During an Emergency Phase…  ASSL Enlightens How Public Funds Must Be Utilized

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By Amin Kef Sesay

In Freetown on the  8th April, 2020 as part of its public education and information drive, the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL)  inform the general public about the procedures in the use of public funds under a national emergency situation including the manner in which imprest funds should be accessed and retired.

According to ASSL, in order to ensure the prudent use of public funds under a national emergency situation,  users of public funds are required to  be mindful of public financial management and procurement rules and regulations when carrying out activities using public monies.

It furthered that there should be clearly communicated and documented authority and approvals for all transactions. Also the institution stated that all funds spent must be properly tracked and accurately reported including appropriations and all other sources of public funds for managing the emergency situation.

The ASSL went on to state that  for Items not usually part of normal public spending, MDAs  need to be clear on whether or not such spending is an appropriate use of public money

“Section 40 of the 2006 Procurement Regulations spells out the procedures to be followed under an emergency procurement, and Section 117 highlights the approval arrangements to be followed for emergency procurement,” it highlighted.

The institution underscored that Part 10 of the Public Financial Management Regulations, 2018 deals exclusively with the establishment, utilization and retirement of imprests.

Adding that Section 117(1) of the Public Financial Management Regulations 2018 states that an imprest fund shall be established for making payments of petty expenditure that cannot be made through the ordinary payment process required under the Act and these Regulations without undue inconvenience.

In line with the above section, an imprest can be defined as a fund disbursed to Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for small items of expenditure and restored to a fixed amount periodically. An imprest can also be referred to as an amount disbursed to an MDA to undertake a specific activity. Imprests, the ASSL continued  are paid into the accounts of the MDAs in advance, and the MDAs are required to retire imprest disbursed in full.

The institution said there are two types of imprest:

A Standing Imprest  imprest fund which is an amount allocated/disbursed to an MDA for the payment of small items of expenditure and utilized amount of which can be replenished upon retirement and request. Standing imprest is maintained throughout a financial year.

Another which is a Special Imprest is established for making specific payments in respect of specific activities or events. A special imprest is not replenished, and must be fully retired 30 days after the completion of the activity.

The audit institution further elucidated that Section 119(2) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone mandates the Auditor-General to audit the public accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices. It further states that the Auditor-General shall have access to all books, records, returns and other documents relating or relevant to those accounts. The MDAs expenditure relating to imprests are part of the records, returns and documents submitted to auditors for audit purpose.

Imprest holders are therefore expected to FULLY comply with the provisions in Sections 117 to 124 of the Public Financial Management Regulations 2018, in the management of all forms of imprest given out from public funds for both emergency and non-emergency use.

The ASSL will continue to carry out its mandate of being the guardian of Sierra Leone’s Economic Security.

 

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