Sierra Leone Telegraph: 21 December 2020:
There is intense debate and speculation on social media and across the political divide in Sierra Leone, about what should now happen to the findings of the damning report into the government’s mismanagement of the country’s financial affairs, published last week by Audit Service Sierra Leone.
At least 177 billion Leones in cash cannot be accounted for by the government, along with millions of dollars swindled through corrupt public procurement arrangements, as well as the disappearance of many items bought by the government for public use – such as dozens of laptop computers and an electricity generator meant for assisting in the fight against the covid pandemic.
The 2019 audit report makes for chilling reading, for a president that promised to close what he referred to during the 2018 election campaign as “leakages” in the former government’s finances.
President Bio also promised to curb the abuse of office by government officials and the rampant corruption in high places, that is destroying the lives of millions of people in a country classed as one of the poorest in the world. Today, president Bio himself stands accused.
Many in Sierra Leone are now calling for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to commence immediate investigation into the findings of the report, and today the Anti-Corruption Czar – Mr Francis Ben Kaifala (Photo) said in a twitter post that – the ACC “will today commence immediate action on the 2019 Audit report working with Parliament”.
This is what the ACC said in a statement published today:
“The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that the tabling in Parliament and publication of the Auditor General’s Report for the Financial Year ended 31st December 2019 and the COVID-19 Report by the Audit Service Sierra Leone have been brought to its attention and that it has commenced immediate examination of the same.
“The ACC attaches utmost importance to the Auditor General’s Reports. As such, in recent times, the Commission had provided and will continue to provide updates to the public through Serialized Media Releases on the many interventions and outcomes in regard the Audit Reports 2015-2018 which resulted in investigations, prosecutions, convictions, recovery of huge sums, prevention measures, and, in appropriate situations, exoneration and clearing of persons and institutions.
“More importantly, the Commission is also cognizant of the role of Parliament regarding this issue and it shall be collaborating with them.
“The Commission preliminarily notes that that there are various issues in the report that it had already commenced or concluded investigations into, either due to the fact that they arose in the year 2019 or, they were already the subject of investigations before the conclusion of the audit.
“For those still under investigation, it will continue and conclude them speedily. For the rest, it will work with Parliament and Audit Service Sierra Leone to ensure that each party performs its role to ensure that the various issues of concern are speedily and accordingly addressed without favour or anyone.
“The ACC is now examining the Reports with a view to ascertaining violations of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as Amended in 2019, or needs for intervention by the ACC; and/or identify system weaknesses within the audited institutions for appropriate prevention efforts to address them.
“It wishes to make it very clear that anyone found wanting shall face the full consequences prescribed by law with no exceptions. In this regard, the public is encouraged to exercise patience while the Commission does a thorough review and analysis of the Reports and thereafter commence taking action as may be expedient.”
But as the country’s parliament closed today for Christmas break, the National Grand Coalition Party leader in parliament – Dr Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, reminded the Speaker and fellow MPs that over two months ago on October 22, he and a colleague MP tabled a motion, which was adopted unanimously by the House for a debate on the 2018 and 2019 reports of the Auditor General along with the specialized audits -including the COVID-19 report on how funds meant for tackling the pandemic have been spent.
Dr Yumkella said he wanted to make sure that the reports are put on the agenda when parliament reconvenes next year, and that MPs can use the Christmas break to study its findings.