Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has expressed concerns over the slow pace of reforms aimed at strengthening governance and combating corruption in Sierra Leone during the extended credit facility (ECF) program. According to the IMF Country Report No. 23/377, efforts to ensure the operational and financial independence of the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) have made only limited progress.
The report highlights that, following the dismissal of the auditor general and her deputy, the Judicial and Legal Service Commission adopted new tribunal guidelines. However, the ongoing tribunal on their suspension has seen “no tangible progress over a period of more than a year and a half, with sessions repeatedly postponed,” warned the IMF staff. They emphasize that the continued delays could erode public confidence in the external audit function and governance in the country.
Concerning salaries and allowances owed to ASSL management, the IMF authorities noted that an Attorney General’s opinion suggested the deputy auditor general has been paid in accordance with the law. However, the tribunal on the suspended Auditor General and her Deputy is still ongoing, despite the government’s commitment to conclude it by the end of November 2023.
As of now, the State has closed its case against the two officials, awaiting the defence’s response. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, December 7, 2023. The government has also committed to fulfilling all legally owed salaries and allowances to ASSL management, as stated in the Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) dated November 6, 2023, supplementing the one from May 22, 2023, focused on improving governance.
The MEFP reinforces the government’s commitment to enhancing transparency, strengthening anti-corruption efforts, and ensuring the operational independence of the ASSL. It mentions the development and publication of a roadmap reviving dormant statutory provisions on surcharges and the ongoing process of related implementing regulations.
The report also sheds light on the limited progress made in strengthening the national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework. Sierra Leone’s 2020 evaluation identified significant weaknesses, including making beneficial ownership of companies available, enhancing AML/CFT risk-based supervision of non-banking financial institutions, monitoring dealers of precious metals and stones, and strengthening enforcement against money laundering and financial crimes.
In response to AML/CFT concerns, the government has committed to making beneficial ownership of legal entities available and is actively engaged in enhanced risk-based supervision of non-bank financial institutions. They have approved the AML/CFT National Risk Assessment Report, and were expected to publish it in November. ZIJ/5/12/2023