President Bio and First Lady withdrew over Le71.4 billion as international travel per diem in 2022

Chernoh Alpha M. Bah, Matthew Anderson, and Mark Feldman: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 9 February 2023:

Sierra Leone’s president, Julius Maada Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio cumulatively withdrew over Le71.4 billion as international travel per diem in 2022 alone, new financial records of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) accessed by the Africanist Press has revealed.

The transactions included direct cash withdrawals by President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio that were processed as travel imprest for international trips made by the President and his wife between January and December 2022. The records also included a selected amount of funds diversely transferred to various Sierra Leonean embassies during the same period to meet alleged travel and accommodation costs of the president.

In total, Africanist Press found that Le71,409,752,124.00 was cumulatively withdrawn by the President and First Lady from the Local and Overseas Travel Account alone in FY2022.

These aggregated amounts do not include funds transferred directly to air charter companies, event planning groups, and travel agencies as separate payments for chattered flights, travel tickets, and for event planning and promotions associated with the president’s international travels.

Africanist Press discovered that on average the Bio’s took nearly Le7 billion each month as travel per diem while traveling out of the country in FY2022.

For instance, we aggregated 22 financial transactions totaling Le27,852,438,031.00 that were processed on diverse dates between 27th May 2022 and 14th September 2022 as travel imprest for the President for his trips to Nairobi, London, and New York.

We discovered that on each trip, President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio jointly transported a minimum of Le7.2 billion in corresponding foreign currencies abroad and they made no refund of unused amounts on their return to Freetown after each trip.

For the New York trip, Africanist Press identified five transactions amounting to US$513,073 that were processed between 2nd September 2022 and 14th September 2022 to pay for alleged hotel bills, transportation costs, and per diems for the President and First Lady while visiting New York.

The five transactions included three international wire transfers totaling US$353,346 and processed diversely between 2nd September 2022 and 13th September 2022.

In addition to these transfers, we identified two other cash withdrawals totaling US$159,727 also processed on 14th September 2022 as per diems for President Bio and First Lady Fatima Bio.

We also identified similar transactions in relation to the London trip in July 2022 where £94,050 was transferred to the Sierra Leone London Mission on 27th July 2022 for the alleged purpose of the president’s visit. A letter from the Accountant General’s Department (REF#: AGD/YB/BOSL/22/607) dated 27th July 2022 authorized the Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) to transfer the said funds on instructions from Financial Secretary Sahr Jusu.

Similarly, on 27th June 2022 another transaction of Le640,370,700 was charged out of the President’s Local and Overseas Travel Account # 0112007302 through a letter of payment (REF# AGD/YB/BOSL/22/532) from the Account General’s Department for supposed “hotel accommodation of the presidential visit to Paris, France for UNESCO’s Pre-Summit from 25th – 30th June 2022.”

Thus, between 15th June 2022 and 10th August 2022 when state-orchestrated street protests erupted across major towns in Sierra Leone, at least Le27 billion billion (nearly US$2.5 million) had been withdrawn from the Central Bank of Sierra Leone in the name of President Maada Bio to fund his alleged travel expenses.

These aggregated amounts included Le10 billion that was transferred from GoSL’s Other Charges Account #0111001279 on 15th June 2022 through an authorized letter of payment (REF#AGD/RSW/BOSL/22/500) issued by the Accountant General’s Department to replenish “floating allocation of funds for local and overseas travel of the President.”

To put this expenditure in perspective, we compared the aggregated Le70.4 billion presidential travel per diems in FY2022 with annual travel expenditure by President Bio in the previous four years – between 2018 and 2021. We discovered that withdrawals for travel per diems in FY2022 alone nearly equaled the aggregated Le93.6 billion in presidential per diems cumulatively withdrawn between April 2018 and December 2020.

Thus, we observed that cumulative per diem withdrawals from the President’s Local and Overseas Travel Account has tripled since the suspension of Sierra Leone’s Auditor General, Lara Taylor-Pearce in November 2021.

President Bio controversially suspended the head of Sierra Leone’s national auditing agency after the agency highlighted financial and procurement irregularities while investigating the President and the First Lady’s travel expenditures for FY2020.

Audit officials reportedly discovered that the President’s Office had submitted several forged documents, including fake hotel receipts and invoices to the Audit Service as part of the President’s travel expenditures for FY2020.

Africanist Press found that no credible audit exercise of President Bio’s Office has occurred since Lara Taylor-Pearce was suspended in November 2021. A questionable national audit report released in December 2022 by Sierra Leone’s Audit Service failed to mention any financial activities in the President’s Office, including the president’s travel expenditure. Audit officials claimed the President’s Office did not meet the auditing threshold for FY2021.

Since assuming office in April 2018, President Bio, his wife, and senior officials close to the president, have conducted nearly 150 overseas trips to Europe and Asia; a record that exceeds that of any sitting president of Sierra Leone since the end of the country’s civil war in 2002.

In 2021, Africanist Press published details of government financial documents showing overwhelming evidence that the president and other senior government officials were moving foreign currencies amounting to millions of dollars to Europe, the United States, and increasingly, to the Middle East under the guise of diplomatic travel.

In 2020, for example, we highlighted that the president and his wife collectively withdrew over US$3 million from BSL for alleged travel expenses despite bans on international travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Our recent investigation discovered that the continuous use of international travel by President Bio and his senior officials to move millions of dollars out of Sierra Leone to foreign countries, and the practice has tripled since the suspension of Lara Taylor-Pearce in 2021.

We hereby attach a sample of financial transactions showing details of President Bio’s travel expenditure for FY2022 to illustrate the evidence upon which this report is based.

For more information, see Africanist Press website:


  1. I believe that according to our constitution, there is an institution that handles the overseas trips of the office of the president which is all legal. The safety and well-being of our Commander In Chief and Fountain Of Honor Chief , who is also the Chairman of the African Union (APRM) and 2022 African of the year is very important for the peace and stability of our nation.
    In 4 consecutive years the MCC has rated our nation highly, whilst the American government has sanctioned government officials in Liberia who are very close to the president of corruption allegations. There are obvious reasons why the international community keeps supporting our country which I believe is due to credibility and integrity.
    Since the Commission of inquiry, this APC propaganda machine has been on overdrive to label any legitimate traveling expenses of the president and his wife as corruption to distract from the corrupt practices of their former lifetime leader, which was exposed by foreign judges from Ghana and Nigeria.
    Finally, there is only one President Bio and he is not aspiring to be someone else. He is original and has already made imprints on the world stage in terms of democracy, fight against corruption and education.

  2. By the time this President leaves office the country would have spent millions of dollars on his endless galivanting that has made no difference to the lives of the people.

    This was the President who accused others of spending money “like drunken sailors”. At a time when serious minded leaders are cutting back on expenses this president choses to enrich his family at the expense of the nation.

    I wonder how these people sleep at night when millions of our people live in abject poverty and could hardly afford to eat.
    This election will be a crucial one and need not be about a political party but the credibility of the individuals wanting to lead us.

  3. This man called Maada Bio has no conscience, empathy and remorse despite the abject misery/poverty in mama Salone with his flamboyant and extravagent lifestyle.

  4. President Bio is obviously no Magafuli – the conscientious, penny-penching and rather aerophobic late President of Tanzania. If this article is insinuating that, the President has to resort to exploiting mercilessly without any compunction the per diem system to top-up his salary, then is it not high time that Sierra Leoneans for once become true to themselves and admit that no one in the country is even close enough to being paid a living wage. That invariably means that, at any given opportunity, with an instinct for basic survival, every one is at it to have an illegal share of the national cake. Without at least tripling the salary of every worker in Sierra Leone in the face of galloping inflation and a free-falling national currency, the fight against corruption will ever remain a sort of shadow boxing and selective sham being played to the gallery of international organisations and development partners to curry their favour, influence and approval. This is not to say that there is no Sierra Leonean out there who is keeping calm and stoicly carrying on with his job resisting the temptation of dipping his fingers on the state’s cookie jar. It is, however, a long shot to find one as that human instinct to survive most times trumps all other human qualities of moral fortitude.

    Magafuli, though not a Sierra Leonean, will be shifting – if not rolling over his grave –  over the alleged overindulgence of his former colleage President. I wonder if he ever visited any country outside of East Africa. The great man did not only do a Trump and ask for his salary as President to be cut – albeit not to zero, but he also compelled all his ministers and all Tanzanian public officials to mimmick him and exhibit all symptoms of his aerophobia. In a sense, he was urging them to make maximum use of emerging technologies to attend conferences, meetings and conduct any foreign affairs to  save some Tanzania shillings for his tax payers.The so-called Bulldozer had his dictatorial streak and other flaws but his simple lifestyle and common touch endeared him to most Tanzanians and even beyond.

  5. These people are disgusting. How does a president and his scamming wife look at the millions of poor and hungry people in the country and steal from them like this. They have no shame whatsoever.

    And yet the international community, the World Bank and IMF keep pimping (sorry – pumping) more and more cash into their corrupt programmes and projects in the country that benefit no one but the Bios and their patrons.

    What a corrupt and depraved world we live in. One day the Bios will be held accountable for every cent they have stolen in this country.

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