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CARL expresses grave concerns over failure by MDAs to submit financial statements to Audit Service Sierra Leone; urges Parliament and Ministry of Finance to intervene

CARL expresses grave concerns over failure by MDAs to submit financial statements to Audit Service Sierra Leone; urges Parliament and Ministry of Finance to intervene 

The Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL) is gravely concerned about the failure, neglect or outright refusal by a number of public institutions to submit the required financial information for the purpose of conducting the annual national audit. A public statement issued on 7th August, 2017 by Audit Service Sierra Leone listed 29 (twenty nine) public institutions which, it says, have failed to submit their financial statements for the 2016 Financial Year. The notice added that some of the defaulting institutions have not been audited since they were established.

Under the Public Finance Management Act 2016, the vote controller of every entity is required to submit financial statements to the Auditor-General within three months after the accounts of a financial year are closed.

“The statutory stipulated period for public institutions to submit the required financial statements expired more than four months ago, and their failure to comply does nothing to enhance their reputation. Whatever the reasons may be for their failure, it is simply unacceptable and should not go unpunished”, said Ibrahim Tommy, the Executive Director of CARL.

The 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone mandates the Auditor-General to audit the Public Accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices, including the accounts of the central and local government administrations, universities, public institutions, statutory corporations and other bodies  established by an Act of Parliament. The Public Finance Management Act 2016 also empowers the Auditor-General to request any information, books, records, returns, and documents for the purpose of conducting audit from a public entity.

“Citizens have a right to know how their tax monies are utilized and public servants who are paid to manage the country’s resources have a responsibility to give a full account of their stewardship to citizens. The Auditor-General’s job of examining and certifying public accounts is a constitutional requirement and the need to promptly respond to information requests is not only the right thing to do, it is also a legal obligation”, he added.

This conduct should excite the keen interest of every well-meaning Sierra Leonean as this appears to be the latest tactic devised by some public officials to undermine the mandate of the national audit office.

CARL calls on the Ministry of Finance and the Sierra Leone Parliament to support the efforts of Audit Service Sierra Leone in ensuring that the defaulting institutions submit the required financial statements. Parliament’s financial oversight functions and the Ministry of Finance’s job of ensuring fiscal discipline are significantly enhanced when the Audit Service is able to discharge its mandate effectively.

CARL urges the Ministry of Finance to suspend the participation of the defaulting agencies in the on-going budget process. We also urge the relevant parliamentary committees to summon the heads of the various institutions to provide convincing explanation for their failure to comply with a statutory requirement.

We also urge the government, particularly the Law Officers’ Department and the Sierra Leone Parliament, to enact tough laws that empower the Audit Service Sierra Leone to take action against such defaulters.

Over the last five years, reports by the Audit Service Commission, including the Ebola Audit report, have shown that public institutions have failed to account for millions of United States dollars. It is worth noting that among the twenty-nine defaulting institutions are the highest recipients of state resources and revenue-generating institutions. Unless citizens are convinced that public officials fully account for the resources they manage on behalf of the people, the challenges that government faces in its relationship with citizens can only be compounded. At a time most countries are tightening fiscal discipline and developing strategies to better manage their resources, Sierra Leone cannot afford to do otherwise.

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