Sierra Leone Telegraph: 10 April 2019:
A row has broken out in the corridors of power in Freetown, with parliamentarians accusing both the country’s Audi Office and ministry of finance of usurping their powers – effectively accusing both of contempt, following the publication yesterday of the latest damning report by the Audit Office into the mismanagement of public funds by ministries and public agencies.
Parliamentary Leader of the ruling SLPP and Leader of Government Business in Parliament – Sidie M Tunis whose wife is the Minister of Planning and Economic Development, was up in arms yesterday, after it was alleged that a Le700 million (Leones) funding for the construction of a library in his constituency was discovered missing in the Technical Audit Report, as the report went viral.
This prompted Sidie Tunis MP to issue this published response: “Honourable Members of Parliament, I have observed with dismay that a Library project that was funded by NATCOM for my constituency (101) has appeared on the Forensic Audit Report.
“I want to bring to the attention of Honourable Members and the General Public that the Library in Zimmi, Makpele Chiefdom was completed and opened last year. The Zimmi Library is finished, fully furnished, stocked with books and currently in use. Also, the Construction of a second Library in Fairo, Soro Gbeima is about to commence.
“Let me assure you that No wrong was done and nothing to worry about. Anyone is therefore obliged to visit my two chiefdoms in my constituency for visible evidence. Am out of country doing government duties but soon I saw a document roaming round I decided to bring this to your notice and the general public. Thank you.”
But what is of contention among members of the public is the difference between the Forensic Audit Report commissioned by the ministry of finance which was published last week and yesterday’s Audit Office Technical Audit Report.
Last week’s published Forensic Report which was conducted by international auditors into missing public funds, found that over $1 Billion cannot be accounted for across four government departments under the management of the former Koroma led APC government.
Yesterday the Audit Office published the following statement to explain and clarify the difference: “The Auditor-General of Sierra Leone wishes to inform the general public that the TECHNICAL AUDIT REPORT on the Social Security, Telecommunications, Civil Works and Energy sectors has been tabled in Parliament on Tuesday 9th April, 2019.
“The Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) takes this opportunity to inform the public that this was a TECHNICAL AUDIT and not a FORENSIC AUDIT as it is being reported by some section of the media. (Photo: Lara Taylor Pearce – Head of the Audit Office).
“The ASSL also wants the public to know that the TECHNICAL AUDIT was carried out by 23 audit staff of the ASSL with support from 27 auditors from the Supreme Audit Institutions of Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.
“The TECHNICAL AUDIT was done as a result of a request sent to the Auditor-General in July 2018 by His Excellency the President, Rtd. Brigadier Julius Maada Bio through the Minister of Finance to undertake a special TECHNICAL AUDIT on the Social Security, Telecommunications, Civil Works and Energy sectors, in accordance with Section 119 (7) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
“Section 119 (7) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone states that: The provisions of subsection 6 shall not preclude the President, acting in accordance with the advice of Cabinet, or Parliament from requesting the Auditor-General in the public interest to audit at any particular time, the accounts of any (public) body or organisation as is referred to in subsection 2 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.
“The public is also informed that this Audit was not a Financial Statements Audit, which gives an audit opinion on the financial statements submitted for audit. Rather, it is an audit on the technical adherence and compliance with the laws and standards governing activities in the various sectors audited.
“The primary objective of this TECHNICAL AUDIT was to support the Government of Sierra Leone’s efforts in its fight against corruption and ensure the judicious use of public resources.
“The specific objectives included: to assess the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of investments in the identified sectors, to identify and mitigate potential risks, to provide an assurance of revenue and to recommend ways of delivering improved services or performance.
“In line with international best practice in Public Financial Management and public sector external audit which is supported by Section 95 (2) and (6) of the Public Financial Management Act 2016, the full report can be accessed at: www.auditservice.gov.sl”.
But the debate as to whether the report ought to have been published or sent to the ministry of finance, before it was tabled in parliament by the Audit Commission was aired live on radio. Take a listen: