Sierra Leone Telegraph: 24 November 2021:
The Clerk of Sierra Leone’s Parliament on Monday wrote a letter to the Chief Administrator of Freetown City Council (FCC), inviting Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, the Chief Administrator and departmental managers of the council to face the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee for questioning as part of parliament’s review of the Auditor General’s Report of 2019 Financial Year.
According to the letter, the meeting which is scheduled to take place this Friday, 26th November 2021, will look at all financial records and documents relating to all projects and activities financed by the government after approval by parliament.
Observers say that this FCC parliamentary probe is part of the wider strategy of the SLPP government to link the suspension of the Auditor General and the pending investigations by a tribunal into allegations of maladministration and unprofessionalism, with the government’s determination to remove Mayor Aki-Sawyerr from office.
But critics of both the Auditor General and Mayor Aki-Sawyerr are accusing the Auditor General on the one hand of failing in her duties to fully audit the activities of the FCC in 2019; and the mayor on the other hand, for failing to provide all of the record and documents requested by the Auditor General to complete the 2019 auditing process.
The Auditor General in her 2019 Report said:
“Transform Freetown Priorities not Linked to the Council’s Budget.
“The Council is mandated according to Section 67 of the Local Government Act of 2004, to prepare annual budget which should reflect the priorities and needs of the locality as contained in the Local Council’s Development Plan. The budget should balance income and expenditure by way of financial estimates of revenue and expenditure. In its Transform Freetown Priorities, the Council identified development needs and mapped these in different priority areas.
“Even though the Transform Freetown Priorities should form the basis for the preparation of the annual budget of the Council, the Council however failed to link these priorities to the 2019 budget. As a result, the 2019 budget of the Council was not complete due to this omission. Additionally, the projects implemented by other agencies on behalf of the Council were not audited because of lack of information on them at the time of the Audit.”
The FCC’s response to critics was swift yesterday. This is what it said in a statement received by the Sierra Leone Telegraph: “Please note that ASSL has undertaken a performance audit of the donor implemented projects listed in the #TransformFreetown 2019 report. Please also note that the latter report was produced as part of a policy of transparency and accountability that builds trust with all stakeholders. Donor implemented projects is different to donor funded projects.
“If the project is implemented by a third-party NGO selected by the donor then funds do not come to FCC so there is nothing to audit in FCC’s financial statements. The donor implemented projects can be subjected to a separate performance audit and that is the case for the #TransformFreetown projects in question.”
Commenting on this issue, a senior politician said: “The intimidation continues. Parliament has invited Mayor Aki-Sawyerr to answer questions regarding the 2019 Auditor General’s report whilst the publication of the 2020 Auditor General’s report has been stalled by the highly controversial suspension of Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce. This is a distraction. Mayor Aki-Sawyerr has nothing to answer. What Sierra Leoneans want to know is “what’s in the Auditor General’s 2020 Report that the SLPP government is afraid of?”
See project document below – Transform Freetown One Year Report: