Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 December 2019:
It’s now more than twenty-four hours, since the Sierra Leone Auditor General Report 2018 went public. There have been mixed reactions to the findings of the report, especially key highlight showing that One Hundred and Forty One Billion Leones of government cash (about $14 million) cannot be found.
Supporters of the current SLPP government say that the Bio-led government cannot be held responsible for all of the missing cash, after being in power for only seven and a half months out of the twelve months audited.
But the fact remains that the present government must take ownership of the 2018 Auditor General Report, and held accountable for the missing cash.
Responding to this charge levied at the government, the Anti-Corruption Commission this afternoon published a statement, saying that it has started studying the report and will soon take appropriate action to investigate what happened to the missing Billions. This is what the statement said:
“ACC COMMENCES EXAMINATION OF AUDITED REPORT ON THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTS OF SIERRA LEONE
“The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) wishes to inform the general public that it has commenced examination of the Auditor General’s Report for the Financial Year ended 31st December, 2018 conducted by the Audit Service Sierra Leone and tabled before Parliament yesterday.
“The ACC notes and welcomes the ongoing public interest and debates on the said Report on the management of public and donor funds in Sierra Leone.
“As the institution charged with the responsibility of enforcing Accountability in Public Life, the ACC is now examining the aforesaid Report with a view to ascertaining any breaches of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 or needs for intervention by the ACC at this stage; and/or identify system lapses within the audited institutions for appropriate action. The Commission is also cognizant of the role of Parliament regarding this issue and it shall be collaborating with same in the interest of prudent financial management of the country.
“The ACC attaches utmost importance to the judicious use of monies and other resources meant for the People of Sierra Leone. Therefore, it wishes to make it abundantly clear that anyone found wanting shall face the full force of the law as will be appropriate with no exceptions.
“In this regard, the public is therefore encouraged to exercise patience while the Commission does a cursory and careful review of the Report and commence taking steps within the shortest time possible as may be expedient. The ACC shall continue to update the public as and when necessary.
The public is reassured that transparency and accountability in the management of Public Funds shall continue to be of paramount interest to the ACC.” END.
But, if anyone can help the ACC and the government find out what really happened to the missing Billions, it is the government’s Financial Secretary – Sahr Jusu and the Minister of Finance – Jacob Jusu Saffa.
Writing on behalf of the Ministry of Finance today, this is what Financial Secretary – Sahr Jusu said:
“I would like to present on behalf of the Minister of Finance, Hon Jacob Jusu Saffa (Photo), and the Economic Management Team, our profound gratitude to the Auditor General and her Team for submitting the 2018 Annual Audit Report to Parliament on time, as stipulated by the Constitution and the Public Financial Management Act.
“We are most gratified that the Public Accounts of 2018 has been given an UNQUALIFIED Audit Opinion. An unqualified audit opinion on the financial statements of an institution or government provided by certified Auditors represents a professional and independent opinion that the financial statements as presented gives a True and Fair view of monies received and expenditures undertaken during the course of the year.
“In the Auditor General’s Statement, she warmly recognized and stated “I would like to acknowledge the Government for its commitment to the continuous public financial management reforms which are aimed at further enhancing same in Sierra Leone”.
“Thus, commending the Government for its continued effort in improving the basis for which public officials are spending and accounting for use of tax payers money and raising concerns of public interest is demonstration of the Auditors fairness and independence in assessing government financial management.
“Despite these efforts, the Auditor General, like in many other institutional audits – particularly audit of public accounts across the world, has raised serious concerns of loss of revenue of Le140.9 billion (about $14.0 million or 0.02 percent of the total 2018 Budget).
“We commend the Auditor General for bringing these and other issues to the fore and we (as fiduciary agent of the Government) will work with Parliament and key stakeholders, including the individual persons and Ministries, Departments and Agencies, to implement the Auditor General’s recommendations and address all salient issues raised.
“Overall, we commend the role of Parliament in their oversight in ensuring that public funds are used rationally with the principles of equity, transparency and accountability. This is also clearly stated in the Auditor General’s report that “In my effort to use the knowledge gained through audit engagements to improve public administration, I sought and developed strategic relationships with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and other parliamentary oversight bodies, providing them with insight and information to enable them execute their respective mandates”.
“We commit to remain a Transparent and Accountable Government in the management of State resources, ensuring fiscal discipline, probity and accountability for Human Capital Development and job creation. Have a wonderful 2019 Christmas and New Year festive season.” END
The parliament of Sierra Leone will examine the Report when it returns from Christmas break in January. In the meantime, the Anti-Corruption Commission has started ploughing through the 389 page report, to find out what happened to Fourteen Million Dollars of public funds.