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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Poor parliamentary oversight among recurring issues cited in audit reports -IGR Report

By Alfred Koroma

A recent report published by the Institute for Governance Reforms (IGR) reveals that poor oversight by Parliamentary Oversight Committees was one of the issues re-appearing in all the audit reports reviewed by the organization.

 IGR reviewed six of the Auditor General’s reports published from 2015- 2020. 

In the six years review, IGR says parliament approved a total amount of Le23.84 trillion (approximately USD 2.4 Billion) for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies and local councils, but that the legislative house poorly performed its oversight functions to monitor the utilization of those funds.

The study also cited poor cash management and internal controls; inappropriate public procurement practices and mismanagement; poor administrative and financial recordkeeping, and poor management of assets as the other reoccurring issues appearing in all recommendations reviewed.

The Public Accounts and Parliamentary Select Committees have the mandate to scrutinize MDAs’ compliance with official audits. But there have been unhelpful tensions between Parliament and the Audit Service due to leaks of audit findings on social media by people who may not have confidence in the legislator’s ability to use the audit to hold MDAs responsible and vote controllers to account, IGR says.

Among the oversight committees in the House, IGR says the Ministry of Transport and Aviation Committee made the best performance with respect to audit compliance, giving 60 percent rating to the committee for it compliance.

The Education Committee which expends the largest budget in the last six years is rated 22 percent, the least compliant sector in the report, following the Mines and Minerals Committee which is rated 26 percent.

This is the second time in less than a year that studies by civil society organizations have pointed at the ineffectiveness of oversight committees in Parliament. In November last year, a report published by three consortiums of civil society groups disclosed that Parliament is weak in its oversight function to monitor the effective use of Donor Aid financing in the country. 

Overall, there is poor compliance with audit recommendations by MDAs. According to IGR report, a total of 2,655 audit recommendations were produced by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) for all MDAs and local councils for the six-year period covered. But MDAs implemented only 38% of the said recommendations, 18% partly implemented, and 44% not implemented.

IGR is a think tank civil society organization that works in partnership with multiple organizations to provide technical assistance for capacity building and sustainable development in public and private institutions. The organization has conducted a wide range of studies relating to governance issues.

Among its recommendations, IGR recommends that government, CSOs and partners institutionalize the tracking of audit compliance by developing a digital tracker for all MDAs to assess their progress in addressing audit recommendations.

The report further recommends that government take punitive action against public officials who fail to implement audit recommendations, and recognize those who comply with the recommendations by awarding them.

Government’s audit should consider conducting quarterly stringent internal audits for all MDAs and local councils to help enforce adherence to sound public financial management practices
and minimize defaults, the report says.

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