Calls for President Bio to publish tribunal report into suspended Auditor General grow

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 June 2024:

A Judge-led tribunal set up three years ago to investigate Sierra Leone’s Auditor General Lara Taylor-Pearce and her deputy Tamba Momoh, after publishing a damning report into corruption in high places including the office of President Bio, has finally submitted its report to President Bio himself.

Lara Taylor-Pearce and Tamba Momoh were suspended in November 2021 on allegations of ‘professional misconduct’ and breach of confidentiality, after the Office of the Auditor General in their investigation into corruption, including double dipping by the President’s office, contacted a hotel in Lebanon where the president had stayed to confirm the authenticity of a receipt that was submitted for audit.

Although few in Sierra Leone are expecting a honest and credible report from the Tribunal, receiving the report last week, President Bio said: “I have, today, received the report by the judicial tribunal led by Retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Nyawo Matturi Jones. The tribunal was set up to investigate the Auditor General and Deputy Auditor General. In spite of speculations, the work of this independent tribunal has been unfettered, transparent, and fully compliant with due process and the rule of law. The rule of law is supreme, and the report and its recommendations will be reviewed for a logical conclusion.”

The suspension of the Auditor General and her Deputy was also the result of their report exposing corruption in the Office of the First Lady.

Two months ago, the country’s Budget Advocacy Network, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, the 50/50 Advocacy Group and the Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy Network, published a statement calling for swift judgment, following the completion of Tribunal investigations in December 2023.

Six months on, the President has now received the Tribunal report but has gone quiet, to the amazement of the international community and people of Sierra Leone, questioning the President’s lack of respect for due process, transparency and good governance.

This unacceptable delay in publishing the Tribunal report has prompted FreetwonStories media to remind the people of Sierra Leone of a letter written by Maada Bio in 2015 as opposition SLPP leader to President Ernest Bai Koroma, demanding action on a report produced by the same Auditor-General Lara Taylor-Pearce into the mismanagement of Ebola funds. This was what Maada Bio said:

“Dear Mr. President, For the past week, I have been following with dismay the events at home surrounding the publication of the Report of the Auditor-General on the Audit of the Management of the Ebola Funds covering the period from May to October 2014.”

According to FreetownStories, President Bio’s letter to former President Koroma in February 2015 went further to urge former President Koroma to give urgent consideration to recommendations of his Party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party on the report, and requested that he consider setting up a Special Judicial Commission headed by a Chairman, preferably a Senior Judge from the United Kingdom appointed by the British Government which he said is vital to restore the country’s national and international credibility.

It is an irony that the same Auditor General who produced that revealing Ebola report in 2015 was suspended in 2021 by President Bio for also producing another revealing audit report about corruption in the Office of President Bio.

FreetownStories concludes: While the Tribunal Report is still yet to be made public, sources say they have recommended that Parliament should vote for Lara’s removal. Right before us, one of the most respected citizens and a professional of an institution that gave us hope when we had none about accountability is being destroyed for doing her job and we all sit and act like it’s nothing and we don’t care. Where are our moral guarantors and accountability advocates?

Civil society organisations including Campaign for Good Governance, the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Budgetary Advocacy Network, Network Movement for Justice and Development, Institute for Legal Research and Advocacy Network, and the 50/50 Group have this week called on President Bio to urgently act on the report: Justice delayed is Justice denied.

1 Comment

  1. It’s obviously damning for Bio administration. I’m guessing they are “negotiating” revisions before the release.

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