• January 22, 2024

Ministry of Defence… Billions of Leones Embezzled!!!

Ministry of Defence… Billions of Leones Embezzled!!!
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By Alusine Fullah

The prime function of Audit Service Sierra Leone is to provide independent assurance, information and advice to those charged with governance, to properly account for the use of public resources. In addition, ASSL strive to assist audited bodies improve their financial and operational management processes, governance and propriety in the conduct of public business through recommendations proffered during our mainstream financial, compliance and performance audits.

Legally, Audit Service Sierra Leone is entitled to all institutions that are receiving funds from the Sierra Leone Government. The Constitution of Sierra Leone section 119 subsection 1&2 gives the legal mandate to Audit Service Sierra Leone. Subsection one (1) states: “There shall be an Auditor-General for Sierra Leone whose office shall be a public office, and who shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Public Service Commission, and subject to the approval of Parliament.”

Subsection (2) states: “The public accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices, including the Courts, the accounts of the central and local government administrations, of the Universities and public institutions of like nature, any statutory corporation, company or other body or organisation established by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument or otherwise set up partly or wholly out of Public Funds, shall be audited and reported on by or on behalf of the Auditor-General, and for that purpose the Auditor-General shall have access to all books, records, returns and other documents relating or relevant to those accounts.”

For the past decades, report in; report out, the Ministry of Defence is one of the institutions that has been hardly hit on financial mismanagement or embezzlement. Going through the 2022 and 2023 Audit Service Report, the Ministry of Defence has been the fountain of resources mismanagement and embezzlement. In line that, the report states that several tendering process were not followed. It states:

“Contrary to Section 37(1) of the Public Procurement Act of 2016, there was no evidence of the tendering process before contract signing for the provision of repairs and maintenance services for 41 vehicles at a contract price of SLE1, 594,260. Similarly, three RFQs were not submitted for the procurement of air conditioners, repairs and maintenance, for which a total of SLE20, 790.00 was paid to the contractors. This was in contravention of Section 45(1) of the Public Procurement Act of 2016 which requires that quotations shall be requested in writing from as many bidders as practicable, but from at least three bidders.”

Apart from above, the report also found out that there are several allowances for overseas training without adequate supporting documents. It states: “The RSLAF Policy 21 on study leave requires that for courses longer than one-year duration, study leave students are to present an annual progress report; otherwise, this will result in removal from the study leave scheme, and students are liable to repay costs. We however noted that overseas training allowances paid to 26 personnel on various courses, totalling SLE953,829.55, were without annual progress reports, course completion certificates and debriefing forms. We were informed by the Assistant Chief of Defence Staff, Training and Doctrine (ACDS, Trg./Doc) that the concerned personnel have been requested to submit the relevant documents. However, evidence was not submitted to substantiate this claim, as at the time of writing this report, the supporting documents were not made available for audit inspection.”

According to the report, in spite of repeated requests, bank statements and cashbooks were not submitted for seven bank accounts. According to the report, this action was a violation of Section 91(1a) of the PFMA of 2016, and by extension, Section 119(2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone. The following are the details of the six bank accounts: RSLAF PEACE SUPPORT A/C from RCB; RSLAF DEPT. SPECIAL A/C from BSL; RSLAF Soldiers Discharged on Medical Grounds from BSL; RSLAF Horton Academy (US$) from SLCB; RSLAF Horton (SLE) from SLCB; Gender and Equal Opportunities from SCB.

In line of the Ministry’s approved budgets and the IFMIS, the report observed material variances between the budgets and actual expenditures for 17 budget lines. The amount budgeted for FY2022 was SLE103, 857,705.12 and the amount spent was SLE223, 078,137.98; thereby resulting in an excess spending of SLE119, 220,432.86.

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