Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The recently released 2022 Annual Report by the Auditor General has brought to light financial irregularities totalling over SLE350 million across various entities, including Ministries and Departments, Public Enterprises, Local Councils, Diplomatic Missions, and General Purpose Financial Statement (GPFS).
The detailed findings, presented by the Acting Auditor General, Abdul Aziz, during the tabling of the report in Parliament, revealed irregularities amounting to SLE350,115,764. This figure includes SLE327,008,126, US$1,191,718, €4,746, and £39,526, converted based on the Central Bank’s average midrate as of December 2022 ($-18.6454, €-19.7343, and £-22.6636).
The audit covered the accounts of Sierra Leone for the financial year ending on December 31, 2022, encompassing a comprehensive assessment of financial impact arising from irregularities. These irregularities involve acts of omission or commission by Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) that contravene public financial management laws, regulations, contract agreements, and other applicable statutory instruments within the audit scope.
Aziz emphasized the importance of independently confirming the existence of projects or programs implemented nationwide. He stressed the necessity of an adequately funded and well-resourced audit office for efficient, effective, and timely execution of the audit cycle. Aziz also highlighted the significance of maintaining optimal staffing levels to ensure continuous, quality, and sustainable audit operations.
The Acting Auditor General outlined the audit office’s commitment to a new approach aimed at enhancing audit outcomes, governance, and financial management. This strategy involves providing strategic and informative insights to assist the government in making informed decisions that positively impact citizens. Additionally, the audit scope has expanded to cover emerging areas such as the environment, climate change, information systems, and the implementation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Aziz expressed concern about the slow progress in the construction of the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) headquarters building in Freetown, attributing the delay to funding disbursement issues.
The identified irregularities within the public financial management system include imprest not retired, non-payment of statutory deductions, deficiencies in assets and stores management, problems in payments/expenditure management, challenges in salary and payroll management, shortcomings in procurements and contracts management, and issues related to revenue management. ZIJ/20/12/2023