By: Alex A. Bah, Communications Officer, ACC
Strong and effective audit institutions are a fundamental incentive for good governance world over. It is such that ensures structural internal control systems that prevents, easily detects and extinguish errors that provides the impetus for perceived threat of corruption. Audit according to eminent Canadian born Robert K. Mautz, “is concerned with the verification of accounting data determining the accuracy and reliability of accounting statements and reports.” In a country like Sierra Leone, with a government pre-eminently resolved to tackling corruption that is an insidious plague, fundamental to achieving this unambiguously heavy, yet achievable task, ardently requires firm anti-corruption strategies that includes viable audit systems aimed at unravelling misappropriation through plausible verifications, and expunging of avenues for corruption to thrive.
The signed working partnership between the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides the wherewithal for collaboration and intervention where needed of the ACC based on the provision of Page 2 (1 and 5) respectively, of the MoU. This is consistent with the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action that emphasize the urging need for action towards strong, effective, transparent and harmonized reform strategies.
Sierra Leone’s Supreme Audit Institution – ASSL recently published audit reports that reveals damning revelations of huge sums of monies said to have been misappropriated and or clearly unaccounted for. This pattern and festering spate was what informed the conscious and determined intervention of the ACC by entering into working partnership to really provide the needed bludgeon to ensure institutions and individuals are held accountable for any anomaly contained in audit reports.
WHAT HAS THE ACC DONE?
In 2020 audits reports, over One thousand and twenty (1020) issues required the attention and intervention of the ACC. Half of this same number were issues also that warranted the ACC to intervene, and same can be said for preceding reports. What has been clear in this however is the hardened and resolute stance of the Commission, through swift reaction in underscoring the many issues that falls squarely under its purview. This equally follows immediate action in summoning, arresting and questioning concerned parties. In the last four years, the over forty (40) billion old Leones recovered mainly through the non-conviction based recovery model, represents over 80 percent, issues flagged in the audit reports.
Through serialized releases the public was accordingly informed of action taken that led to the recovery of a total sum of Two Billion Old Leones, arising from issues lashed in the 2015-2018 Audit Reports. The said amount was returned to the Consolidated Revenue Funds (CRF), two matters were charged to court; practices and procedures of public bodies were thoroughly examined with a view to identifying gaps and or limiting corruption opportunities, and develop and proffer best practices accordingly.
In the most recent release on the preceding report, the ACC informed the public about an over 180m (Old) Leones Recovery made through its Non-Conviction Based Asset Recovery Model, from The Freetown City Council, as being Monies Paid to its “Non-Staff Personnel”. This was an issue which ASSL flagged in the 2019 Audit Reports as the said money inappropriately paid from the Freetown City Council (FCC) funds, by the Council to the Head of the Mayor’s Delivery Unit (MDU). The said monies were paid to the Commission by “Interested Persons” through a civil recovery process, following negotiations in that regard.
It preceded a Media Release on the same, in May, after thorough investigations was done Relating to Payments made to “Non-Staff Personnel” in The Freetown City Council by its Mayor, Yvonne Aki Sawyerr.
From the 15th March to 7th April 2022, four media releases were accordingly published that speaks to 21 issues, all which were lashed in the 2019 Audit Report and Covid’19 Audit Report 2020. These issues borders around alleged misappropriation, failure to pay withholding taxes, failure to pay to the National Revenue Authority (NRA) Pay as you Earn Taxes (PAYE), payment of untaxed allowances, non-adherence of procurement regulations, among many others. In those releases that speak to those issues, the public was accordingly informed of the outcomes of the investigations that includes refund of monies; Ernest Bai Koroma University deducted withholding taxes from contactors and failed to pay the same to NRA, in which the officials admitted and immediately refunded the amount of Two Hundred and Fifty Million, One Hundred and Fifty-five Thousand Leones (Le 250,155,000) into the ACC; Six Million, Three Hundred and Thirty Thousand Leones (Le 6,330,000) refunded by the Bombali District Council as monies emanating from unmerited sitting fees paid to Councilors that were absent in those sittings, etc.
Added to other huge amount of monies that were recovered as highlighted in the previous audit reports, improper filing, and systems deficiencies among others were also fundamental. This however necessitated the ACC to embark on thorough systems and processes review consistent with the powers of Section 7 subsection 2(f,g & h) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008, as amended in 2019; “to examine the practices of public bodies in order to facilitate the discovery of corrupt practices or acts of corruption and to secure revision of those practices and procedures which in the opinion of the Commission, may lead to or be conducive to corruption or corrupt practices.”
Fourteen (14) reviews has been conducted in the past five years, with Eight (8) Institutional Anti-Corruption Policies developed, 461 recommendations have been proffered through systems review, with 336 of those implemented with a total of 73% of compliance level rate.
WHAT IS MISSING?
With all but some of these major strides and incentives to really tackle corruption and or as in many cases; procedural disregard that accounts for the worrying outcomes of audit reports, the problems keep happening. As renowned author and filmmaker George Edward Griffin noted that the highest form of patriotism is expressed by fighting corruption, is just similar to what ACC Commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala Esq., said in an indignant mood whilst expressing his displeasure over the similar outcomes of the 2021 audit reports that shows billions of Leones of estimated cash loss, chiefly in diplomatic missions, revenue generating institutions and over 14 local councils.
Whilst in many instances the ACC has buoyantly steeped up and continues to show that firm resolve and ferocity, it is clear that its moves and strides can only but suffice in addressing the problems. Fixing these issues actually requires collective resolve by all persons; heads of MDAs, various law enforcement authorities, civil society organizations, the fourth estate, and the general citizenry that should be poised to promote accountability for their actions or even inactions. “We have to be serious with our destinies and we must not allow ourselves to be held down by the same set of issues”, Francis Ben Kaifala Esq. rightly averred during a Press Conference on the same.
© Public Relations Unit, ACC