Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In a significant turn of events at the tribunal investigating the suspended Auditor General Lara Taylor Pearce, an International Audit Expert, Einar Gorrissen, testified via video call from Oslo, Norway. Gorrissen, representing the defence as the third witness, emphasized that auditors don’t require authorization from auditees for third-party confirmation.
As a key member of the Intosai Development Initiative (IDI), an organization regulating auditing standards, Gorrissen stressed the importance of prioritizing public interest over confidentiality in the audit practice. He informed the tribunal that in cases where there is suspicion of a cover-up or gross negligence by the auditor, seeking third-party verification is justified without prior authorization.
Despite admitting unfamiliarity with Sierra Leone’s third-party confirmation processes, Gorrissen shared that he had been shown an engagement document—the foundation of the auditing process in Sierra Leone—by the suspended Deputy Auditor General Tamba Momoh.
Gorrissen, armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Queen’s University in London and a Master’s degree in Economics, defended his expert opinion. He highlighted his extensive auditing experience across various countries, including Malawi.
Before the expert witness could proceed with his testimony, Principal State Lawyer Ahmed James Bockarie raised objections based on legal and procedural grounds. Bockarie argued that the defence failed to adhere to practice direction 6 rule 3, which requires providing the tribunal with the expert’s qualifications and experience before testifying.
In response, Roland Wright, representing the defence, contended that the practice direction pertained to the evidence of facts, not opinions. Wright maintained that expert witnesses can provide oral evidence without presenting qualifications beforehand, citing the precedent of modernized judiciaries allowing virtual testimonies.
The objection was overruled by the tribunal panel in the interest of justice, dismissing concerns about the witness’s location and the absence of a sanitized room. The tribunal deemed the arguments against the expert witness as remote and allowed the testimony to proceed. MJB/21/12/2023