By Yusif Moiguah
Sierra Leone’s democratic is expected to be going along with much transparency and accountability in the so called democratic administration of state governance. A case in point is the continuing delays by government, the Ministry of Finance and the Anti-Corruption Commission to implement recommendations made by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) 2018 report, despite parliamentary clearance of the document. Rather public attentions are being diverted to what the ACC commissioner Francis Ben Kaifala described as the mismanagements of public funds spanned back to 2013.
Democracy without transparency and accountability is not a democratic dispensation to be entrust with an open government principles, wherein values and morality of the type democracy being run in Sierra Leone are completely flouted by the powers that be, as accountability and transparency are still big issues state authorities with no exception to president Julius Maada Bio and his entire government continue to be confronted with.
And whenever the media and other pressure groups question disregards for these values by government one automatically becomes public enemy number one, failing to note that the media forms a vital component of the democratic process.
Transparency and accountability now rapidly paving ways to high profile corruption in Sierra Leone, and to a large extent destroying the country’s growing democracy, as seen in delays in the implementations of recommendations of the ASSL 2018 report by government, ACC and the financial sector in particular simply because they are trying to hide the Bio led Sierra Leone People’s Party regime fiscal impropriety in utilizing public expenditures. A government that promised the nation and the world over of financial prudency and democratic accountability, and now acting contrary to what was promised on the campaign trails in 2012-2018.
For them accountability transparency and financial prudency are all dead now and have been laid to rest long since April 2018. All that is seen now are bloated wage bill for jobs that are being offered to pro-ruling party members and supporters at home and from their various diaspora chapters in the United Kingdom, United States of America and elsewhere in South-East Asia, lest we talk of fraudulent contracts procurements to siblings of government officials including those under the canopy of the seat of power. All these are unfolding under the leadership of the SLPP good governance technocrats paying lip service to the issues except when the World Bank step in to punctuate the finance ministry to slow down a bit in its massive waste of tax payers moneys.
That is the direction we all seem to be seeing the ASSL is moving towards, especially in instituting professional audits of public finances allocated to ministries departments and agencies on annual basis for the past ten to twenty years now in our country’s democratic consolidation. And the 2018 ASSL report is alarming with massive corruption as there were clear absents of transparency and accountability on the parts of public funds recipients which will militating against our efforts in consolidating democracy in the midst of grand corruption and those ills should therefore not be swept under the carpet in as much as the mitigation of corruption in the fiscal managements of public funds are concerned.
The ASSL 2018 report on missing One Hundred and Forty One Billion Leones is so alarming in that it has ignited serious lack of trust and public confidence in the political governance of the leadership for failures in enforcing financial prudency and democratic accountability principles. A platform president Bio campaigned on during his opposition days, though much is yet to be realized under his presidency.
With regards to the massive wastages in highlighted in the ASSL 2018 report the Sierra Leone anti-graft commission has pronounced that it will look into the recommendations of ASSL following a memorandum written by the Financial Secretary Sahr Lahai Jusu and copied heads of MDAs urging them to ensure strict accountability measure for mission funds or administrative actions being taken against defaulters. The Finance Ministry’s after though reactions on the ASSL 2018 report by Auditor General Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce emerged shortly after the World Bank raised alarm on government for bloated wage bill, little or less cost consciousness in the area of procurement and the lack of tight financial policy by the country’s finance sector amidst hue and cry of incumbent government inheriting broken economy at the mockery of the suffering masses.
The more reasons the Bank is urging the failed government of Sierra Leone to diversify the food and agricultural productivity, this time with strong political will instead of empty policy papers and speeches. However delays by the Ministry of Finance, ACC and government to act on the ASSL 2018 report is being received with growing of public condemnations followed by huge lack of trust and confidence in the entire system by development partners as well as friends of Sierra Leone.
The ASSL 389 page-report by Auditor General – Mrs Taylor-Pearce, appears to have opened more holes in public finance mismanagement by MDAs than what was promised by president Bio, to block leakages in public funds, which has been questioned by donors in the areas of unregulated payments of salaries to the tune of Le4,384,950,940, daily sustenance allowances -DSAs and other allowances to public officials traveling to overseas all amounting to Le1,528,298,810, remained unexplained and unreported as well as Le18,708,699,304 nongovernmental programmes expenditures.
Apart from these the ASSL 2018 report also highlighted Le 22,267,935,226 impress not retired Le1, 113,548,001 amongst several other unregulated and unexplained expenditures unearthed by the public finance audits conducted by ASSL in the 2018 report which needs to well investigated by law enforcement agencies including the ACC without fare, favour nor delays in the best interest of democratic transparency, accountability and financial prudency.
ACC Chief Francis Ben Kaifala said investigations into financial misappropriations including the missing Le 104 billion amongst others discovered by the 2018 ASSL report are currently being investigated though with less political actions on the part of government, under the leadership of president Bio and lawyer Ben Kaifala, the man charged with tasks of fighting corruption.
For God’s sake there is no way the ACC can be selective in the fight against corruption, as seen in the selection of alleged corrupt practices offenders, like those vulnerable teachers who were early this week discharged by the court for lack of evidence and last government officials who are presently before the commissions of inquiries while big fishes kept swimming in the pool of corrupt practices at State House in the persons of president Bio’s Chief Minister, Prof. David John Francis, House of Parliament, Clerk Hon. Umaru Paran Tarawally, Haja Isata Abdulai Kamara of the China rice theft saga the list is long are not still brought to book for reasons best known to Kaifala and Bio. President Bio has on several occasions told the nation and the world over that he has no sacred cows in his war against corruption, which is why most people think his government set up the commission of inquiries to investigate and try alleged perpetrators of mismanagement of public funds during the last administration.
Also as in line with the mandates of the commission and other law enforcement agencies, the ACC is expected to look critically into the financial maladministration of public funds by the twenty-two local councils as reported by the ASSL 2018 report, which according to the service have largely undermined rural developments across the local government spectrums.
The ACC like any serious anti graft agency must therefore be seen speaking very well to the issues by investigating chief administrators and their various procurement officers rather than waiting for the World Bank and other development partners to reminding come them and government of their responsibilities, if only the present political leadership is sober about the fight against corruption.
Investigations into recommendations made by the ASSL 2018 report are very legitimate in that funds squandered by public servants and their various MDAs are not theirs but tax payers moneys and should be brought to book if found wanting of corruption related crimes.
Moreover several other MDAs including the National Minerals Agency are also coup able of corrupt of fences relating to the mismanagement of finances allocated to them which were allegedly not accounted for according to the ASSL 2018 report all of which need to be probed.
What still remain largely shocking is that the ACC seems to shifting public focus from the holes in wastage of public funds discovered by the 2018 ASSL report irrespective of the alarming rate at which it left so many huge holes in the national economy.
By and large, the call for democratic accountability and financial prudency in the management of public funds being allocated to MDAs must be appropriately accounted for by recipients of such funds as reported in the 2018 ASSL report published by the Auditor General and team and it in that regards that the ACC, Finance Ministry and government must be hasten enough to investigate mismanagement of taxpayers moneys with full implementation of recommendations made by the ASSL 2018 report. For the people want to where did their money go since the new regime set in to work.