Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 January 2021:
Vote controllers across Sierra Leone government departments and ministries – officials who are responsible for managing budgets, were told last week by the government’s Financial Secretary – Mr. Sahr Lahai Jusu, that they have got three weeks to submit their implementation plan of the recommendations of the 2019 audit report.
The 2019 audit report found hundreds of billions of Leones missing from the government’s accounts, through mismanagement and misappropriation. Both the offices of the president and the first lady – wife of the president have not gone unscathed.
Last Thursday, Sahr Lahai Jusu said: “The implementation plan will be captured in the Performance Tracking Table (PTT); and if they fail there will be a strong remedial measures which will lead to suspension”.
He said that the main challenge facing the Bio-led government is that many public officials do not recognize the audit process and recommendations, and this problem has been discussed extensively with the country’s leadership.
“It is a fact, because if you sit down as a vote controller and an auditor asks you about your travel and you have to respond. It means you need to take the audit seriously,” Sahr Lahai Jusu said.
He said that he is holding vote controllers responsible for not treating the auditor general’s representatives who were sent to MDAs seriously. “When she (the auditor) sends her audit staff, the vote controllers just send them to someone else,” he laments.
“It is not the accountant that controls the vote, it is the vote controller. You should pay keen attention during the audit and response process. When they go to the provinces and comes with that management letter, and the accountant says this is it and then you sign, you are indicting yourself,” he warned.
Sahr Lahai Jusu promised that they will continue to provide support to the agencies that provide oversight to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) as issues of audit in the 2019 audit report will help them to improve on processes and procedures.
Issues of compliance to laws, procurement, and public financial management are cited by the auditor general in the ‘Emphasis of Matter’ section of the 2019 report – Auditor General’s “Unqualified Opinion”.
Cabinet Secretary – Mr. John Sumaila, stressed also that MDAs will be required to give full support to the process in Parliament, whilst noting the sensitivity of the issues involved and the initial reaction that has been coming from the public.
This, he says has become compelling for the leadership of MDAs to come together to consider how to minimize the adverse issues in the Audit Reports.
He encouraged them to improve on the findings and retrieval of documents by cooperating with auditors through the releasing of records and documentation.
“Uphold internal controls established in MDAs to ensure that the business of government is carried out in an orderly and efficient manner; respond to audit queries and that should be done in addressing issues raised in the audit report; support internal auditors or else we will institute punitive measures for failure to implement audit recommendations as it has been included in the PTT,” Cabinet Secretary – Mr. John Sumaila warned vote controllers.