By Amadu Lamrana Bah
Payments for the implementation of alleged agricultural activities in the provinces is still outstanding even when it was one of the key recommendations in the Auditor General’s Report 2015.
Daily subsistence allowances totaling Le148,250,000 were paid to various staff of the Ministry to implement agricultural related activities in the provinces but a review by auditors from the Audit Service Sierra Leone of the relevant documents including register at the Ministry’s Youyi Building Office in Freetown revealed that same personnel who were assigned to the activity were also signing the attendance book at the same period they received funds for were supposed to be implemented in the regions.
The Auditor General’s Report 2015 recommended that the amount should be refunded within 30 days by the officials who received the funds but available documents show that the issue remains unresolved without any action against the officials by the Ministry.
The failure of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to implement recommendations from successive Audit Reports seems to be an acceptable norm with most of it not being adhered to even when they highlight the challenges and how they can be resolved in ensuring accountability and good governance in the country.
The Open Government Partnership Mid-Term Report 2016-2018 states that there is no evidence that any progress has been made by government on the implementation of recommendations from the Audit Reports. The report further states that only three Ministries- Health, Works and Finance- implemented 50% of procurement related recommendation of the Auditor General’s Reports 2014 and 2015.
At the same Ministry of Agriculture, 15 personnel received salaries from the Ministry totaling Le 180,220,298 while they were also receiving salaries from various projects for which there was no evidence of letters of them being on secondment from the Human Resources Management Office (HRMO).
Also,debt review of the validation of Tractor Hire Purchase Scheme repayment schedule from First International Bank showed outstanding debts of Le2,467,353,732 while that reflected in the summary of payment and refund schedule submitted by the Ministry only amounted to Le984,716,933, resulting in a difference of Le1,482,636,801.There was no evidence submitted by the Ministry to show that the difference was investigated, resolved and debtors’ records at the Ministry corrected.
In all of these, it was recommended by the Auditor General’s Report that the Permanent Secretary should ensure that the Ministry’s records are reconciled within 30 days of the receipt of the report but till date no evidence of reconciliation was submitted for verification hence the issue remains unresolved.
The Ministry has so far declined to comment on the issues raised, claiming that they inherited it and are putting in place measures to ensure that they do not reoccur.
The follow-up on these unresolved issues comes after a debriefing in August 2018 by Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), with support from Christian Aid, on outstanding recommendations in the Auditor General’s Report of 2015 involving 14 main MDAs. The debriefing highlighted billions and billions of Leones which are yet to be accounted for by these MDAs and urged journalists to follow-up and help Government recover the revenues.
In the 2015 Report, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee acknowledged that implementation of recommendations from the Audit General’s Report has been a serious challenge right across the governance structure posing as a serious challenge to enhancing accountability and transparency.
The report states further that implementation of of the recommendations will enhance accountability, effectiveness, transparency, efficiency, prudent management of state resources to be able to yield better service delivery in the country.
Since 2011 the Auditor General has made 959 recommendations to selected Ministries, Departments and Agencies and only 276 have been implemented; 65 is still in progress and 618 still unresolved.
The proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year acknowledged that government has been grappling with the implementation of audit recommendations even though there have been some improvements with more systematic procedures in place.
Finance Minister, Jacob Jusu Saffa, announced in the well of Parliament that in order to enhance the implementation of audit recommendations, they will reconstitute Audit Committees in MDAs and establish a special Government Audit Committee in the Ministry of Finance to follow up on unresolved issues in the Auditor General’s Reports, incorporate the implementation of audit recommendation in the performance contracts of Vote Controllers and institute punitive measures against those who fail to implement audit recommendations.
The Coordinator of Budget Advocacy Network (BAN), Abu Bakarr Kamara, sees the Minister’s statement as one step in the right direction but emphasize that the political will is key to address the audit recommendations. He further states that the Executive has not been playing their role in holding MDAs to account for the implementation of the Auditor General’s Reports.