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Absence of Auditor General stalls Covid-19 investigations

January 14, 2021

By Jariatu S. Jusu & Kelvin Morgan

Due to the absence of the Auditor General of the Audit Service Sierra Leone (Lara Taylor-Pearce), the Public Account Committee (PAC), yesterday could not hold its investigations on the conclusions made by auditors on the National Covid-19 Emergency Response Center (NARCOVERC).

According to the Chairman of the Committee who doubles as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Segepor Solomon Thomas, they knew that Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs)  have explanations about some of the conclusions made in the report, but that should be done in the presence of the  Auditor General.

He said the committee couldn’t continue with hearing in the absence of the Auditor General.

“We insisted that she must seat with us as a committee, but we were duly informed that she is taken ill and we accept that explanation. We have insisted that we cannot proceed without her presence. We wish her speedy recovery so that she will be here because this is part of her job, a job for which she has been paid by the government, so she is bound by conscience and by law to do that,” he said.

He said a letter has already be sent to her for a meeting with the committee and it is hoped that she will face them in order to trash some of the issues before MDAs  appear before the committee.

He craved the indulgence of MDA’s present to address the matter accordingly.

“I wish to apologize profusely for not proceeding today. Like I said, we are going to treat the NARCOVERC report very seriously and as a result, we insisted as a committee, to ensure that the Auditor General herself seats with this committee to address those issues. We don’t want her deputies to seat with us, we want the AG herself to be here,” he said.

He said the Public Account Committee is the committee established by law and its duty is to look at primarily reports submitted to Parliament by the Auditor General of the Audit Service Sierra Leone, which among them is the annual report.

He said when once those reports are submitted to parliament through the public account committee, it behoves them to table it before the plenary, and according to him, the committee’s duty will now be to look at the conclusions or issues of any of the report brought to Parliament.

He said the reason for the summoning of MDAs and agencies (MDAs) is as a result of the report on National Covid-19 Emergency Response Center (NARCOVERC) that has already been submitted to parliament and the conclusions of that report are nothing to write home about.

He said as a committee, they do not intend to treat the conclusions lightly, adding that since the report was tabled, a lot has been said and press conferences have been held by the Anti-Corruption Commission and Audit Service Sierra Leone in relation to the report on NARCOVERC and the 2019 annual report.

“We are concerned as a committee and we have decided that we will treat issues, matters relating to the conclusions of those reports very seriously. For those that appeared before my committee last year, I sounded several note of cautions relating to report that would come before this committee after the 2018 AG’s report and I told auditees last year that this committee will treat conclusions from any report brought to parliament by the AG very seriously. And that is the kind of seriousness we intend to attach to the NARCOVERC report and subsequently the 2019 annual report,” he said.