Ref: ACC/PR/20/031 9th October, 2020
The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), in this fourth media release, wishes to update the general public of the actions and steps it has taken to address critical issues raised in the 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; with a view to 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 respectively.
Below are the fourth set of issues, and areas of ACC interventions, and the outcomes of same:
In terms of monies returned to the State, the Commission has recovered 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). The ACC has charged two (2) matters to Court. Furthermore, there are thirteen (13) ongoing active investigations. Two (2) matters have been accordingly closed for lack of evidence.
The 2018 Auditor General’s Report showed that in 2016, the University of Sierra Leone (USL) obtained a loan of Four Billion, Three Hundred Million Leones (Le4.3bn), and One Billion, Seven Hundred Million Leones (Le1.7bn), from two of its constituent colleges – Institute of Public Administration and Management, and Fourah Bay College, respectively. In the same year, a repayment of One Billion, Five Hundred Million Leones (Le1.5bn) was made to both institutions. There was a loan outstanding from 2015, which resulted for the loan liability to be Six Billion Leones (Le6bn). The Report alleged that the University of Sierra Leone (USL) did not provide supporting documents for transactions amounting to Twenty Four Billion, Six Hundred Million, One Hundred and Fifty Three Thousand, One Hundred and Forty Four Leones (Le 24,600,153,144).
Accordingly, the ACC commenced investigations bordering on Misappropriation of Public Funds, contrary to Section 36(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act of 2008. The investigations established that the issues contained in the 2018 Audit Report on USL were carried over and were exactly the same as those in the 2016 Audit Report, and that the USL had in fact resolved these issues in 2017.
The USL comprises, Fourah Bay College (FBC), the Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM), College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) and a Secretariat. The aforementioned colleges generate their incomes and incur their costs. The incomes generated from the colleges are used to cover their individual expenses and the payment of junior and support staff. As a consequence of delays in receiving subventions from the Government of Sierra Leone, or due to the fact that such subventions are normally insufficient to cover all the salaries, leave allowances, and other costs, or the subvention is received late, the constituent colleges give loans to the USL Secretariat to deal with the aforementioned issues. Loans received from the colleges are determined by USL’s Management based on the constituent colleges’ liquidity level. In 2016, the loan obligation of the USL Secretariat to IPAM and FBC was Six Billion Leones (Le6bn).
Firstly, in order to determine the issue, the ACC investigations zoomed in on ex gratia payments; Contract gratuities; Leave allowance; Imprest; Funds transfer; Admissions; and Investment Certificates. The USL spent Five Billion, Five Hundred and Fifty Eight Million, One Hundred and Seventeen Thousand, Two Hundred and Ninety Two Leones, Seventeen Cents (Le5,558,117,292.17) on ex gratia payments. ex gratia is the end of service benefit normally paid to staff when they resign or die. The investigations established that all the people that received this benefit were indeed deserving persons. The ACC verified that the calculations were correct in accordance with the University’s Terms and Conditions of Service, and that the tax associated with these payments were correctly deducted and paid to the National Revenue Authority.
Secondly, the USL spent the sum of One Billion, Thirty Nine Million, Fifty Four Thousand, Two Hundred and Seventy Leones, Sixty Nine Cents (Le1,039,054,270.69) on Contract Gratuities. Contract Gratuity is benefit annually paid to staff who are on contract with the University. Most of these staff are retired employees of the University who are given contracts because of their expertise. Our investigations verified the calculations to be correct in accordance with the University’s Terms and Conditions of Service. This benefit did not attract tax because it was always below the Fifty Million Leones (Le50,000,000) threshold.
Thirdly, we investigated the payment of leave allowances and found that the USL spent a total sum of, Nine Billion, Six Hundred and Sixty One Million, Sixty Five Thousand, Six Hundred and Seventy Eight Leones, Seventy Three Cents (Le9,661,065,678.73) on same. Leave allowance is calculated at 30% of annual basic salary for all staff of the University as stipulated in the Terms and Conditions of Service of the University. Our investigations established that leave allowances paid in 2016 were accurately calculated and accordingly paid to staff.
Fourthly, on Imprest, the USL doled out a total amount of One Hundred and Eighty Eight Million, One Hundred and Fifty Eight Thousand, Twenty Five Leones (Le188,158,025.00) to members of staff that were so authorized. Imprest is normally given to staff for activities which their expected cost cannot be determined in advance. Our investigation confirmed that Imprest granted to the executing unit/department/staff were properly and accurately retired. The investigations proved that, an amount of Fourteen Million, Eight Hundred and Six Thousand Leones (Le14,806,000) was issued out as imprest in 2016 for various activities. This was duly authorised and supported with the necessary documents, and that a retirement of Three Million, Seven Hundred and Eighteen Thousand, Eight Hundred Leones (Le3,718,800) was made as at the year-end 2016. The remaining imprest balance of Eleven Million, Eighty Seven Thousand, Two Hundred Leones (Le11,087,200) is still in the hands of the officers in charge.
Fifth, on Funds transfers for the period under review, USL transferred a total sum of Four Hundred and Ninety Nine Million, Four Hundred and Forty Nine Thousand, Nine Hundred and Sixty Leones (Le499,449,960.00) to various Accounts comprising loans normally obtained from sources within the USL. We were able to establish that the movement of funds in the various Bank Accounts were verified to be true and correct.
Sixth, on admissions, the USL spent One Hundred and Sixty One Million, One Hundred and Thirty Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred Leones (Le161,137,700.00) on notices, printing, submission and collection of submitted application forms, including honorarium for admission process. The ACC investigations unearthed that some of the amounts in the payment vouchers for admission expenses exceeded the total in the financial statement because payments made to suppliers are combined for different purposes. The different cost centres are referenced in the payment vouchers. The ACC examined the original supporting documents such as payment vouchers, receipts, minutes, etc, and they were independently verified and analysed. The evidence supported the tally; with the sum of One Hundred and Eighty Eight Million, One Hundred and Fifty Eight Thousand, Twenty Five Leones (Le188,158,025.00) in the University’s financial statement.
Seventh, with respect to investment certificate, the evidence showed that the Secretariat of the USL had over the years invested up to Fifty Six Million, Six Hundred and Fifty Thousand Leones (Le56,650,000) in Treasury Bonds at the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. The investigations established that the investment had been rolled over until in 2017, when the Secretariat disinvested the fund and used them for operational activities.
The University Management has no Case to Answer :
The investigation revealed that, there is no evidence of misappropriation of the University’s funds and all the documents (original copies) which were not provided to the Auditors in 2016 were subsequently made available in 2017 Audit and to the Commission. Accordingly, the ACC has closed the file.
Nonetheless, to promote integrity and maintain a transparent system of governance, the ACC has accordingly made the following recommendations for the USL to implement:
The USL should put in place proper governance structures that would ensure funds received from colleges and courses are not seen, or treated as loans. This is because the constituent colleges and USL are one entity in accounting terms;
That the USL should adopt policies and structures with a view for constituent colleges contribution, on an annual basis, to the USL be at a fixed percentage, from their income generated to the Secretariat, to cover general overheads like salaries to senior staff, printing of application forms, matriculation, graduations, etc; and
That the USL should always endeavour to make available documents of interest to External Auditors as early as possible so as to avoid the Auditors raising issues with the management of their finances for which they may have supporting documents, as it happened in this case. They should avoid the negative effect on their institutional reputation which may be due to no fault of the Auditors but their failure to make available the required documents.
The Commission shall continue to promptly update the public through releases on interventions made with regard the Auditor-General’s Audit Reports.
Meanwhile, the ACC wishes to reassure the general public of its determination and commitment to protecting, and promoting democratic accountability across the country at all times.
For further enquiries on this, please contact MORIS I. KANTEH, Public Relations Assistant, on +232-99-926747 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.
DIRECTOR, PUBLIC EDUCATION AND OUTREACH