Misuse of Public Monies due to Lukewarm Implementation of Audit Recommendations

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A Commentary By Ranger

The World Bank, the country’s principal infrastructural development partner in a report published on June 30, 2019 noted that, “Despite the remarkable progress achieved since the end of the civil war, Sierra Leone’s State institutions remain weak and marred by limited human capacity and elite capture.

Furthermore, they are also subject to political interests, resulting in poor transparency and accountability. Improving transparency and accountability in the public sector is crucial to building a broader consensus around development strategies….”

In which regard, there are financial regulations transgressions, such as that unearthed in the Office of the First Lady between 2018 and 2019 if the recommendations made by the Auditor General are fully implemented by the entities that the audit finds wanting.

In the Government’s avowed fight against corruption and financial mismanagement, the Auditor General’s annual report is the most trusted template for assessing the quality of the wide range of services and programmes delivered by Ministries, Departments and Agencies and other institutions in the public sector.

As such, in her 2019 report, the Auditor General commented that, “We have identified areas that need improvement and have taken great care to make practical recommendations based on our audit findings.”

Why year after year the Parliamentary Accounts Committee and the President do not demand that the Auditor General’s recommendations, which are a critical part of their audit reports, are stringently followed upon is a wonder; as it always stresses that their implementation is important to drive positive improvements in the cost-effective delivery of programmes and services for citizens.

That there is disregard for the Auditor General’s recommendations in many MDAs is evidenced in the fact that the audit process seeks input and agreement from senior Management in the MDAs they audit, prior to the finalization of the reports on these recommendations.

The Ministry of Finance comes in for blame as an accomplice in the disobeying of the audit recommendations in terms of plugging loopholes and leakages for it not takin the necessary stringent actions against vote controllers, who year after year, indulge in the same criminal excesses.

In the face of President Bio’s promise in 2018 to curb the abuse of office by Government officials and the rampant corruption in high places, no doubt, the same financial improprieties unearthed by the Auditor General in the last decade have been brought forward into this one by this regime that promised deviation from past financial improprieties.

At least 177 billion Leones in cash cannot be accounted for by the Government, along with millions of dollars swindled through corrupt public procurement arrangements, as well as the disappearance of many items bought by the Government for public use.

The ACC deserves praise for attaching premium to the Auditor General’s Reports as seen in the way it responded to the Audit Reports 2015-2018 which resulted in investigations, prosecutions, convictions, recovery of huge sums, prevention measures, and, in appropriate situations, exoneration and clearing of persons and institutions.

The nation would like to be reassured that ACC, as it said, is examining the 2019 Audit Report with a view to ascertaining violations of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as Amended in 2019, or needs for intervention by the ACC; and/or identify system weaknesses within the audited institutions for appropriate prevention efforts to address them; and that those found wanting punished by law.

(C) The Calabash Newspaper