The Director of Finance at the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), in two memoranda dated 13th December, 2016 informed the Financial Secretary at the Ministry of Finance that the bank was in receipt of US$7.85 million (equivalent to Le56.266 billion) from ECOWAS.
However, according to the Auditor General (AG) this amount was not credited to the grant account held at the BSL until 16th June, 2017. “There was no justification given for the six-month delay in crediting this amount to the grant account” the AG said. “We further noted that outstanding bills amounting to US$721,894 and Le80,808,600 owed to suppliers between December 2016 and June, 2017 were not paid until July, 2017.”
The grant agreement required the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) through the Ministry of Finance to open a US$ account at the Bank of Sierra Leone in which the grant will be deposited.
However, Auditors observed that the account (Ministry of Energy Emergency Account No. 0112007120) opened was designated in Leones, and all the grant proceeds were converted to Leones before deposited into the account, using prevailing selling exchange rate at the time of receiving the grant.
The Auditor General‘s team further observed that when payments were made to foreign suppliers, the Bank used the prevailing selling rate at the time of making the payments to the suppliers.
“The fall in the value of the Leones in relation to the US$ led to exchange rate appreciations running into billions of Leones that were credited into the account between 29th May 2014, when the account was created on 31st December, 2018” the Auditors said. “Though the exchange rate appreciations were credited to the account, we were unable to verify the correctness of the exchange rate appreciations due to non-availability of the exchange rates used by the Bank.”
The Ministry of Energy (MOE) replied to the queries that on 21st November 2016, the Accountant General sent a letter to the Commissioner of Finance, ECOWAS Commission, submitting bank details to which funds for the balance disbursement of the ECOWAS Emergency Electric Supply Programme should be deposited. ]
The said funds they said were deposited into the Treasury Main Account Number 111011255 held at the Bank of Sierra Leone.
A request was sent to the Accountant General for the reason why the project account was denominated in Leones but up to the time of signing this response, no reply has been received on this matter.
In her final comment the Auditor General sated that the six-month delay in crediting the US$7.852 million into the grant account and the actions taken by the Ministry during that period was not made clear.
“This is because the letter purported to have been sent by the Accountant General on the 26th November, 2016 to the Commissioner of Finance, ECOWAS Commission for the US$7.852 million to be deposited into the Treasury Main Account held at the Bank of Sierra Leone and not the designated US$ grant account held at the Bank of Sierra Leone was not made available for audit inspection. The issue therefore remains unresolved” she concluded.