Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – In a concerning revelation, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) failed to submit a critical database containing information on foreign transfers for audit inspection in the year 2022.
The database, which encompasses vital details concerning foreign transfers, including reports submitted by reporting financial institutions, fines issued, accounts suspended, and other pertinent reports, was notably absent during the audit process.
In response to inquiries, the FIU explained that the foreign transaction database captures the daily inflow and outflow transactions conducted by customers of reporting entities, namely financial institutions. This data serves as a fundamental reference point during the analysis of suspicious transaction reports, aiding in the reconstruction of fund flows between jurisdictions associated with the subjects, whether natural or legal persons, under investigation.
Emphasizing the confidentiality of the database, the FIU stated that access is strictly restricted, ensuring the security of legitimate transactions until proven otherwise through successful investigation and prosecution. According to the FIU, for a foreign transaction to be deemed an illicit financial flow (IFF), at least one of the three considerations—origin, transfer, and use—must be illegal.
In an effort to address concerns about transparency, the FIU pledged to grant the audit team a view of the database and the reporting portal for verification. They assured that this access would not compromise the confidentiality of the information and would enable the auditors to perform their duties effectively.
However, during the audit verification process, the Audit Team was given a tour of the database’s operation by the IT Manager of the Unit. The auditors expressed their frustration, stating that no data was provided to them in any form due to the claims made in the Management’s response. Consequently, the auditors were unable to carry out any work on reconciling actions taken by the Unit on the database of foreign transfers.
This development raises concerns about transparency and accountability within the FIU, as the withholding of crucial audit information hinders the audit process and leaves questions unanswered about the management of foreign transactions within the financial system. The FIU now faces increased scrutiny as stakeholders demand a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the non-submission of the foreign transfer database for audit. ZIJ/19/1/2024