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Abdul R Thomas
Editor - The Sierra Leone Telegraph

11 March 2010

During Prime Minister’s question time in British Parliament today – 11 March 2010, the South Yorkshire Labour MP expressed grave concern that British tax payers’ money sent to Sierra Leone is lining the pockets of corrupt ministers in Sierra Leone.

Below is an excerpt from the proceedings in Parliament this morning:  

Hugh Bayley (City of York - Labour Party): How many days National Audit Office staff spent in developing countries when auditing the expenditure of the Department for International Development in 2009?    

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I have been asked to reply.

During 2009, National Audit Office (NAO) staff spent a total of 183 days in developing countries as part of the NAO’s financial and value for money audit work relating to DFID. That total includes days spent in developing countries both by NAO employees and by employees of audit firms that the NAO engaged to assist it with its audit of DFID’s annual resource accounts.

Hugh Bayley: That amounts to barely two days per country in which DFID has programmes—programmes that involve billions of pounds.

Today the International Development Committee published its annual report on DFID’s performance and said that although it welcomes the continued rise in DFID’s budget, it is concerned that DFID’s staff is being reduced, making it harder to ensure that money is well spent in the field.

Will the hon. Gentleman ask the Public Accounts Commission to get the Comptroller and Auditor General to look at the problem, write a report and consider whether additional audit staff are needed to ensure that DFID money is well spent in the field?

Mr. Leigh: Constitutionally, the Comptroller and Auditor General is, quite rightly, completely independent in what he determines to study for the Public Accounts Commission and the Public Accounts Committee. However, the hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, which I shall relay to the Comptroller and Auditor General.

To be completely clear, the NAO has worked recently—this year—in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana, Kenya and India, so it takes very seriously the work of DFID and will continue its work.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham – Labour Party): Through the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), I request that the National Audit Office look particularly—[HON. MEMBERS: “Wrong one!”] I am terribly sorry—I mean the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee; forgive me.

Will the hon. Gentleman look specifically at how DFID money in Sierra Leone is spent? An hon. Member and other friends have just come back from there with the most alarming stories of diversion of DFID aid into the pockets of Ministers down there, and we really need to get Sierra Leone under full transparent audit.

Mr. Leigh: That is an extremely good point. I shall of course relay the right hon. Gentleman’s point of view to the Comptroller and Auditor General, and I am sure he would be very happy to undertake a study in Sierra Leone if that were indeed appropriate.

Today's proceedings in the British Parliament could be quite damaging for President Koroma's government, if those allegations are proved to be true. They will also confirm the accusations made by the main opposition party, civil society groups and the media.

The Sierra Leone Telegraph will be speaking to the South Yorkshire MP and will bring you more on this story as it develops. 


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