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Commission of Inquiry
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The $5 million USD given to Benton Villa, in two installments, for the Hill Cut Road project was an advance payment and not a loan, according to the former Director of Finance and Investment at the Road Maintenance Fund Administration (RMFA), Blanche Gooding. 

[Blanche-Gooding-testifying]

Blanche Gooding testifying


She said the said transaction was wrongly categorized in the RMFA financial statement in 2014 despite the fact that it was expressly explained to the auditors that it was not a loan but an advance payment. She said the road was a Ministry of Finance funded project. 

Gooding testified before William Atuguba at the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on Monday 1 April 2019. The retired Chartered Accountant said the funding was not under the RMFA funding schedule but came about because the contract had been awarded to the contractor and the Ministry could not make any advance payment due to the Ebola crisis. 

Gooding said RMFA requested the Ministry of Finance to make available the $5 million USD as an advance payment under two Memorandum of Understandings. She said the MOU clearly stated that the advance payment would be recovered against payments made on Interim Payment Certification (IPC) by the Ministry of Finance and the recovered amount paid back into the RMFA account with the Bank of Sierra Leone. 

The former RMFA Director of Finance and Investment said despite the fact that the payment on IPC was never done by the Ministry of Finance, RMFA took steps to recover the $5 million USD from Benton Villa, including award of contract for the Waterloo township road project. 

Gooding revealed that RMFA received a letter from the Ministry of Finance with instructions to finance all new road rehabilitation projects. According to Gooding, the process, approval and authorization was done by the RMFA Board of Directors, which, she believed, was acting within their mandate.

Source: https://awoko.org/2019/04/02/sierra-leone-news-commission-of-inquiry-5m-to-benton-villa-contractor-was-wrongly-categorized/

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