By Amin Kef (Ranger)
This medium is of the strong conviction that one of the things that the current SLPP ruling Government is priding itself of having achieved, that is effectively fighting corruption has been made hollow, insignificant and a mere empty bluff as the recently released 2021 Auditor General’s Report reveals massive corruption in not only Ministries, Departments and Agencies but in other related sectors of governance.
According to the Report, an alleged estimated cash loss of $:3,523,588 (Three Million Five Hundred and Twenty-Three Thousand Five Hundred and Eighty-Eight United States Dollars), €183,949 (One Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousand Nine Hundred and Forty Nine Euros), and £ 752, 859 (Seven Hundred and Fifty-Two Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty-Nine Pounds was reported at some of the country’s Diplomatic Missions; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le:5,610,439,736 (Five Billion Six Hundred and Ten Billion Four Hundred and Thirty-Nine Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty-Six Leones) was reported in 14 Local Councils; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le. 65,181,048,963 (Sixty Five Billion One Hundred and Eighty-One Million and Forty-Eight Thousand Nine Hundred and Sixty-Three Leones) plus $132,000 (One Hundred and Thirty-Two Thousand United States Dollars) was reported in revenue-generating entities; an alleged estimated cash loss of Le.560,204,104,073 (Five Hundred and Sixty Billion Two Hundred and Four Million One Hundred and Four Thousand and Seventy-Three Leones) was reported as tax liabilities and a further alleged estimated cash loss of Le.116,238,191,455 (One Hundred and Sixteen Billion Two Hundred and Thirty-Eight Million One Hundred and Ninety-One Thousand Four Hundred and Fifty-Five Leones) plus $338,424 (Three Hundred and Thirty-Eight Four Hundred and Twenty-Four Leones) was reported under the general category.
This medium repeatedly argued that one of the main factors responsible for the economic morass in which the country is trapped is undoubtedly massive institutionalized corruption in Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
For many Sierra Leoneans, it is really very painful and a pity to come to the realization that this country is unimaginably rich in terms of natural resources, but pathetically, majority of the citizenry are continually wallowing in abject poverty whereas only a handful of the citizenry (in this context), public officials with their cohorts in the private sector, keep plundering the national coffers with reckless abandon.
Candidly, the revelations as contained in the recently released Auditor General’s Report 2021 are very shocking and grueling vis-à-vis the colossal amount of monies which certain Ministries, Departments and Agencies cannot properly account for, meaning that as a result of institutionalized corruption in those institutions, funds that were intended to finance development projects were clandestinely diverted into personal accounts.
In some instances, public officials circumvented stipulated procedures to be followed in the implementation of projects as well as procuring goods and services.
Another anomaly that the Auditor General’s Report (2021) unearthed is that recommendations that were proffered in previous reports to stop leakages and wastages in terms of following best practices and the utilization of public funds were not adhered to by these MDA’s who manifested blatant neglect for those recommendations and deliberately embarked on carrying on business as usual.
If in actual fact some public officials were sincere enough and very patriotic there should be nothing wrong for them to strictly adhere to those recommendations in order to prevent leakages and wastages.
We must be mindful of the fact that some of the misappropriated or unaccounted funds are those that were provided by donors for the implementation of specific projects. It goes without saying that if donors of such funds realize that the funds were not utilized properly then obviously they will lose confidence in making available future funds to the Government or may tend to give certain ‘conditionalities’ which must be adhered to by Government some of which could be detrimental to the populace.
We have seen how the Anti Corruption Commissioner, Francis Ben Kaifala, reacted by furiously promising that he will chase the missing billions of Leones.
The strategy and methodology used could not be of much interest than recovering monies that should belong to the State and for the benefit of the citizenry. Those found culpable must pay the price.
One can only conclude that the current SLPP Government cannot be highly commended in its fight against corruption as the 2021 Auditor General’s Report reveals billions of missing Leones that should be accounted for. To be true, the crusade mounted by Commissioner Ben Kaifala on corruption was outwardly impressive but to the chagrin of many the persistence of corruption in public institutions is a testament of its endemic nature and failure on the part of the ACC to put tough measures in place to avoid recurrence.
As the ACC Boss has pledged determination to hold all those responsible for managing such funds all eyes are now on him and his team to see tangible results otherwise that could be dismissed as an empty bluff signifying nothing.