Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The Sierra Leone Maritime Administration has come under scrutiny in the 2022 audit for making payments totalling SLE2.8 million (SLE2,856,493) to a Civil Society Organisation (CSO) for sponsorships and public relations activities. Auditors uncovered several irregularities related to this transaction, raising concerns about transparency and compliance.
Primary among the observed irregularities was the absence of expenditure returns and an activity report submitted for audit inspection. The audit revealed that there was no evidence of a procurement process being followed in the selection of the CSO for public relations activities, and no approved budget or evidence of Board approval for the stated activity.
Furthermore, despite the activities mentioned in the concept note being safety-related, there was no evidence of the Director of Safety’s involvement in the arrangement. The concept note also included amounts for unrelated activities such as voter registration sensitization (SLE251,150) and online revision classes for pupils taking the 2022 public examinations (SLE50,000), deemed ineligible expenses by the Auditor General.
The audit also discovered duplication of responsibilities, as SLE245,909 was allocated in the concept note for monitoring maritime traffic, a role already handled by maritime traffic regulators. This resulted in a loss of public funds.
The Director of Finance was instructed to obtain expenditure returns, evidence of the procurement process, approved budgets, and Board approval for this activity, along with adequate justification for questionable activities in the concept note. Failure to comply would result in the disallowance of the amounts, with a recommendation for a refund into the Administration’s account.
In response, the Administration claimed that retirements and concept notes would be made available for verification, emphasizing that the activities undertaken were Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) for maritime communities and locations.
During audit verification, however, there was no evidence of expenditure returns, procurement process documentation, approved budget, or Board approval for the activity. Consequently, the issue remains unresolved, casting doubts on the legitimacy of the payments and the Administration’s adherence to proper financial procedures. ZIJ/11/1/2024