Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The recently released 2022 Annual Report by the Auditor General has raised concerns over financial management practices at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia, particularly regarding domestic bill payments for diplomatic staff.
“Unless otherwise, the relevant citations from the Code of Conduct are self-explanatory and do not appear to be in contravention of the current practice of the Mission with regards the payment of the bills concerned” the Embassy replied. “The said amount of US$73,343, referenced in the report, does not represent the personal domestic bills of the Ambassador as stated in the finding, rather the calculated total payments made to all eight home-based staff members.”
In their final comment, the Auditor general stated that the HoC should stop paying domestic bills for all staff until clear provisions in the laws are made regarding the payment of utility bills. The issue remains unresolved, with the Auditor General insisting that domestic bill payments for all staff should cease until clear provisions in the laws are established.
The report further highlighted various financial irregularities, including the absence of serial numbers on payment vouchers, cash payments for staff salaries instead of bank transfers or cheques, delays in quarterly allocations for Other Charges, challenges in tracking documents processed by former workers, and a lack of provisions for medical insurance and leave allowances for local staff.
Moreover, the Auditor General revealed that the Finance Clerk provided loans to staff without a formal loan policy and a loan register. These missing documents, according to auditors, are essential for establishing clear guidelines on loan acquisition, ensuring proper records, and safeguarding against abuse, fraud, and bad debts.
The Annual Report underscores the need for immediate attention to these financial management shortcomings to ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to established guidelines within the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia. ZIJ/18/1/2024