By Ragan M. Conteh
The Auditor-General of Sierra Leone, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, has disclosed to journalists that the Audit Service Sierra Leone is currently starving due to lack of adequate funding.
According to Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, her institution has over the years been asking for funds to audit International Nongovernmental Organisations (INGOs) and institutions in Sierra Leone as they carry huge funds on behalf of Sierra Leone, adding that, due to lack of resources, they cannot reach out to these international NGOs and other institutions for audit.
Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce made the disclosure during a press conference organised by her institution to clarify issues relating to the 2019 Audit Report into the management of Sierra Leone’s financial affairs by the government, and the COVID-19 audit report in December 2020, that some sects of citizens spared no time and effort in trying to discredit the Auditor General’s findings.
During the press conference, many discovered that the COVID-19 audit report reveals massive corruption in the handling of the Corona funds by NaCOVERC, MoHS and IPAU, the bodies set up by the government to oversee efforts in tackling the pandemic.
Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce continued that ASSL is currently starving, which prompts the institution not to adequately execute their duties and responsibilities.
“Even in the budget, the Ministry of Finance failed to give us what we asked for and this will always derail our work. Even though they failed to give what we asked for, we always try to meet to the deadline, which is December every year,” she said.
The constraint of funding, to reach out to international institutions in Sierra Leone, she said, is their biggest challenge, adding that they are still looking forward to see how we can source funding to reach out to those INGOs and institutions.
The Auditor General is the independent auditor reporting to Parliament, adding that Section 119 of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone empowers the Auditor General to audit the public accounts of Sierra Leone and of all public offices, including the courts, the central and local government administrations, the Universities and public institutions, together with statutory corporations, companies, bodies or organisations set up partly or wholly out of public funds.
During the press conference, the deputy Auditor General, Tamba Momoh, also exposed the NaCOVERC and Ministry of Health and Sanitation and IPAU for the missing15 inches touch screen 47 laptops specification procured by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation through IPAU.
The 47 laptops, according to Tamba Momoh, NACOVERC requested for 15 laptops for the Situation Room and 32 laptops for the Command Center, but all of the brands requested are nowhere to be found.
He went on that, one of the local business institutions, called House of Electronic Sierra Leone Limited, was given the opportunity by IPAU to undertake local purchase order, which amounts to Le.635 million excluding GST.
The other thievery syndicate, exposed by the ASSL, is that, on the 19th of March, the Chinese donated goods, including one 50 KVA generator, to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, which, according to Tamba Momoh, was also nowhere to be found.
Tamba Momoh pointed out that several letters were sent to the ministry to provide the generator or show the location of the said generator donated for the fight against COVID-19 in the country.
He continued that the ministry claimed that the said 50KVA generator was sent to Zimmi Magbele PHU. He informed that what was heartrending by the officials of ASSL is that, when the team went to Zimmi Magbele, they discovered that the generator stationed in that PHU is 65KVA generator and the 50KVA generator donated by the Chinese Embassy was never found.
He said before all these investigations, the ASSL on 6th May 2020 informed the NaCOVERC and sent engagement letter, which NaCOVERC head agreed to have received.
He went further that ASSL held an opening conference on Saturday 9th of May 2020 where most of the pillars at NaCOVERC were present. The ASSL team also held several interviews.
Tamba Momoh furthered that, on the 15th June 2020, the institution issued their first query letter and gave recommendation but there was no response.
The fourth query was also sent for the lack of human resource and the ease of reference on 15th of June 2020 respectively. Mr. Momoh pointed out that ASSL also sent a request for exit conference.