As calls for a real-time audit of COVID-19 response funds continues to escalate, from all across the globe, including Head of the European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone, the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) has on Monday, 2nd November, 2020, expressed its dissatisfaction over a letter issued by the Attorney General, stating outright refusal to allow audit of COVID-19 funds.
The funds were expended by the government of Sierra Leone since the commencement of response to the deadly global pandemic, but sadly though the Attorney General has addressed to the Auditor General instructing the Audit Service not to audit the COVID-19 funds, registered the APC.
‘We view the reason advanced for such refusal, viz the existence of a State Public Emergency that conferred on the President extraordinary powers as Chairman of the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Centre (NaCOVERC) to do whatever he deems expedient to prevent the pandemic as an uncanny pretext to veil corruption,” said the APC National Secretary General, Ambassador Osman Foday Yansanneh.
He said the law insulates the President or government officials from financial audits of their activities as public officials even such activities were carried out in calamitous circumstances.
He added that; “the purported State of Emergency and the special powers conferred on the president is to be enable the seamless performance of specific process without the usual bureaucracies that occasion them”.
Amb. Dr Yansanneh said it is not a blank cheque for non-accountability, adding; “we are minded to lay this disaffection bare to further highlight travesties that have characterized the operations of this government since its inception in 2018”.
The APC National Secretary General therefore described government’s refusal to financial audit of COVID-19 funds as an anathema to good governance credentials that has made Sierra Leone the envy of many nations in the world.
“At this point we may not wish to oblige this government with an exemplary anecdote of Ernest Bai Koroma’s presidency,” he said, vividly recalling that under the scourge of a ravage of the deadly Ebola virus disease, a State of Emergency was also invoked that gave former president the same powers conferred on President Julius Maada Bio.
He noted that as a Chairman of the then National Ebola Response Centre (NERC), former President Koroma imbued the use of high sense of duty to his fellow citizens and allowed them a real-time audit of funds used to fight the EVD.
Amb. Dr Yansanneh furthered that the Audit Service Sierra Leone enjoyed absolute independence and had complete freedom to look into every aspect of Ebola financing, clearly pointing out that Audit Service Sierra Leone’s findings were held sacrosanct by the last APC government and in record time the House of Parliament acted on the content of the EVD audits Report promptly.
He said former President expressed his thoughtful support to Audit Service Sierra Leone for its probe into the EVD funds, and reminded with an early warning to public officials.
Amb. Yasanneh informed that despite such demonstration of financial propriety by former President Koroma, the then 2012 presidential candidate of the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP), Julius Maada Bio, now incumbent president, felt the urge to write an open letter to him requesting for further audit of the management of EVD funds.
He said several protests were staged by SLPP supporters in the United Kingdom and in the United States as well as at home in a bid to begrudge President Koroma’s efforts in ensuring transparency and accountability in the Sierra Leone’s public service.
Dr Yasanneh said it is thus eludes reasoning that President Bio and his SLPP government should now have the audacity to publicly dismiss an audit into funds entrusted to his administration for the good of all Sierra Leoneans.
“We need to overstate that in the abundance of legislations that provides for accountability of public servants, there is none to the contrary that precludes any official or Ministry Department and Agency, including one Chaired by the President from accounting for funds entrusted to them”, charged Amb. Dr Yansanneh.
He quoted the Public Finance Management Act, 2016; Public Procurement Act 2016; Fiscal Management and Control Act, 2017 et al which provide for special circumstances for procurement or fiscal administration do not expressly or implicitly denounce auditing of public funds…there is no regulation before parliament endorsing the Attorney General’s flagrant refusal of audit of COVID-19 funds.
He said the Attorney General’s letter is a reply of government’s blatant attempt to table before Parliament an Instrument providing for non-accountable imprest of President Bio’s numerous travels and from the onset, the futile push to introduce a regulation that expressly kick against accountability of COVID-19 funds.
The APC Secretary General furthered that there is a pattern of abuse of due process that is glaringly obvious to even the most inattentive Sierra Leonean.
Drew that attentions of democratic institutions of state and non-state actors members of the diplomatic community, including development partners and Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad to what he described as another sad rejoinder to the spate of financial impropriety, abuse of due process and the speedy erosion of the country’s democratic credentials since President Bio assumed power in April 2018.
He therefore denounced President Bio’s government refusal and failures to respect the people they are governing, adding that the APC will remain steadfast in their fight against corruption.