Lawrence Williams: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 11 January 2021:
The 2019 Audit Report uncovers egregious flaws in the handling of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) by MPs, amounting to 22 billion Leones.
Schedules to the financial statements for Constituency Development Funds examined by the auditors revealed that Le10.1 billion and Le12.2 billion were paid to Members of Parliament including Paramount Chief Members of Parliament (PCMPs) for 2018 and 2019 respectively, but same could not be properly accounted for.
According to the auditors, the Le10.1 billion paid to MPs in 2018 was meant for the construction or renting of a constituency office in all the 132 constituencies, but these monies could not be accounted for during the audit verification exercise.
The auditors discovered that, during the period under review, Paramount Chief Members of Parliament who are without constituencies received nearly 1 billion Leones from the CDF portfolio, but same could not be accounted for.
The official response by the Clerk of Parliament indicates that the CDF is disbursed to the accounts of sitting MPs, “whether or not they have a constituency”. The Clerk also says that there is no “clear definition” of who is qualified to benefit from the CDF.
The Auditor General concludes that since the CDF could not be properly accounted for, the issue remains “unresolved”. Read the excerpt below.
“Our examination of the schedules to the financial statements for Constituency Development Funds (CDF) revealed that a total of Le10,100,000,000 and Le12,220,672,500 were paid to 146 Members of Parliament (MPs) for 2018 and 2019 respectively; but were not retired.
“The payments made during 2018 were expected to be used for either the construction or renting of a constituency office in all the 132 constituencies nationwide.
“These payments include Le968,493,150 made to 14 paramount chiefs without constituencies in 2018 and the same in 2019.”
The Clerk of Parliament said “the issue of Constituency Development Funds (CDF) is limited to the Finance Department of Parliament, disbursing same to the respective accounts of beneficiaries (in this case sitting Members of Parliament (MPs), whether or not they have a constituency); hence, the reason for the inclusion of Paramount Chief MPs in the schedule of payments. Please be informed also that, in every year’s budget process, funds provided for this activity are meant for sitting MPs, without clear definition of who is qualified for same.”
“During the audit verification exercise, retirement details for Le10,100,000,000 and Le 12,220,672,500 in respect of the Constituency Developments Funds (CDF) paid during 2018 and 2019 were not presented during the audit verification exercise. The issue therefore remains unresolved.
“No response was provided for the yearly total of Le968,493,150 for 2018 and 2019 included in the above amounts in respect of Constituency Development Funds paid to sitting Paramount Chief Members of Parliament. The issue therefore remains unresolved.”
For many Sierra Leoneans 2021 was supposed to offer a new start in the fight against corruption. Not a single day goes by, without one or two public institutions caught up in a corruption scandal. Understandably, the general public is so uses to this corruption amongst their elected representatives. It has being normalised and accepted as what is expected of the people we elect to represent us. Corruption has eroded public trust and impacted on development projects that are earmarked for communities up and down the country .
Since Bio took office, the size of government has expanded and the quality of the institutions that are meant for public services delivery, have all been rendered ineffective and not fit for purpose. To those with political or party affiliates that found themselves running these public bodies, it is like hitting the jackpot. Let no one fool you, Bio has undermined public trust, the rule of law, free speech and a public distrustful of government. His government has broken the contract between the citizens and the state.