Investigations conducted by this press revealed that nearly one billion leones was disbursed by the government through the Office of the Vice President as contributions to bereaved families of deceased public officials and private individuals.
We discovered that between January and February 2018, a total of 550 million leones was given as government support to the funeral of late Solomon Athanasius Pratt (Le300m), Hon. Frank Kposowa (Le50m) and Hon. Justice Edmond K. Cowan (Le200m) respectively.
Other facts indicate that between May to November 2018, a total of 350 million leones was paid out to relatives of late Samuel S. Marco (Le50m), Pius Munda Foray (Le75m), Justice Patrick O. Hamilton (Le100m), Alpha George Sembu Forna (Le50m), Justice Aiah D. Konoyima (Le75m) respectively.
Our investigations ascertained that there is no government-approved policy guide to determine the eligibility criteria and the amount to be paid for which rank of officers.
The 2017 audit report in particular identified this issue and recommended that there be a policy for the disbursement of government contributions in support of civic and state funerals and other related matters.
Added to that, the Special Technical Audit Report published last year frowned at government institutions that gave out hundreds of millions of leones to parliamentarians, ministers, private individuals and groups as donations/support for personal undertakings and other activities and recommended that these monies be fully recovered and paid into the consolidated revenue fund.
This press sought to find out whether the absence of such a policy to determine the rank/status a public official must have attained to qualify to receive such funds and the amount to be paid out for each rank is open to abuse.
In responding thereto, Secretary to the Vice President, Barba B. Fortune, said that a draft policy has been developed awaiting inputs and approval by the relevant authority. He explained that all requests relating to civic/state funerals and the state contributions thereto are approved by the Office of the President.
The draft policy glanced at by this writer puts President, Vice President, Speaker and Chief Justice under category A to receive State Funeral whilst ministers and other individuals fall under different categories to receive either state/civic funeral. Whether this draft stipulates a specific amount that should be given as state contribution to the various categories cannot be ascertained.
The intriguing questions now asked by this press is: should that privilege be granted to ministers and other high-ranking officials based on the position they held or based on their performance during their tenure in office? What about those who would rather abuse their position and corrupt state resources?