The Head of Audit Sierra Leone, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce, on the 10th April 2019 undressed both the Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa and the Financial Secretary, Sahr Jusu, by sharply contradicting what both had previously told newsmen at a Press Conference and by extension the public that during the tenure of the main opposition APC Party a whopping sum of 1 Billion Dollars was misappropriated. Besides, the Finance Minister ordered that those who were mentioned in the Technical Audit Report of pilfering the said amount must repay the amount in three months’ time.
Interviewed over Radio Democracy Good Morning Sierra Leone Program the eloquent and professional Auditor General, Mrs. Lara Taylor-Pearce lay bare the fact that there is nowhere it is mentioned in the report that such an amount of money was pilfered or squandered.
She noted that the composition of the special audit was highly professional adding that her office lacked the capacity to conduct certain technical audits hence she invited renowned audit experts to help.
When it was mentioned that it is being mooted in some quarters that particular individuals of the four institutions that were audited were not contacted she replied by stating that they audit institutions and not individuals further maintaining that even if shortcomings were discovered in some departments of those institutions, where officials who were there are no longer working, it is the responsibility of the Heads to make available relevant documents. She highlighted that before the auditing was conducted they notified the targeted institutions.
The Auditor General reiterated that the Audit Service Sierra Leone issued circularization letters but the response was very poor, thereby making it impossible or difficult for the auditors to reliably confirm some balances for some of the institutions audited.
“One of the reasons why people find themselves drawn into adverse findings in audits is because they fail to produce and/or retire documents on how they spent public money but they now have an opportunity to do so in Parliament”, she pointed out.
“The Managements of both Sierratel and NASSIT failed to respond to the draft technical audit reports within the required timeframe (i.e. 15 days), in accordance with Section 93(3) of the Public Financial Management Act, 2016. This negatively impacted the audit process which all parties concerned were aware of the limited timing that had been allocated for the exercise,” she revealed.
Quizzed as to why she first submitted a summary of the Technical Audit Report to the Ministry of Finance instead of Parliament as stipulated Lara Taylor-Pearce stated that she was mandated by President Maada Bio to conduct the Technical Audit and therefore thought it fit that after completing the task she must first report to the Executive Branch of Government particularly the Ministry of Finance but however she confirmed that the full report has been tabled before Parliament.
In a related matter the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Segepoh Thomas issued a warning to the Auditor General to first table audit reports before Parliament and not to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
“I am warning all MDAs to keep off the audit report and if they obstruct the work of Parliament it is contempt of Parliament,” he sternly stated.
It was noted that the Minister of Finance does not have the legal authority to order individuals to refund public funds as it does not fall within his purview and it is only Parliament or the courts that are mandated to do so
There is a particular school of thought holding the view that the Minister of Finance, JJ Saffa and the Financial Secretary. Sahr Jusu, have both blundered big time by telling a lie and by extension damaged the integrity of the SLPP led administration headed by President Julius Maada Bio adding that it is a failed attempt to discredit the opposition All Peoples Congress Party. “It is very unimaginable for a whooping sum of 1 Billion Dollars to be squandered or chopped within three years by few people named in the Technical Report,” Mahmoud Sesay an Accountant of long standing experience said vehemently.
It is mooted that for the embarrassment that both Saffa and Jusu have caused the SLPP Government they will soon be shown the exit door although the party is now struggling to do damage control.