By Abubakarr Harding
The Ministry of Finance, collaborating with development partners, on the 4th of August 2022 concluded a day’s Validation Workshop on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on ‘Audit Follow-up and Recommendations’ at the Radisson Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel at Aberdeen in Freetown geared towards improving accountability in public financial management and the country’s CPIA ratings.
The aforementioned SOPs on Audit Follow-up and Recommendations were designed to clarify and improve the audit follow-up process for all relevant stakeholders by detailing the follow-up procedures, responsibilities, and actions of concerned parties – the Auditor General (AG), Audit Committees, Internal Auditors, MOF, Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), Local Councils and outline applicable sanctions – for failure to comply.
The objective of the validation workshop was to gather feedback from experts, practitioners, and relevant stakeholders on their various perspectives on the SOPs on the Audit Follow-up in the implementation of audit recommendations to finalize the same.
Speaking at the validation workshop, the Minister of Finance, Dennis K. Vandy, stated his delight for presenting the manual on SOPs for use and implementation of audit recommendations concerning public sector entities that are either audited by the Auditor General or the internal audit entity.
The Minister said the SOPs manual is an important aspect of their Public Finance Management reforms to appreciate the effectiveness of the manual and the context in which it is applied.
He furthered that the manual, which later will be translated into regulations, makes provision for punitive measures to ensure compliance, stressing that the punitive measures range from withholding of remunerations to administrative actions.
Dennis Vandy reminded vote controllers that their utmost cooperation is necessary to roll out the SOPs manual and that it is their responsibility to ensure they fully understand the audit issues raised and recommendations discussed for implementation.
The Acting Deputy Auditor General, Selvi Bell, reiterated that the audit queries every year are identical, including lack of payment vouchers, and asset registers among others.
He lauded the strides of the Finance Ministry for the SOPs manual to improve the governance of public finance among MDAs.
The Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben Kelfala, underscored the importance of the manual and his Commission’s concern about transparency and accountability in the public financial system.
He assured all that the SOPs manual would eliminate the causes of non-conformity of the audit recommendations.
The Secretary to Cabinet and Head of the Civil service, John Sumaila alluded that the SOP would serve as a tool to eliminate the causes of the problems in the audit reports.
He noted that the recommendation had been a challenge in implementing financial management.
During different stakeholders’ participation, they strongly recommended that MDAs should put together finance for SOP in the upcoming budget process.
The Financial Secretary, who doubled as the Chairman of the program, said the country’s CPIA rating has moved from 31% to 32% which automatically earns the country additional resources.
He furthered that addressing the recommendation of the Audit report is essential in not only borrowing from the IMF but also from other bilateral partners and the country’s rating on accountable governance.
One of the recommendations was for a functional audit Committee from all MDAs to be set up to ensure that most, if not all, of the issues in the audit report are resolved.