The 2018 Report of Sierra Leone’s Auditor General – Mrs Lara Taylor Pearce, which was today tabled in parliament, makes for an unpleasant reading. The report is replete with massive evidence of rampant corruption, maladministration and brazen theft of public funds, under the watch of the new government.
According to the 389 page-report, like all previous reports on the financial management of the country by successive governments, there is a huge hole in the current government’s accounts. One Hundred and Forty One Billion Leones in cash, is missing and unaccounted for.
The auditor general’s report is for the entire year ending December 2018. President Bio and his government were elected in March 2018.
There are questions now being asked about president Bio’s commitment to good governance, strict and prudent financial management, transparency and accountability.
One of the first pronouncements President Bio announced from State House after he was sworn-in last year – using his executive powers, was a range of financial management measures across government which he said were aimed at plugging financial leakages. From the findings of today’s report, it is obvious that these measures are not working.
But supporters of the government are blaming the former government of president Koroma for the missing One Hundred and Forty One Billion Leones.
In its executive summary, the report says: “Losses in respect of cash irregularities identified in the course of our audit amounted to Le140.9 billion. These losses are in respect of Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs), Public Enterprises (PEs) and Local Councils (LCs).”
And what makes it even worse is that “these losses do not include cash irregularities from embassies and other diplomatic missions,” the report found.
Le56.2 billion of the cash losses and irregularities took place across Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, and were mainly attributable to the following by the Auditor’s Office:
Revenue not banked
Irregularities in payment of salaries to staff
Statutory deductions not paid to the appropriate authorities
Irregularities in payment of DSAs and other allowances
Unexplained expenditure, payments without approval and expenditure returns not submitted
Fuel not accounted for Imprest not retired Stores and fixed assets irregularities
Most of the losses across MDAs were found in various transactions, such as: Irregularities in payment of salaries – Le4,384,950,940; Irregularities in payment for travels, DSAs and other allowances – Le1,528,298,810; Unsupported payments and other funds not accounted for –Le18,708,699,304; Unexplained expenditures, payment without approval and expenditure returns not submitted – Le22,267,935,226; Imprest not retired – Le1,113,548,001; Fuel not accounted for – Le2,704,734,000; Revenue not banked and other revenue related issues – Le2,414,447,492; Statutory deductions not paid to the relevant authorities – Le2,946,619,395; Stores and fixed assets irregularities – Le107,000,000.
But what is even more alarming, according to the report, is this: “In addition to the above cash losses, we found out that payments for goods, works and services, which amounted to Le2.5 billion were not supported by adequate documentation (unreceipted payments). This means that some of the requested supporting documents in respect of these payments were not submitted for our review.
“We also observed several significant lapses in the procurement of goods, works and services which amounted to Le257.1 billion. This might have been due to lack of commitment on the part of MDAs to ensure compliance with rules and legislation governing the procurement process. This practice does not ensure transparency in the procurement process.”
This massive loss of cash is also reported by the Auditor General across PUBLIC ENTERPRISES, COMMISSIONS AND DONOR FUNDED PROJECTS
“In general, and virtually across all the Public Enterprises and Commissions, several