28th December, 2020
UPDATE ON ACC INTERVENTIONS ON AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS 2015-2018 (No.6)
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in this 6th media release, wishes to update the general public of the actions and steps it has taken to address critical issues raised in Audit Reports of Sierra Leone, 2015-2018. These interventions focused on aspects of possible, or alleged corruption, and conduct inconsistent with the provision(s) in the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008.
After thorough reviews, and analysis of the aforementioned reports, a total of twenty-one (21) issues attracted the attention of the Commission for the purposes of investigating, prosecuting, or recovering public funds, public revenue, public property, as the case maybe; in accordance with Sections 7, and 48 of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008 as amended in 2019, respectively.
The ACC has charged two (2) matters to court. Additionally, there are thirteen (13) ongoing active investigations. Two (2) matters have been accordingly closed for lack of evidence.
In terms of recoveries returned to the State, the Commission has recuperated a total sum of Two Billion, Seven Hundred And Forty-Two Million, One Hundred And Eighty-Five Thousand, Three Hundred and Four Leones, and Sixty-One Cents (Le2, 742, 185, 304. 61) from cases and issues arising from audits.
Apart from investigating, prosecuting, and recovering government resources, we also make systemic interventions in line with Section 7 (2) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2008 as Amended in 2019, which mandates the Prevention Department to examine the practices and procedures of public bodies, advise on changes in practices or procedures with a view to limiting the opportunities of corruption through the identification of structural vulnerabilities and develop best practices accordingly.
In this release, the focus is to bring the public to speed, on our systems interventions, through comprehensive systems and processes review, of the public institutions named in the Audit Report, 2018. This department also develops and implements public policies and ethical procedures for government ministries, departments and agencies, and improves input into the formulation and implementation of anti-corruption policies in both private and public sectors for the removal of barriers in private sector growth. For the purposes of thorough systems review, the institutions are divided into three broad categories: MDAs, Public Enterprises (PEs), and Local Councils (LCs).
After thorough review of the systemic and ethical issues inherent in MDAs, PEs, and LCs, as contained in the said audit report, the Prevention Department has identified forty-four (44) issues for systemic reviews, especially government loss of revenue allocated as follows: MDAs lost Fifty Six Billion Leones (Le56bn); PEs lost Sixty Six Billion Leones (Le66bn), and LCs lost Eighteen Billion Leones (Le18bn), amounting to a total loss of One Hundred and Forty Billion Leones (Le140bn).
Based on our interventions, the Commission identified, and attributed government loss of revenue, and other resources, based on Audit Report 2018, to the following governance issues: (a) Unsupported payments; (b) Revenue not banked; (c) Irregularities in payments of salaries to staff; (d) Statutory deductions not paid to the appropriate authorities; (e) Irregularities in payment of DSAs and other allowances; (f) Unexplained expenditure, payments without approval and expenditure returns not submitted; (g) Fuel not accounted for; (h) Revenues not paid into Consolidated Fund; (i) Imprest not retired; (j) Stores and fixed assets irregularities; (k) Revenue arrears; (i) Over expenditure budget lines; and (m) Payment of sitting fees and other allowances to absentee councilors.
In this release, the Commission focuses on the following two MDAs: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MFAIC), and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in respect of our systems and process review interventions, which clearly showed that procurement irregularities ran across nearly all the affected institutions.
1.MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION (MFAIC)
a) The Audit Report alleged that there is lack of proper paper work to support the payments, and use of fuel by the MFIC for three consecutive years, commencing from 2016, 2017, and 2018. Equally, the MFAIC could also not account for certain quantity of fuel. ACC systems interventions, through the Prevention Department, uncovered that in 2016, MFAIC could not account for fuel amounting to Le540m, Le617m in 2017, and Le826m in 2018. Whilst the Commission has started criminal investigations, the Prevention Department in the next quarter shall engage in systems and processes review of the management and distribution of fuel with a view to producing a best practice working guide on the management and consumption of fuel for the MFAIC.
b). ACC systems intervention also show that some staff of the MFAIC has over a period of three consecutive years, withdrawn, millions of Leones without the relevant supporting documents, and a clear purpose. In 2016, Le118m was withdrawn without the adequate supporting documents. In 2017, Le579m, and in 2018, Le533m were also withdrawn without supporting documents. The Commission had instituted ongoing criminal investigations. Nonetheless, the Prevention Department, in the next quarter, will undertake systems and processes interventions to promote a prudent management of finances of the MFAIC.
c). ACC systems intervention also unraveled that the MFAIC made payments to various entities in 2016, 2017 and 2018 not supported by required documentations amounting to billions of Leones. In 2016, Le3.7bn, in 2017, Le347m, and in 2018, Le2.7bn (2018)
d) The report also exposed the fact that in 2018, the MFAIC paid out a total amount of Le428m to staff as travelling expenses and allowances for staff of the ministry. There are no supporting documents for such payment. Whilst the ACC has commenced criminal investigations and the many of the staff concerned are making refunds to the state in settlement, Prevention Department will undertake systems review on the payment of such allowances with a view to provide best practice guide.
e). The Audit report also exposed that statutory deductions were not paid to the appropriate authorities. The records show that the MFAIC deducted, and held as withholding taxes, monies amounting to Le246.8m for certain payments as required by law, but there is no evidence of such payments made by staff of the MFAIC to National Revenue Authority (NRA). The ACC had commenced investigations on this matter. Additionally, the ACC had drawn the attention of the NRA to such activities. The Prevention Department of the ACC shall work with the NRA to put measures in place with a view to preventing a re-occurrence of such anomaly.
f). The audit report also uncovered that payments of education allowances for children above 18 years were wrongly undertaken; and in certain cases, no evidence of the children in personnel file. Through this illegal scheme, government lost a total amount of $81,850. The ACC had investigated this issue, and decided to settle out of court and ordered those responsible to pay back in full. Equally, the Prevention Department will continue to monitor the payment of such allowances to prevent any form of corruption in the process of such payments.
f). The auditors also discovered overpayment of Per diem for sponsored trips in the form of irregularities in payment of DSAs and other allowances amounting to Le59.8m.
2. MINISTRY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT (MLGRD)
a). The audit report discovered procurement irregularities as the MLGRD was deliberately splitting procurement resulting to the use of RFQ, with a total value of Le211.4m involved. The ACC has commenced criminal investigations into the matter.
b). The report also exposed that the MLGRD has not been properly retiring Special imprest as required by law. In this regard, it was discovered that out of a total of Le681m, there is outstanding amount of Le479m. The report also showed that out of Le1.4bn withdrawn from imprest account, the Ministry could not account for Le351m. Also, the sum of Le1.3bn disbursed to provincial secretaries for the coordination of presidential visits could not be accounted for. In this respect, The Commission has commenced investigations, and the Prevention Department will undertake systems review with a view to putting structures in place to enhance efficient and prudent financial management systems.
c). The ministry bought computers and carpet for Deputy Minister and Deputy secretaries but not all of the items were presented for verification. 2 desktop computers costing Le16m and 16-yard carpet costing Le11m were missing. Stores and fixed assets irregularities amounted to Le27m.
d). The auditors also discovered irregularities in payment of DSAs. Between August and September 2015, the ministry embarked on provincial monitoring activities. But most of those who were paid DSAs were also found to have signed attendance registers in Freetown for the days they had received DSAs causing government to lose up to Le.100M.
e). The audit report also uncovered that between 2015 and 2017 the Ministry withdrew Le134m from imprest account and also Le116m from Government micro account; but could only account for the latter activity which amounted to Le134m, and not the Le116M. The Commission shall continue collaborating with Audit Service Sierra Leone, the Parliament of Sierra Leone, especially the Public Accounts Committee, and other accountability institutions to investigate, review and clarify issues raised in all concluded audit reports and to promptly update the public through media releases on interventions the ACC has made with regard Audit Reports of 2015-2018, and the recently released Audit Reports of 2019.
Meanwhile, the ACC wishes to reassure the general public of its determination and commitment to protecting public property and revenue at all times.
For further enquiries on this and other ACC matters, please contact MORIS IBRAHIM KANTEH, Assistant Public Relations Officer, on +232-78-832131 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
MORIS IBRAHIM KANTEH
ASSISTANT PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER