The people of Sierra Leone have been suffering for decades and lack basic services. Corruption and lack of accountability for public money are foremost among the causes.
In recent years, the amount of spending on government overseas travel has been substantial (Le 40.2bn in 2017 and Le 29.2 bn in 2018). The expenditure on overseas travelling for the year 2017 supersedes the entire budget for the Ministry of Sport; Youth; Tourism; Social Welfare; Fisheries and Marines Resource combined for 2018.
The 2020 Finance Act has a provision that has changed the Public Finance Management Act, which allows a “non-accountable imprest to provide for daily international travel expenses excluding purchase of tickets incurred by the President, Vice-President and the Speaker of Parliament”. This lack of accountability on expenditure for traveling is unacceptable, particularly the increment on spending in this area; and the minimal resources available for development spending in the country. This provision will not only undermine the stated commitment of the President and New Direction Government to effective and judicious management of the State and its resources, but will undermine the work of the Auditor General’s Office. We expect both the Executive and Legislature to keep the promise of accountability for public funds.
Civil Society understands the need for confidentiality and security in relation to Presidential movements, but accountability of funds can be achieved without compromising this. The recent compromise by the President to put a ceiling on the imprest account does not resolve the issue – there will still be a large amount of public funding that is not properly accounted for. We call on everyone to sign this petition by asking our MPs to take out the unaccountable imprest in the 2020 Finance Act to ensure the country continues its path towards greater transparency and accountability of public funds.
Civil society is therefore calling on the Parliament of Sierra Leone not to pass the Finance Act 2020 with a provision for “Unaccountable Imprest” for President, Vice President and Speaker of the House of Parliament. If this proposed Bill is passed by Parliament, it will entrench the half a century long culture of unaccountability that has led to mass poverty today.