By Amin Kef (Ranger)
In a Media Release dated 8th February, 2023 and issued by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) it was stated that in a First (1st) Serialized Media Release, it will provide update and inform the general public on the actions taken so far on issues raised in the Auditor General’s Report of 2021.
According to the ACC those interventions focused on aspects of possible or alleged corruption and conducts inconsistent with the provision(s) in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019.
The ACC said after a thorough review and analysis of the aforementioned Report, the Commission initiated actions; with a view to investigating, prosecuting, or recovering of public funds, public revenue, public property, as may be necessary, in accordance with Sections 7, and 48 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019, respectively.
It stated that as of the 8th February,2023, the Commission has recovered Public Resources in the total sum of Two Billion, Thirteen Million, Six Hundred and Sixty Five Thousand, Six Hundred and Seven (Old) Leones, and Six (Old) Cents (Le2,013,665,607.6).
With regards the PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE, the ACC stated that the Audit Report of 2021 highlighted that; the Petroleum Directorate failed to do the following in 2020: That the sum of Fifty Five Million, Eight Hundred and Four Thousand One Hundred and Twenty Five (Old) Leones (Le 55,804,125) was paid as GST, for which GST invoices were not made available to the Auditors for review.
The report further stated that the Petroleum Directorate made domestic allowance payments to senior staff totaling Two Hundred and Forty Three Million (Old) Leones (Le243,000,000) without deducting Pay As you Earn (PAYE) tax of Seventy-Two Million, Nine Hundred (Old) Leones (Le 72, 900,000).
The ACC stated that its investigation established that out of a list of suppliers provided to the ACC, by the Petroleum Directorate affected by the 15% GST payment, two out of the five suppliers had not issued GST invoices to the Petroleum Directorate and as such did not pay same to the NRA in their behalf.
It further stated that the two suppliers who did not issue GST invoices have fulfilled their 15% GST payments to the ACC, with a payment totaling to Twenty Three Million (Old) Leones (Le 23,000,000).
According to the ACC, the other two suppliers submitted NRA receipts which cumulated to a payment of Forty Eight Million, Six Hundred and Four Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty Five (Old) Leones (Le48.604,125) with a balance of Seven Million, Two Hundred Thousand (Old) Leones (Le7,200,000), which is owed by the one supplier who claimed to have documents and proof of payment of GST to NRA. The ACC has given the supplier a deadline to make submission of proof of payment or otherwise, pay in full the said amount to the ACC.
However, the sum of Seventy Two Million, Nine Hundred Thousand (Old) Leones (Le72,900,000) have been paid to the ACC by the Petroleum Directorate as PAYE for the domestic staff which the Institution failed to pay for, as in the 2021 Audit Report.
In relation to the FREETOWN CITY COUNCIL, it was also highlighted in the Audit Report of 2021 that; Withholding Taxes in the sum of Two Hundred and Seven Million, Ninety Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Three Leones (Le 207, 099,303,00) were not deducted and paid by the Freetown City Council (FCC) for 2021.
The ACC investigations established that; FCC owed the said amount and agreed to pay the full sum.
It stated that in fact, FCC has made full payment of Two Hundred and Seven Million, Ninety Nine Thousand, Three Hundred and Three (Old) Leones (Le207, 099,303,00) into the Account of the ACC through bank transfers. The ACC Finance Department has confirmed receipt of the said payments, as they are made through Bank transfers.
For the POLITICAL PARTIES REGISTRATION COMMISSION (PPRC), the Audit Report of 2021 highlighted that; staff files and justification for payment of arrears amounting to Eleven Million, One Hundred and Eighty Five Thousand (Old) Leones (Le11,185,000.00), were not presented for audit inspection and that these contained two (2) Board members who were paid these monies by the Ministry of Finance. The ACC investigations however, recommended for the refund of the money.
The said money in the sum of Eleven Million, One Hundred and Eighty Five Thousand (Old) Leones (Le11,185,000.00) has been paid into ACC‘s Account through a deposit slip which has been submitted to the ACC.
For the AGRICULTURAL VALUE CHAIN DEVELOPMENT PROJECT (AVDP)-BO the Auditor General’s Report of 2021 revealed that on the payroll documents of the Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (AVDP), 5.5 % of withholding taxes, totaling Five Hundred and Ninety Four Million, Eight Hundred and Sixty Six Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty One (Old) Leones, Sixty Eight (Old) Cents (Le 594,866,551.68) were deducted from staff salaries. There was however no evidence of payments to the NRA.
Furthermore, the 2021 Auditor General‘s Report highlighted that the total taxes that should have been deducted from staff salaries was 10 % instead of the 5.5 %, as it was consultancy, leaving a total unpaid staff taxes of Seven Hundred and One Million, Nine Hundred and Twenty Two Thousand, Seven Hundred and Twenty One (Old) Leones (Le 701,922,721). Accordingly therefore, since there was no evidence of payment by AVDP to the NRA of the 5.5% deducted, owed the Government of Sierra Leone the sum of One Billion, Two Hundred and Ninety Six Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Nine Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy Two ( Old) Leones (Le1, 296,789.272).
The ACC investigation established that: Five (5) cheques for the payment of the withholding taxes had been prepared and written in favour of the Commissioner-General, National Revenue Authority and that Payment was done and copies of the cheques and NRA receipts were made available to the Investigation team in Bo.
In that regard, the NRA authorities in Bo have acknowledged receipt of the payments made by officials of AVDP into NRA Account totaling One Billion, Two Hundred and Ninety Six Million, Seven Hundred and Eighty Nine Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy Two ( Old) Leones (Le1, 296,789.272).