Ebola funds saga…Donation list not traced


- says Deputy Auditor General

February 26, 2015  By Jariatu S. Bangura

Deputy Auditor General of Audit Service Sierra Leone, Tamba Momoh, has told Parliament that some donations were not traced on bank statements presented to auditors during their time at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation.

Momoh was speaking yesterday when officials from the Ministry of Health, Emergency Operation Committee, and Sierra Leone Commercial Bank were before the Public Account Committee to answer to queries raised in the audit report on the management of Ebola funds.

The report has generated animated public debate since it was tabled in Parliament on February 12 as it points at massive misappropriation of funds from government, individuals and private institutions from May to October 2014.

Mr. Momoh told committee members that the Ministry of Health operated two bank accounts during the period auditors were carrying out their scrutiny, including the miscellaneous account used to administer day-to-day activities of the ministry and the Emergency Operation Committee account, derived from donations made by either institutions or individuals.

He revealed that prior to the audit, a management letter dated 2 October, 2014 was sent to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, which was signed and returned on the same date.

According to him, auditors observed that bank statements presented to them were not explicit as to where they came from, and that upon further clarification with the ministry, they verified cheques to the value of Le3.1 billion, with an outstanding Le1.67 billion as returned and dishonored cheques.

He said initial cheques rejected by the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank were not processed by ministry officials for reasons they later failed to explain, citing the case of Flaming Ministries whose cheque had a face value of Le100,000,000 in words although Le1,000,000 was recorded in figures.

Opposition lawmaker Hon. Komba Koedoyoma questioned as to why donor institutions or individual donors were not informed about the status of the cheques until after the auditors had discovered them, noting that such connotes negligence on the part of the ministry.

But Director of Finance in the Ministry of Health, Festus Kuyembeh, responded that they were unable to trace the donors as their addresses were not recorded by the ministry, while they had written to the banks on 22September, 2014 to solicit for such information.
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However, Hon. Hassan Sheriff of the ruling APC contended that there should be procedures in handling returned and dishonored cheques from banks.

Managing Director of the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank, Idrissa A. Kamara, was in agreement that such procedure exists as when a cheque is presented, whether it is frontend or backend cheque, they are declared and reconciled.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kamara informed lawmakers that the Le1.67 billion which the report had raised the red flag about had since been cleared.