• February 7, 2024

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT EXPOSED!!

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT EXPOSED!!
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By Alusine Fullah

The mandate as the supreme audit institution of Sierra Leone is to audit all government institutions and any other entities that receive money for and on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone, as enshrined in section 119 of 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone, the Audit Service Act of 2014, and the Public Financial Management Act of 2016. In other words, the object for which the Audit Service is established is to audit and report on all public accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices including the Judiciary of Sierra Leone, the central and local government institutions, the university of Sierra Leone and other public institutions of like nature, all statutory corporations, companies and other bodies and organizations established by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument or otherwise set up wholly or in part out of public funds.

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In line with that, as mandated by law, the Audit Service Sierra Leone audited the Office of the President. According to the report, a total amount of SLE22, 370,463 were paid without payment vouchers and supporting documents for the Lungi Bridge feasibility study the supervisory consultancy for the construction of the new Airport.

Bank Withdrawals without Supporting Documents In contravention of Section 100(1) of the PFMRs of 2018, the following were observed:  Bank withdrawals totalling SLE22, 370,463 made from the Lungi Bridge Feasibility Study Account and paid to the Atepa Group for the Lungi Bridge feasibility study and the supervisory consultancy for the construction of the new Airport, were without payment vouchers and supporting documents. Bank withdrawals totalling SLE1, 254,186 from various Imprest Accounts were without payment vouchers and other relevant supporting documents. Without these documents, we could not confirm whether withdrawals were utilized for the intended purposes.

However, according to the official response from the Office of the President, the withdrawals from the bank account of the Secretary to the President and the Office of the First Lady were imprests. The payment vouchers and retirement details have been identified and are available for audit verification. The payment vouchers and supporting documents in respect of the withdrawals from the bank account of the National Monitoring and Evaluation Department have been identified and are available for audit verification.

In nexus to the foregoing, the Audit Service Sierra Leone recommended that the former Chairman of the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiative should submit the payment vouchers and supporting documents to support the withdrawals from the Lungi Bridge Feasibility Study Account. Otherwise, the Chairman should refund the amount to the Consolidated Fund. Also, the Accountants should submit the payment vouchers and supporting documents; otherwise, these monies should be refunded into the Consolidated Fund.

In terms of oversea travelling, a total amount of US$240,000 and €70,000 were not made available for inspection. The report reads: Retirement details and records in respect of Special Imprest for out-of-pocket totalling US$240,000 and €70,000 expended by the Office on overseas traveling were not made available for inspection. Without the retirement details, we could not confirm whether the funds were used for the intended purposes.

The Office of the President responded that the use of the out-of-pocket expense funds was indemnified. The indemnity provides details of how the funds were used, and they are available for audit verification.

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