January 12, 2022
By Alfred Koroma
After a thorough physical inspection of the military quarters, backed up with series of interviews with key personnel of the 4th Infantry Brigade, the Audit Service Sierra Leone has disclosed its abysmal findings of the poor state of the Forth Infantry Brigade in Makeni and blamed it on lack of maintenance of the military quarters.
The auditors disclosed the deplorable state of the military quarters in the 2020 Audit Report which was released weeks after the widely-condemned suspension of the Auditor General for alleged professional misconduct.
According to the report, some serving personnel are not accommodated in the quarters due mainly to the lack of maintenance of the rundown structures within the barracks – this includes the officers’ quarters meant to house dozens of personnel.
The lack of renovation of officers’ damaged quarters has compelled officers to occupy quarters belonging to other ranks in the military which has resulted to overcrowding in those quarters. And most of the occupied quarters, the report says, were renovated by the occupying personnel, out of their meager, monthly salaries.
The report disclosed that some of the toilets used by the personnel were unbearably unhealthy and dilapidated at the time of the auditing. Because of the overcrowding and the poor toilet facilities, the report said, there has been overwhelming complaints of cholera, diarrhoea, typhoid, and skin infections by the Brigade Medical Officer (BMO).
As if that is not enough, the report also disclosed a lamenting insufficient medical facilities and equipment in the Brigade’s Medical Inspection (MI) Room.
A physical verification conducted by the team of auditors on the 4th Brigade’s MI Room uncovered the MI Room, which handles all referral cases from the 4th Battalion in Makeni, 9th Battalion in Kono and the 12th Battalion in Kabala, had only two wards with a total bed capacity of 10. The MI Room completely lacks basic modern medical facilities.
Also, the Room does not receive drugs on time. This, according to the report, is evident in the drugs delivery notes to the 4th Battalion which revealed that the drug supply for November 2018 was lately received on 11th March 2020, and drug supply for January 2020 was received on the 5th September 2020 without any existing evidence to show that drugs were received for October and December 2018, 2019, and October to December 2020.
The report further ferret out more appalling conditions of the Brigade health structure, disclosing that the Brigade’s MI Room has no water facility, no air conditioner, no BP machine, no freezer, no cleaning materials and no dressing equipment such as forceps, scissors, etc.
“The wards had dilapidated beds and mattresses. The MI Room is without nursing staff. The small store for drugs did not have enough shelves to accommodate all the drugs. As a result, some drugs were lying on the bare floor, while others were stored in wooden boxes,” the report says.
The Brigade also lack a functioning standby generator in the Medical Intelligence (MI) Room and the MI Room depends only on one pit latrine situated outside the building.
Responding to the awful findings of the Auditors, the Brigade Commander acknowledged the findings, but noted effort made so far to ameliorate the poor standard of the Brigade, stating that the bills of quantity for all dilapidated quarters have been submitted to the Headquarters and that renovation of the Brigade Quarters was now largely dependent on the availability of funds.
The Commander said provision has also been made to improve the Brigade’s sanitation, as there is already an ongoing weekly disinfestation of the toilet system of the Barracks by the public health officials from the JLU of the RSLAF which has undertaken a refurbishment to improve the existing toilet structure and to enhance its adequacy.
Responding to the report’s queries on the inconsistency in the supply of drugs to the MI Room, the Commander blamed the inconsistency on procurement and irregular payment to the supplier, an issue which the Commander said rests with the Ministry of Defence.
The ministry which the report further accused of several irregularities in its management of public funds and some of it activities, has also been on the headline following a damning report by the Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) on accusation of sexual harassment, gender based violence, corruption and impunity perpetrated by some top level officials of the country’s military force.