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By Andrew Keili
Jun 5, 2013, 17:00
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I have been enthralled by the recent investigations of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) into the misuse of state funds. Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Chairman Chernor Maju Bah, his Deputy Komba Koedoeyema and their committee should be congratulated for bringing the issue of accountability to the fore. The hearings have revealed perplexing information on the pervasive lack of accountability in the use of government funds. We have learnt that the Immigration Department banked considerably less money than it raised. In the then Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, there was inadequate control over distribution of fuel, amounting to Le 29,997,500, which was issued to a vehicle named Contingency Truck whose existence the audit team could not verify.  Bo school and some 13 schools in Bo could not account for a considerable amount of school fees and other moneys collected. In the case of the Bo City Council the investigations resulted in the incarceration of the Chief Administrator who was sentenced by the Committee to spend three days in detention for lying under oath.

The recent Auditor Generals report estimated that there had been cash losses to the public purse of Le 110,914,263,391. The Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) is mandated by the Constitution to audit and report on the public accounts of Sierra Leone and of all public offices including the courts, the accounts of the central and local government administrations, of the Universities and public institutions of like nature, any statutory corporation, company or the body or organization established by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument or otherwise set up partly or wholly out of Public Funds. In this vein the ASSL had to audit 39 ministries and departments, 19 local councils, 149 chiefdom authorities, 64 statutory bodies and donor funded projects.  This is huge work and they should also be applauded for their comprehensive report on which the PAC is acting..


The issues cited in the Auditor Generals report were way too numerous, the funds so huge and the trail so labyrinthan that considerably more work needs to be done by various bodies. The Anti Corruption Commission and Civil Society should also be in the avant garde of this fight. Truth be told, the PACs capacity for investigation is limited. The committee has very little support staff with the requisite experience to assist them. Another major flaw especially on issues dealing with Local Government units is that these could be better handled by District Budget Oversight Committees (DBOCs). These DBOCs have however been largely impotent and are poorly staffed with members who have not appropriate skills to carry out these functions. One can also argue that if initiatives like the Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (PETS) were really effective they could help to close the stable door.


The Auditor General has been unequivocal in stating that there has to be a more systematic approach to addressing this problem. A few self explanatory excerpts from her report make this issue very clear:

I am intent and hope that the government and all public officials will address the profound need to implement the very basics of internal control and to address the public financial management issues that my predecessor and I have been reporting for many years and on which progress has been snail-paced at best.


Some of the matters cited by her as being common to all MDAs, PEs, Councils and Schools include:

Payments without any or inadequate supporting documents.

Monthly bank reconciliations not prepared.

Fixed Asset registers not maintained or up to date.

No or ineffective Internal Audit units.

Failure to comply with procurement law and regulations is endemic.


She suggests a simple effective way of reconciling cask book records to bank statements on a regular basis-There is very little skill involved in preparing bank reconciliation. With procedures and forms it can be taught in less than a day to any clerk with basic numeracy and does not need the training of a professional accountant...... The return on a very small training investment to do bank reconciliations for a large number of selected public officials across the country would be enormous and should be undertaken without further delay.


One may want to ask the PAC if there is anything being done to follow up on these recommendations.

Also what is being done about the following major players whose weaknesses have also been cited in the Auditor Generals report?

Governance at the National Revenue Agency is weak and systems of internal control there are still weaker.

Indeed the internal financial control and administrative weakness of the NRA places compliance with the governments tax law and policy at risk of being disregarded if not ignored by the citizens and corporate taxpayers of Sierra Leone.

..........we continue to believe that administrative and financial management of the school system is out of control. Responsibility and accountability rests squarely on the Ministry of Education and it is from there that corrective action needs to be initiated as a matter of the gravest urgency.

If these multifarious issues are not addressed, the PAC would be merely scratching the surface. It is time to device and implement a more holistic way of addressing issues raised in the Auditor Generals report if such negative reports are not to continue for many more years.



White smoke is seen emanating from the Sistine Chapel chimney, the bells begin pealing minutes after, signifying the election of a new pope. Later out comes a Cardinal to pronounce habemus papam -We have a Pope. This confirms  the election of a new pope after the secret conclave of cardinals. Thankfully the Noble Sarjorski Conclave has a simpler method of electing its head. There is nothing much secretive about a conclave that started over beer, roast meet, goat meat and pepper soup. We learn from recent newspaper reports that the conclave met in Makeni recently outside its normal domain of Liverpool Street.

This is not the only such conclave in town. Other  famous watering holes have had their informal conclaves. These beer meetings are in nondescript bars with spartan facilities. It is no secret that there is one at Pademba Road and we have a famous one at Guy street which I myself frequent. The Guy Street one has got so organised over the years that we have our usual Christmas carnival and Easter beach party. Such conclaves bring people together in an informal atmosphere. They usually provide the opportunity for well heeled people from  judges, politicians, Ministers  and professionals to hobnob in an informal atmosphere. It is also surprising how much political tolerance is displayed. It seems like the beer lubricates other parts of the body other liquids cannot reach and deadens their sense of bigotry of whatever sort.


Now back to the Noble Sarjoski conclave. An article by Titus Boye Thompson  (Conclave accepts transforming challenge) tells us the conclave had its roots from the kiosk once owned and operated by the late Sarjoh Bah at Wallace Johnson Street opposite the nurses hostel.... It is a social and networking organisation that now meets regularly at the premises of Mrs Jalloh on Liverpool Street.


It was a big honour for the whole group to be invited to what the grapevine says was an all expenses paid bash in Makeni. Time may yet tell whether the famous Pademba Road conclave and the Guy street one will follow this example. But who knows-they may produce a President one day!

The sceptic may ask-Why would prosperous people abandon all the posh places to sit in a less than pristine place drinking beer and munching various creatures great and small. The answer, in my view lies in the need for camaraderie. Some overseas members of the Guy Street conclave have been known to pass through for their pinta before getting home after landing at Lungi airport. There is no set agenda but you do have great conversation. Because of the type of people frequenting the conclave you can almost rest assured that the dictum on the famous bar sign When you come here, what you see here, what you say here, let it stay here will be respected.

Sahjoski has gone places however.  According to Boye Thomas the  President spoke  about a duty and a responsibility for its members to have regards to those less fortunate in society-how laudable! He also urged members to raise their game and make the conclave relevant in society as a forum for influencing policy and instrumental in the development of new ideas for business and entrepreneurship.- as long as serious affairs  of state are not sanctioned here over a pint of beer, who cares! The new Chairman, Christopher John talked about rebranding the conclave and getting involved in humanitarian and charitable works. He said the conclave had plans for securing landed property to have its own building.


A critic has said that the membership is now bloated (both in numbers and in the size of their stomachs) and there are more people joining now for political reasons. Based on his observation that  it is an APC affair, which one of my APC friends vehemently denies, I am going to place my applications soon and will keep  you posted on its progress or lack thereof.


Sahjoski conclave has come a long way and I am pleased that after so many years they can say habemus praesidentem-we have a President.Should there be any white smoke from the chimney however, it can only be from the roasting of a goat!

Ponder my thoughts.

© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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