…As 70% of proposed Le 1bn subvention to be used on administrative purpose
November 2, 2017 By Alusine Sesay & Ishmael Sallieu Koroma
While they failed to provide detail information for Audit Service Sierra Leone to audit the 2016 government budgetary allocation meant for the welfare of persons with disabilities, documents in the possession of Concord Times have revealed how the National Commission for Persons with Disability proposed to spend 70% of the first quarter of the 2017 allocation on administrative purposes, while only 30% was proposed to be spent on programs and activities.
Already, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development had approved the sum of Le 1,086,200,000 (one billion and eighty six million, two hundred thousand Leones for the first half of 2017 for the commission, but the process was halted by the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr.Sylvia Blyden.
Dr.Blyden had contended that procedures were flouted, as she was supposed to have approved the disbursement by appending her signature to the Public Expenditure Tracking (PET) survey form before any disbursement; a procedure she noted was never followed.
According to the document in our possession, out of the Le 1,086,200,000 allocated to the commission for the first half of 2017, le 763,870,000, (Seven hundred and sixty-three million, eight hundred and seventy thousand Leones) was proposed to be used for administrative purpose, while Le 322,330,000 (three hundred and twenty-two million, three hundred and thirty thousand Leones Leones) should have been used for programs and activities.
It is further revealed that for the year 2017, the commission had proposed to spend Le200, 000, 000 (two hundred million Leones) as rent for the head office in Freetown, while Le15, 000,000 (fifteen million Leones) would be paid for the northern region office.
However, when pressed on to produce document that could ascertain agreement for the payment of the said rent as indicated in the recurrent expenditure for 2017, Finance Manager of the commission, Ibrahim Jimissa, could not provide records of the lease and rent agreements they entered into with the owner of the bungalow that currently housed the commission in Freetown.
He noted that they used to pay in dollars –twenty thousand United States Dollars per year as per the previous lease agreement, which he said had expired in October 2015.
“We used to pay twenty thousand United States Dollars but we entered into negotiations with the landlord because we could no longer cope to continue paying in dollars. The owner insisted that we increase the rent to two hundred millions Leones, hence we included it in our proposed expenditure for the year 2017,” he said.
He expressed that the commission was constrained with limited finances and that they were not happy paying such huge chunk of money on rent alone, adding that they have approached government to offer them office space and save them from the burden of paying rent, but to no avail.
It could be recalled that some members of the disable community, led by the Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues (SLUDI), last week staged a peaceful protest along State Avenue, complaining that the Minister of Social Welfare, Dr.Sylvia Blyden, had deprived them of funding for 2017.
Meanwhile, the Finance Manager said the Ministry of Finance had already approved the first half of the 2017 budget when the Social Welfare Minister intervened and halted the process on the contention that the procedure was flawed because she was supposed to approve the PETS form instead of the Chairman of the commission.
While the Minister of Social Welfare had demanded that the funds be withheld because she did not approve it by way of appending her signature, he said it was their usual practice for the Chairman of the commission,Federick J.M.Kamara ,to approve PETS form for them to access funds from the finance ministry, instead of the minister.
“When the minister demanded that we follow her procedure, we never denied but approached her and pleaded that she allow us access the funds that was already approved by the ministry of finance, but she insisted that we should write a letter, admitting that we did something criminal. We refused to do so because we would already incriminate ourselves. The Accountant General has sent back our voucher to us without disbursing the funds. He advised us to settle the issue with the minister and get on to him,” he said.
During the course of investigation, it was revealed that the commission has limited programs and activities that focus on the welfare of persons with disabilities. According to the Finance Manager, they do use funds to engage the disable community on the International Day for Persons with Disabilities (IDD), and sensitise them on national elections and censuses.
While the commission is required by law to set up a Medical Board for persons with disabilities, the budget committee of the commission, during a meeting held on 25th April, agreed that no amount of money should be committed to the setting up of the said board.
But the Finance Manager of the commission, Ibrahim Jimissa, who is a member of the said committee, disclosed that the Chief Medical Officer in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation had written letters to all government hospitals, asking them to be offering free medical service to all persons with disabilities, although the said claim could not be verified.