Audit Report exposes serious lapses in governance – President Bio must come clean

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 December 2021:

Sierra Leone’s Auditor General’s Annual Report for the financial year ending December 2020 which has been viewed with much dread by the government is out, and makes for unpleasant reading. Has President Bio (Photo above) lost the moral high ground in fighting corruption?

Just weeks before the Report was tabled in parliament, the Auditor General – Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce was suspended by President Bio, accusing the Auditor General of professional misconduct.

Since then, the President has appointed a Judge-led tribunal to investigate the allegations made against the Auditor General.

But what is not clear is whether the Report that has been tabled in parliament for review and now in the public domain, is the same Report that was written by the suspended Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce which it is understood – the President had found problematic because of its findings of financial impropriety in the Office of the President as well as across government departments.

What is certain though, is that the content of the published 2020 Auditor General Report speaks of serious failings by the government in managing the resources of the country.

Sierra Leone is one of the poorest nations in the world despite having massive stock of mineral resources.

Critics of the government are accusing the President, his wife and ministers of stealing over one hundred million dollars since coming to power in 2018. Today’s Auditor General Report exposes financial malfeasance of the highest magnitude.

These are just some of the highlights of the Report:

“During audit verification, letter of executive clearance from the Office of the President for the payment of the net salaries to contract staff as highlighted in the contract details of the contract staff were submitted for audit inspection. With such instructions, one would have expected the Ministry’s Accountant to gross-up the net salaries to take account of the tax deductions, but this was not the case.

“Furthermore, the Ministry being the legal adviser of government failed to note that their action was in contravention of Section 110 (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, which states that no taxation shall be imposed or altered otherwise than by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament and furthermore, the situation did not fit the exemptions provided for in the same provision.

“As a result of the aforementioned, this matter remains unresolved and the vote controller who is the withholding agent that failed to withhold tax as required by the Income Tax Act 2000 (as amended) should be personally liable for this amount in accordance with Section 129 of the same Act.”

Ineligible Accommodation and Allowances (Commission of Inquiry Judges were overpaid)

“Although judges of the Commissions were not entitled to free accommodation, they were housed at the Sierra Estate Management Company (SEMCO) property in Goderich at a total rent charge of Le1,775,386,399 (only Le1,719,599,311.92 relates to the period up to 31st December,2020; the balance Le55,787,087.08 relates to FY2021). The three Judges also received monthly allowances which amounted to Le890,000,000 which was not indicated in the letter of appointment issued to them.

We recommended that the Permanent Secretary should ensure that the three judges settle their accommodation bills.”

Payroll Inaccuracies

“A review of the payroll records of the CMO revealed the following:

“Total gross salaries of Le1,060,081,190 were paid to four personnel whose names were not on the staff list. We could not confirm whether these individuals were staff of the office.

“Seven months total gross salaries of Le183,125,504 were paid to a staff with PIN No. 737514. His name was however not on the staff list for the year-end of 2019 and 2020; and his personnel file was not presented for audit inspection.

“Six staff were paid salary arrears of Le313,420,129 but their terms of reference, and source documents that justifies the reason for the payments were not presented for audit inspection.

“Two staff were paid a total gross alary of Le274,543,168 for January to June, but their appointment letters were not presented for audit inspection.

“During the year, five starters were not paid gross salaries which amounted to Le584,257,912, for which they were entitled.”

Judiciary Procurement Splitting to Evade Competition

“We observed that procurement worth Le894,273,835 and Le 294,731,327 regarding refurbishment in favour of Abimer Construction and General Supply, and electrical works in favour of Fortune Electricals respectively, were split into tranches in order to avoid the due procurement process of open bidding and national competitive bidding (NCB).

“We recommended that the Procurement Manager should provide appropriate reason why the procurement was divided, and the inappropriate procurement method used.

“In addition, going forward, the Department should design and implement a framework contract with a suitable supplier for the procurement of the refurbishment works, electrical and comply with all relevant procurement laws and regulations.”

Revenue

“Total revenue of Le329.89 billion was outstanding tax liabilities resulting from non or a part payment, illegal tax credit claims, recalculation of tax liabilities, non-submission of evidence of payment and confirmed revenue arrears.

“The National Minerals Agency (NMA) failed to pay some component of their revenue, totalling Le15.9 billion into the consolidated fund during 2020.

“Outstanding amounts of US$479,877.64 and US$408,157.62 for 2019 and 2020 respectively, owed to the Government of Sierra Leone were neither remitted by the Sierra Leone Maritime Shipping Registration (SLMARAD), nor disclosed in the revenue arrears in the GPFS.

“Revenues were deposited into several Escrow accounts by companies for which government shares amounting to Le13.19 billion based on the agreements, were deposited into the General Revenue Account at the Bank of Sierra Leone. Relevant data and reports as required from the agreements were however not submitted for audit.

“We reviewed 1,245 duty waiver documents that were without adequate supporting documents. We therefore could not ascertain whether these duty waiver concessions, granted to these taxpayers which amounted to Le144.7 billion were legitimate.

“From data in the ASYCUDA World, 58 Non-Governmental Organisations that obtained import duties and GST waivers from the Ministry of Finance totalling Le4.5 billion were not in the NGO gazette of the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development.

“Revenue arrears disclosed in the GPFS for the year ended 31st December 2020 was Le346.64 billion.

“We selected a sample of arrears for confirmation for which no response to our confirmation requests was received from these taxpayers; and these arrears amounted to Le271 billion (which represent 97.4% of the total arrears).

“In 2020, arrears approximately Le7.2 billion and Le1.9 billion for the National Minerals Agency and Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, respectively, were not included in the arrears figures in the GPFS.

Overseas Traveling Expenses of the President  and his Wife (Accused of falsifying receipts and invoices)

“We noted management’s response regarding the circumstances that led to the selection of the company to provide private jet services. In the absence of a clear and detailed procurement process, we conclude that it’s reasonable to enquire why a company whose main business is wholesale of pharmaceuticals, toiletries, household goods and chemist, was selected to provide private jet hiring services. We therefore conclude that this matter remains unresolved.

“Original” receipts all with dates in September 2020, to support total payment of US$352,481.77 for hotel accommodation and medical treatment was presented during the audit verification exercise.

“We however concluded that one of the retirement receipts of US$156,113.73 for hotel accommodation dated 18th September 2020, was marred by discrepancies, inaccuracies and inconsistencies. It was also disputed by the concerned third party, whose record show that the bill remains outstanding.

“In view of such discrepancies and dispute, the matter still stands and the amount of US$156,113.73 should be refunded by the payee, the State Chief of Protocol. We noted that hospital bills to the value of US$170,489.04 were settled in cash at the hospital in question. The audit concludes that although the amounts had been paid and supporting documents provided, in the interest of transparency, good public financial management practice, and exemplary anti-money laundry reasons, we are of the opinion that such a settlement should have been done through a bank transfer.”

Critics of the government say that the “SLPP Paopa is the most corrupt government in Sierra Leone’s history. In just less than four years of the SLPP Paopa government, over one hundred million dollars is missing from the government purse”.

You can read the full Report of the Auditor General here:

Auditor-General-Annual-Report-2020

 

11 Comments

  1. Reinhard- Wiecha, I understand your frustration. Unfortunately, most African countries lack most of your expectations. Probably our 1991 Constitution which was written during the one party dictatorship of the APC, authorized our citizens to treat our Presidents as demigods.

  2. I like to repeat again, we are all human beings nobody, no king, no president hovers over us. Also Mr. Buhary is not a god. If he is very sick and had to go for treatment to london, o.k. but who had to pay for this treatment? Either he has a good insurance or he and his family have enough private money.

    If in your country you don’t have statutory health insurance for everybody you can’t use tax money.
    Otherwise each ordinary citizen could go for treatment to london or new york. I hope you get it.

  3. In my opinion, I think some of the Auditor General’s opinion is a personal attack on President Bio. It’s very unethical to talk about someone’s health. Even President Buhari of Nigeria spent about a year in the United Kingdom due to health issues but the citizens are thankful for his life which is priceless. But the haters of President Bio was hoping to see him return in body bag from Lebanon.
    Thankfully the MCC and international institutions have rated Sierra Leone as one of the least corrupt country in Africa. Thanks to our ACC Commission Francis Ben Kaifaila, our beloved nation has taken a quantum leap from 49% to 83% within only 3 years. I hope and pray that our parliamentarians will perform their constitutional duties, because year in year out this Audit Reports seems like a “fool’s errand”. Few years ago, our parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve a blank check for Imprest funds for President Bio and the Speaker Dr. Abass Bundu which includes their traveling expenses.

  4. In the eyes of many patriotic Sierra Leoneans, it is obviously nerve-wracking to observe the latest disclosure of high level corruption schemes, devised and sanction from the highest offices of the land—State house, vice president office, and that of the first lady, all floating established governmental financial transactions, and procurement protocols, with all kinds of clandestine corrupt schemes machinated and designed to steal the maximum amount of monies from our nation’s meager resources.

    A regime that came into power banging it chest to fight corruption against the backdrop of previous successive annual Audit reports, indicting the previous regime of corruption, now stand accused of a new level of corruptions schemes, with reports of duplicitous cash withdrawals from the consolidated funds, fabricated travel expenses and fake receipts, not to mentioned dubious procurement processes. At the height of this all, we have their bootlickers and sycophants, perambulating cyberspace, exposing their unethical mindsets and characters, justifying criminal behaviors that they once detest and condemn while in the opposition.

    The annual audit report has been the baseline that detects and highlight corruption activities, and remains to be so. The mandate, objective, and processes of ASSL remains the same, untouched, designed to reveal to Sierra Leoneans and inform them annually how their nation’s resources are being manage, utilize for the benefits of all citizens. So any unscrupulous individual, with demented mindset, spewing lies and deceits, with a mission to coverup for a thieving demi-god, is nothing but a complicit criminal. It obvious, what matters to such unpatriotic ingrates is the meager bread crumps being deposited at their account at the detriment of the suffering masses. Such individuals must be shame and expose for the good of our beloved nation.

  5. There you have it. This was what the suspension of Mrs Lara Taylor and her deputy was all about. Now Bio have gone futher to set up a tribunal to investigate the author of the report. Clearly when its suited him, and acting on his interest to cover his diabolical acts of misappropriation of public funds, now we know Bio will act when his interest is threatened. Suffice to say when forty unarmed prisoners where horrifically murdered at Pademba Road prison back in 2020, Bio the president was missing in action. No public apology, and no setting of public inquiry as to what happened, who ordered the killing of youngmen that are in the custody of the state, never a threat to themselves or the residents of Freetown, but nevertheless was deemed a threat to the Bio government, that this youngmen will be killied in cold blood, with no one held to account.

    This is clearly a failure of the president, the justice system and society as a whole. This government is taking us for a ride, destinations unknown.Ghosting in the public sector has been a massive challenge to tackle, because those that are tasked to root out that form of corruption, are themselves corrupted by the system. Where is the ACC, when you need them. Here are public officials that are drawing salaries with out breaking a sweat. On the other hand, the doctors, the nurses, the teachers, mental health workers, the police, the fire fighters, the refuse collectors are all being denied their basic salaries, because Bio and his thieving ministers are busy pick pocketing their salaries.

    Now Bio is wasting valuable resources on the out come of a tribunal that we already know. Waste of public money instead of redirecting such monies to help the most vulnerable in our country. And tackling the covid19 pandemic.

  6. “What an old man see while sitting cannot been seen by a child while standing”. At last the Audit report 2020 is out for the public domain. Audit report is not a validated report, but often draws the attention of government to address issues of national interest and make amendments to areas that require to be strengthened so that the wrongs can be corrected.

    However, one thing that is very appalling is where the audit report includes the issue of the health and wellbeing of the head of state and president of the republic of Sierra Leone. Mind you, the report noted that all valid receipts were presented to substantiate the fact that life was been saved. “No amount of money can buy life”. Not to talk about saving the life of the president who functions to state exceeds all other functions. People kill themselves to protect their president. People endure pains and anguish just to see that their president is alive and living while in office and even out of office. I in my opinion see this publication as a total ridicule and must not be tolerated by reasonable Sierra Leoneans.

    Life matters. This is the reason why professional health care workers are advised not to disclose people’s health records. May God help us to love one another.

  7. Most of the ordinary people of Sierra Leone earn 2-3 dolars a day. How can somebody spend $170,489,04 at the hospital? For what? For a heart or a brain transplantation?

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