• February 2, 2024

Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia is in hot water

Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia is in hot water
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By Hassan Osman Kargbo

Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia is in hot water following the release of the 2023 Auditor General report. After a thorough look of the Auditor General’s report it is clear that the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia is seriously in dubious acts and other financial mismanagement in the Embassy.

According to the report it evidence that a total of 230 Emergency Travelling Certificate (ETCs) valued at US$23,000 were issued to Sierra Leoneans on gratis between 29th December 2022 and 11th May 2022 without letters of authority.

It also noted that passport extensions were done for 87 Sierra Leoneans between February 2016 and October 2020 valued at US$4,640 without evidence of payment.

The report also admitted that from January 2021 to December 2022, the Embassy collected a total of US$2,33.2 from consular services such as issuance of visa and extension of passports. There were however no evidence to show that these amounts were transferred into the CF.

‘We recommended that the Head of Chancery (HoC) should ensure the following: i) Provide justification (letters of authority) for the issuance of ETCs costing US$23,000, and for the passport extensions on gratis basis costing US$4,640; failing which, the amount should be refunded and paid into the CF. Evidence of payment should be submitted to the ASSL. ii) Transfer the amount of US$2,335.2 into the CF, and evidence of transfer forwarded to the ASSL,’ part of the report stated.

The Audit report furthered noted that they observed that the Embassy spent US$59,590.70 on overseas travels in 2021 and 2022. Those expenditures were however without adequate supporting documents such as approvals from the MFAIC, invitation letters from the organizer of the meetings and back-to-office reports for meetings attended.

The report recommended that the HoC make available all supporting documents to the ASSL; failing which, the HoC who served during the period (2021-2022) refund to the consolidated fund the full amount of US$59,590.70.

The report confirmed that an amount totaling US$31,731 was spent on local travelling between January 2021 and December 2022. Documentary evidence such as invitation letters and back-to-office reports to justify the various transactions was however not made available. They could therefore not ascertain the purpose of the travels, the activities undertaken, tasked accomplished, action points and or follow-up actions on the purpose of the visit.

The report recommended that the Hoc make available all supporting documents to the ASSL; failing which the full amount should be paid into the consolidated fund.

The report also observed from their examinations of the IFMIS print out that the other charges totaling US$573,551 were remitted to the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2020. It however noted that, documents such as, payment vouchers, receipts, procurement documents and other disbursement related documents to support the queried amount were not submitted for audit examination.

According to the Auditor’s comment the document referred to in the response are financial returns on how the monies were spent. What they demanded to examine were the payment vouchers and the relevant supporting documents but were not submitted and the issue remain unresolved.

The report also observed the following at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia:

Payment vouchers did not have serial numbers.

Salaries for some staff and other payments were made in cash, instead of through bank transfers or by cheques.

Delays were observed in the receipt of quarterly allocations for other charges.

There were challenges tracing documents in files that were processed by former workers of the Embassy.

A large portion of the disbursement of monies for operational and administrative costs was paid as refunds for monies previously spent by staff.

We observed that there were no provisions for medical insurance and leave allowances for local staff.

From review of documents, we observed that the finance clerk gave loans to staff. Further inquiry revealed that the Embassy did not maintain the following documents: 1) a loan policy and 2) a loan register.

The loan policy set out prescribed laws on the conduct of obtaining loans, while the register keeps records of staff that apply for loan. These two documents will put sanitary checks into loan application and protect the process from abuse, fraud and bad debts.

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