Saturday, May 12, 2007


Henry Aki Macauley said yesterday that the proprietor of Strand Investments, Abess and Sons had been classified by his Bank as one of the Bank’s worthy clients when he applied for a bank guarantee of close to Le1,650,000.000 for the purposes of importing on behalf of government thirty (30) rice mills into the country.
Henry Aki Macauley explained that the bank management was aware of the fact that Strand Investments were awarded the contract legally by the government of Sierra Leone and that the management of the bank was also aware of the fact that Abess and Sons had in the past executed contracts awarded by reputable institutions and had performed accordingly.
Henry Aki Macauley stated further that at some point after the contract was awarded to Strand Investments, the contractors instructed Rokel Commercial Bank to remit the sum of one (1) million pound sterling to the manufacturer of the rice mills, Alvan Blanch.
The Rokel Commercial Bank according to the Managing Director, Henry Aki Macauley, saw the contract awarded to Abess and Sons as part of the government’s food security programme and therefore the bank saw the need to be part of such a development-oriented programme.
Henry Aki Macauley insisted that the transaction between himself and Strand Investments also known as Abess and Sons was proper and above board, especially since the company had never defaulted in a manner that would put a question mark on the reputation of that company.
He further emphasized that like in all banking transactions where customers who seek to raise loans for the promotion of their businesses, Rokel Commercial Bank requested an acceptable collateral security which Abess and Sons provided.
He lamented that at some point, there was a lull when rumours circulated that the contract agreement between Abess and Sons and the government of Sierra Leone had been rescinded by the state.
“But the truth is that the contract was never discontinued, even though Abess and Sons suddenly discovered that they had run short of funds to continue the contract. It is not my business to explain how Abess and Sons ran out of money but what is very clear is that as a bank, we still stand by our commitment when we prepared the bank guarantee which now explains why the Rokel Commercial Bank has paid to the manufacturer of the 30 rice mills the full sum required for the delivery of the machinery.”
He emphasized that Rokel Commercial Bank has taken over the responsibility of supplying the machines directly to government latest June this year.
When asked whether the bank was not going to run at a loss if they must undertake to supply the government 30 rice mills, Henry Aki Macauley explained that there was a collateral provided by the contractors from which the bank can recover its money and furthermore, the bank would be at liberty to collect the remaining 60% of what the government still owes Abess and Sons after the final execution of the contract.
“What we are doing at the moment is to step in the shoes of Strand Investments, to ensure that the government is supplied with the equipment for which we stood guarantee, after all we are a responsible and highly respected bank that cannot afford to shy away from its responsibilities.”
Henry Aki Macauley said further yesterday that the bank felt embarrassed by this development, as that was the very first time any third party was demanding a recall as a result of the non-performance of a contractor.
“We understood government’s good intentions and we also understood the problems created by the sudden disappearance of the contractors which cost me to travel to Manchester to locate the father and son who constitute the company. After which we came to a kind of agreement, which further encouraged me to confront the manufacturers, Alvan Blanch, on the issue. Alvan Blanch of the company said to me that the manufacture of the machinery had commenced and that they themselves were unhappy about the stalemate when it became clear that no more funds were coming from Abess and Sons.”
At every stage, according to Henry Aki Macauley, I kept the Minister of Finance informed about developments and the Minister of Finance assured me that the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Sama Monde had been briefed about the effort of Rokel Commercial Bank to ensure that the contract was executed to the fullest.
According to the Rokel Commercial Bank Managing Director, Henry Aki Macauley, he was surprised that the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security exhibited a lack of knowledge about the effort already made by the Rokel Commercial Bank to supply the machinery on behalf of Strand Investments.
He lamented that on several occasions the Deputy Managing Director of the Rokel Commercial Bank, Archibald Davies attempted to contact and brief the Minister of Agriculture so as to update the leadership of that Ministry about efforts being made by Rokel Commercial Bank to rescue that contract, but the effort made by the Deputy Managing Director did not come to fruition because the Minister of Agriculture was not interested in further discussions regarding the contract.
When the New Citizen interviewed the Minister of Finance last night on government’s position on the Strand Investments contract, John Benjamin said, “we had to rescue the contract in two stages. Firstly, we allowed the contractors an extension of the contract period and after it failed we turned to the bank and asked the bank to work out modalities to save the situation.
The bank management was honest, according to the Minister of Finance because even though the guarantee period was almost expiring at some stage, all the parties agreed that the guarantee stood.
He agreed that the bank management was very cooperative and that he was also aware of the fact that the bank had made arrangements to pay for the 30 rice mills and that he as Minister of Finance, had put the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Sama Monde, in the picture at every stage, he was surprised that the Minister of Agriculture was attempting to back out of the transaction instead of rescuing the contract by giving an unnecessary one sided version to the media.
Mr. John Benjamin further informed the New Citizen that the Deputy Financial Secretary, J. O Wellington, has been mandated by his ministry to write a letter to the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture to appraise them of the actual situation of the contract as there is evidence that Rokel Commercial Bank had actually concluded arrangements with the manufacturer of the rice mills to make sure that the machinery arrives in Sierra Leone latest June this year.

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