A concerned Citizen: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 February 2018
Based on publicly available figures, the government of Sierra Leone (GOSL) headed by President Ernest Bai Koroma and his All Peoples’ Congress (APC) party, may have presided over the most corrupt era in the history of the country, as they have been unable to account for close to one Trillion Leones.
A review of the Auditor-General’s published reports of 2009 – 2015, reveal that about Five-hundred and seventy-one billion Leones (Le. 571 Billion) remain unaccounted for, due to “theft, fraud or serious irregularities in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)…..alone”. (Photo: Mrs Lara Taylor Pearce – Auditor General).
This does not include loses recorded in Public Enterprises, Commissions and Projects, such as during the Ebola epidemic.
MDAs have the explicit responsibilities for Sierra Leone’s system of governance, such as finance, education, health, security and defense. And whenever they lose money, the welfare of the citizens is adversely affected.
The documented loss of funds is massive and unprecedented in the history of the country. Within a seven-year span, an average of about 82 billion Leones have been lost per year.
If this figure is extrapolated, this average to include the last three years of this current government, plus the unaccounted-for monies documented by the Auditor-General (AG) for Public Enterprises, Commissions and projects, the total amount could easily top the one Trillion Leones mark.
According to the Accountant General’s published figures, the unaccounted-for public funds per year, vary from Ten Billion Leones to One-hundred and forty-one Billion Leones. Here is the yearly average breakdown for MDA’s:
In 2009 – 81 billion Leones; 2010 – 81 billion Leones; 2011 – 111 billion Leones; 2012 – 82 billion Leones; 2013 – 10 billion Leones; 2014 – 141 billion Leones; 2015 – 65 billion Leones.
All of the missing funds, according to the published audit reports, bear the hallmark of fraudulent activities, such as, payments without supporting documents, making grants without retirement details such as receipts, invoices, etc., paying salaries to unverified workers, withdrawal from government accounts without supporting documents or evidence of procurement delivery, transfers from transit accounts that cannot be traced, etc.
Supporters of the Koroma government may argue that most of the fraud is committed by civil servants and not by the president and the members of his cabinet. However, the fact that the government has done little to curb corruption – such as vigorous prosecutions, sacking of senior officials, and other deterrent measures to stop the blatant financial malfeasance, attest to the complicity of those in power in this massive loss of public resources.
Add the fact remains that President Koroma’s APC government perennially refuses to act on the Auditor-General’s “oft-raised concern on the need to firmly and comprehensively address the most basic elements of internal control and cash management, as well as the quality and accuracy of accounting….”.
Supporters of the President and his APC government whose complicity in this massive wave of public corruption has so far not been explained, might ask why it matters that their government maintains sloppy bookkeeping.
The simple answer is you do not want the citizens to think that President Bai Koroma and his cabinet are stealing public funds for their personal use, without any repercussions. However, for the more important legal and fiduciary reason, let us quote the Auditor-General’s report:
“Governments should only collect revenue and make expenditure as formally authorised by an Act of Parliament. The passage of the budget into law is the expression of Parliament’s intent. It is and must remain supreme.
“Any expenditure made for a purpose other than that intended by Parliament is contrary to law. In short, all public moneys must be fully accounted for and in a manner compliant with the laws, policies, regulations and good accounting practice.
“When revenue is not recorded or banked, when moneys go missing or when procurement rules are broken or expenditures are not supported by the relevant documents, in addition to being a breach of law, these matters erode the confidence of civil society and donors – the integrity of government and the reputation of Sierra Leone is damaged.”
As the citizens prepare to go to the polls on March 7 to elect a new government, they should be asking those seeking their votes to answer how they intend to tackle the massive corruption in the state sector, documented in the Auditor- General’s reports.
To access the Auditor General’s Reports, click here: