KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 6 ― An investigation by Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into a scholarship scandal at Limkokwing University Malaysia’s branch in Sierra Leone has ended after the country’s former education minister Minkailu Bah passed away.
In ACC’s statement shared by a commissioner in ACC, Francis Ben Kaifala, on Twitter, the ACC said Bah had been found guilty of misappropriation of public funds and abuse of office and position.
“The investigations confirmed that Bah single handedly entered into an agreement with the Limkokwing University for the establishment as a private university in Sierra Leone in 2013, without following due process as provided in the laws that govern tertiary public education in Sierra Leone, which resulted in committing the government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) to serious financial obligations.
“Bah signed a memorandum of agreement with the president of Limkokwing University on 19 December 2013. The agreement provided, among other things that GoSL would provide campus space for the university and scholarships for 1,200 students per annum,” said the statement signed by its deputy director of Public Education and Outreach Department, Alhassa Kargbo.
It claimed that the initial scholarships were set at US$3,000 (RM12,564) for a Bachelor's degree and US$2,500 for a diploma, per student for one academic year.
However, Sierra Leone’s finance ministry said it had not agreed to pay any sum to the university, and were not included in those discussions before the agreement was signed,
Following a financial audit by its Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu, a financial obligation of 25 billion leones (Le) (RM10.7 million) was discovered of which Le22 billion (RM9.45 million) had already been paid to the university for the financial period of 2016-2018.
The ACC however argued that there was still an outstanding amount owed to the university to the tune of Le33 billion (RM14.17 million) for the 2018 to 2019 period. Due to the current fiscal challenges the African nation is unable to pay this sum.
“According to the financial secretary, this amount is not has not been paid due to fiscal challenges and the unfairness of incurring such liability for few students when compared to other students on government grants-in-aid in various universities,” the statement continued.
It said the average students fees is around Le10 to15 million, hence the fees for Limkokwing at Le30 million was too huge in variance.
“During the course of the investigation, information was received that the key person of interest in this matter, Minkailu Bah, had passed away. Enquiries were conducted and a death certificate was obtained from the hospital where he met his demise.
“The investigation was summarily concluded as the main suspect in this matter is now dead and as a criminal investigation based commission, a man dies with his indictment,” the statement read.
Limkokwing is a private university which officially opened its Sierra Leone campus in 2016 with mostly government-sponsored students, among other branches overseas.
Bah, who died in May this year, was said to be at the center of those negotiations. However when the university had yet to receive payment for outstanding fees owed, it refused entry to the affected students which prompted protests and clashes between police and students.
Malay Mail is contacting Malaysia’s Ministry of Higher Education and the university for comments.
This report comes amid a controversy involving the university’s founder Tan Sri Lim Kok Wing for alleged racism, with a petition was launched demanding the removal of a controversial billboard showing Lim as the “King of Africa.”
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