By Ralph Sesay
The issue of continuously auditing our governance and financial systems and processes to ensure that they are in line with international best practices, laws, rules and regulations and value for money is always key in a democracy that thrives on transparency and accountability.
The move by the New Direction Government with support of international partners to comprehensively audit the energy and power, NASSIT and telecommunications sectors has revealed a number of systemic failures in the management of these costly intensive institutions.
The highly experienced and professional auditors selected within the African Continent in collaboration with our auditors did a marvelous job in exposing a number of internal failures and lack of adherence to established rules and procedures in managing these government entities.
It was also established that certain institutions like the SLRA had reneged on their responsibility to supervise and provide technical know-how to road companies contracted by government to do our roads.
The management of billions of dollars pumped into the road sector by government was in shambles with too many players with no clear mandate and roles.
Most of our roads which were constructed or under construction lack the required engineering and technical touch to guarantee their longevity.
The SLRA was politically influenced and exposed of having connived with a number of road companies at the expense of the state.
In the Communication Sector, it was discovered that the international gateway system was very porous and hugely exploited by GSM companies.
It was reported that the country was therefore losing billions of Leones as a result of the porosity of the international gateway.
The country, according to reports, was also cheated by some GSM companies operating in the country especially as it relates to the area of payment of the Universal Development Access Fund (UDAF).
Many were found to be indebted to Government, while some were even given loans singlehandedly by the past government to improve on their communications in certain areas of the country while others were not given similar opportunities as provided by law.
The situation was also not different from what had obtained in the energy sector and social security sector (NASSIT).
The Auditors had submitted a number of recommendations for the management of the institutions, the Ministry of Finance and the Government of Sierra Leone for immediate action.
In some cases, it was recommended that certain individuals pay monies they had illegally spent without recourse to rules and procedures, while in other cases, they had recommended that Government appoints a complete management team or Board of Directors in some of the institutions against the backdrop that those institutions had taken some decisions prior to them not having fully constituted boards as required by law.
The Auditors had also made stiff recommendations in the areas around amending our laws which have become obsolete and not in tandem with emerging trends across the globe or even the sub-region.
On the award of contracts, they had called for the termination of some or put them on hold so as to get the procedures used for awarding such contracts.
Many contracts, especially those by NASSIT were discovered not to have value for money.
One could imagine that the audits were done only in four of the institutions and such damage was discovered and what would happen if we have the resources to look at all our institutions.
The level of damage we will discover will be enormous.
But what has prompted me to write this piece is the way and manner the SLPP-led Government had received and treated the report and its recommendations.
Firstly, it was their considered view that the problems highlighted in the report were created only in the ten years of APC rule and that they should take the usual approach of investigating or bringing the APC to book as they have been doing.
The loose cannon, ACC Commissioner at the time, had called a press conference to make his point clear that the ACC will investigate the bogus amount dubbed by the Finance Minister as what the state lost from the four sectors.
Government has failed to realize that the issues raised with most of the institutions are systemic and requires an overhaul of systems and processes in those institutions.
The SLPP has taken the report hook, line and sinker as a political report rather than one that has a national problem and hence should be addressed nationally.
This explains why Government has not been able to work around this brilliant report with a view to correct the systemic failures in the management of our institutions.
Yesterday, the ACC has to make it public that it lacks an evidential threshold to prosecute Ambassador Osman Yansaneh who was accused of leaving his duty post for 708 days when he was High Commissioner to Ghana, Togo and Burkina Faso, and that the basis for lacking this evidential threshold was borne from the fact that our own foreign service lacks systems and procedures to checkmate absenteeism in the service.
What we are saying here is that everywhere we go the systems are rotten and we have to do something as a people and as a Government.
There is every need to look at the Technical Audit Report and even the GTT with a view to address the number of systemic challenges that have affected the smooth management of our institutions.
Until Government looks at the issues with a national lens and not with SLPP lens, they will not understand their impact on governance.
By Ralph Sesay