla Kandeh Signed D11.4 Million Payment for HePDO, Says First Witness

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By: Alieu Jallow

Balla Kandeh signed a D11.4 million payment for Health Promotion Development Organization (HePDO), according to the first prosecution witness (PW1) in the ongoing corruption, economic crime, theft, and forgery trial of three senior officials from the Ministry of Health.

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Santang B. Humma, the first witness, stated on Wednesday, November 8th, that the first accused, Balla Kandeh, signed the payment of D11,470,023 to HePDO.

According to PW1, HePDO is a sub-recipient of the Ministry of Health Global Fund for the Malaria Control Program, following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU between HePDO and the Ministry of Health aimed to implement malaria and immunization activities after the ministry secured a $30 million grant from the Global Fund from July 2018 to October 2021.

PW1 explained that upon receiving a request from the Technical Unit of the National Malaria Control Program, they checked the eligibility of the activity in line with the approved budget signed by the Ministry of Health and Global Funds. Once everything was in order, they endorsed the program manager to submit it to the Permanent Secretary for approval, then proceeded to process the disbursement of funds. A voucher was prepared by an accountant, checked by a senior accountant, cross-checked by the financial controller, and approved by the program manager of the Malaria Control Program.

When asked about the Program Manager by the state prosecution A.M Yusuf, she identified Balla Kandeh as the first accused person.

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She further informed the court that HePDO was supposed to implement four different activities as per the MOU with the Ministry, starting from December 2018 to February 2020. The payments were made in seven installments through bank transfers to HePDO’s account, with the first installment being $59,000 equivalent to D2.9 million, and the rest in 50-50 increments.

During cross-examination, the defense for the first accused person, Senior Counsel LS Camara, inquired if the Ministry of Health received any complaints about the utilization of funds by the sub-recipient. PW1 responded that there were no complaints as long as the reports were sent.

Counsel LS Camara questioned, “Is it standard finance procedure that there is a periodic audit of funds from Global Funds?” To which PW1 replied, “Yes indeed, it goes through financial reviews or audits by different organizations, and Global Funds has a local firm aside from the reviews of the utilization of the funds. This is done every six months by a local firm known as the LFA.”

The matter is adjourned to November 13th, 2023, for the continuation of cross-examination by the defense counsel.

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