ACC exonerates Parliament but…


March 15, 2021

Sierra Leone's new look Parliament – governing without a stable majority – SIERRA  LEONE TELEGRAPH

The Anti -Corruption Commission has in a press statement issued over the weekend vindicated the Sierra Leone Parliament of corruption, but accused them of poor financial management.

The investigation of parliament came in the wake of a 2019 Corruption Perception Survey Report published by the DFID-Funded PFM Consortium in collaboration with the Centre for Accountability and the Rule of Law (CARL).

The report had cited parliament as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country.

The allegation was also re-echoed by one of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party ( SLPP)  controversial lawmaker, Ibrahim Tawa Conteh.

“After due consideration of the statements recorded in the matter and documents obtained from the Finance Department of Parliament and the Accountant General’s Department, after reviewing all factors relevant to the investigation, the Commission has concluded that though the actions of some MPs and members of the Finance Department are not in accordance with prudent financial management systems, the necessary evidential threshold required to proceed with criminal prosecution under the Anti-Corruption Act (ACA) 2008 (as amended in 2019), has not been attained,” the release said.

The anti-graft body said the issue of poor financial management would be dealt with using the prevention approach within the commission.

“The Public may recall that on Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd November 2019, Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh of Constituency 132, on the “Good Morning show” at Radio Democracy 98.1 made wide ranging corruption allegations against Mr. Umarr Paran Tarawallie, the Clerk of Parliament, and, in return, Mr. Umarr Paran Tarawallie, on the same program, made similar allegations against Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh,” the release notes

The release said during the course of the investigation, the commission obtained statements from the Speaker, the Parliamentary Leadership, several Members of Parliament, the Clerk of Parliament and Financial and Administrative staff of Parliament.

According to the statement, forensic examination of the budget and financial records of Parliament was undertaken  in key areas, including Constituency Development Fund (CDF), Leadership Imprest (LI), Office Imprest (OI), Donor Funds (DF), Sitting Fees for MPs (SFs), Procurement of Goods and Services (PG&S), Travel and Air tickets, Oversight Funds, among others.

The release notes that serious lack of systemic and appropriate monitoring and accountability regimes; thereby encouraging risky practices in the management of public funds by the administrative architecture of Parliament, the Members of Parliament, and in some instances, its leadership.

The Commission said they would work with Parliament for a policy review to give clear guidelines and directives in the use of public monies, with view of maintain prudent financial policies that could prevent the re-occurrence of the lapses in subsequent financial years.

The Commission observed during investigation that the Constituency Development Fund of Sixty-Nine Million Leones (Le.69, 000,000.00) was given to each Member of Parliament (MP), for 2019, but that becauser of the limited resources, a random selection of well-balanced pool of Constituencies were sampled for investigation from across the country and Eighty-Four (84) constituencies out of One Hundred and Forty-Six (146) constituencies country-wide formed part of the investigation.

“It was further revealed that majority of the MPs did not utilize the money for the purpose prescribed by the Speaker, i.e., to rent or build an office space; but rather, they claim to have used the money for other activities within their Constituencies as they deemed necessary” the release notes.

On the issue of imprest, the realse notes that in 2018 and 2019, the sum of Le23, 871,787,606.00 and Le27, 407,496,167.00 respectively was credited into Parliament’s imprest account at the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) by the Accountant-General’s Department (AGD), thus appropriate returns were made for it.

Meanwhile, the ACC said imprest paid to Leadership of Parliament (the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, the Leader of Government Business, the Leader of Opposition, the Office of the Clerk, the Leader of Coalition for Change (C4C), the Leader of the National Grand Coalition (NGC), the Leader of Paramount Chiefs and Legislative Services as Leadership imprest of which no evidence of expenditure or retirements of the said amount was submitted to the ACC.

“From this, we note the absence of a system of accountability or justification by all Leaders who received such funds. This needs to be corrected accordingly to ensure proper accountability,” the release notes.

The release states that no supporting document was produced and submitted to the Commission on how Constituency Facilitation Fee (CFF) was credited to them on a quarterly basis.

On the issue of procurement undertaken 2018 and 2019, the Commission states that the processes and procedures for the acquisition of goods and services were not fully followed.

In its response to the investigation report done by ACC, parliament assured the public of its full cooperation with the findings and recommendations of the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone aimed with the view to improving and strengthening prudent fiscal management in parliament.

Parliament notes that prior to ACC’s investigation, they had held several meetings of the Parliamentary Service Commission in Kenema, Makeni and Port Loko to inaugurate a process of putting in place sound and credible policies to ensure transparency and accountability in the management of its financial resources; thus noting that it was a “yawning gap that it had inherited from the Fourth Parliament”.