Over Le9bn missing at MoD
By Jariatu Bangura and Samuel J. Kargbo
Senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials were Monday unable to give account of how the whopping sum of Le9.32 billion was expended, as stated in the Auditor-General’s Report of 2012, when summoned by members of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament.
According to Principal Auditor at Audit Service Sierra Leone, Alfred Mbatilo Saffa, disbursements were made to the tune of Le195,178,325 in respect of oversees travel, utility and spare parts, without the relevant supporting documents to substantiate the utilization of funds, adding that supporting documents in relation to Le40,919,867 were also still outstanding.
Saffa pointed out that review of personnel files and record of staff revealed that salaries totalling Le11,167,933 were paid to eight MoD officials who were over 60 years or had attained the statutory retirement age, although there was no evidence to show that extension letters were given to the said officials. He said attendance registers for civil staff were not maintained at the Armed Forces Personnel Centre, Joint Logistic Unit, Army Engineers at Murray Town, Army Headquarters at Cockerill and the three infantry brigades.
The principal auditor said that the audit report was also unable to physically verify one hundred and thirteen (113) civil personnel at different locations within the ministry in Freetown, and that a total amount of Le615,025,308 was paid as salaries to the said personnel in question, and that the correspondence sent to the Human Resource Management Office for the deletion of names of personnel in question was submitted during the verification exercise, although the list did not include the names of three senior personnel who were overdue for retirement.
He maintained that a difference of one thousand, four hundred and sixty-four (1,464) bags of rice, amounting to Le236,093,790, was observed as surplus to quantity received and issued/distributed to the members of the Armed Forces in respect of operation and training. He noted that no evidence was produced regarding the utilization of the surplus bags of rice, and that such state of affairs persists to date.
In his response to the multiple issues of mismanagement of funds and abuse of process at the MoD highlighted in the audit report, Principal Accountant at MoD, Joshua Elline, admitted that most of the issues were outstanding at the time of the audit due to alleged delays by two officers sent to study oversees to submit their progress reports. He said that the documents are now available for inspection, adding that the MoD spent Le43 million on the two students and a further Le9 million to purchase spare parts.
Assistant Director-General at the MoD, James Freeman, said the ministry does not recommend that officials should retire, but supervise the payment of retirement benefits to officials. He blamed the late submission of list from the HRMO for their failure to issue letters of retirement to the three officials, adding that only one out of three is still in the army.
Meanwhile, the Committee members issued an ultimatum that MoD officials should, within a couple of days, submit an explanation to auditors and the Committee in respect of personnel and managerial issues raised in the report. The MoD was further urged to maintain a regular attendance register in all the different military establishments in the country.