''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol 9 No 3

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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1. Inadequate financial systems in operation

The following were observed;

Financial records and Books such as Revenue & Expenditure, Cash Books, Accountable Documents Register and Vote Service Ledger were not maintained;
Monthly Bank Reconciliations of the Cash Book and Bank Statement were not carried out;

Disbursements/payments were not supported by Payment Vouchers; and The Knowledge of the Finance Officer/staff in Government Financial Regulations and other applicable legislations was limited.

It was however recommended that the Finance Officer should, on a monthly basis, reconcile the Cash Book with the Bank Statement and discrepancies, if any, should be investigated. Also, with immediate effect, the Finance Officer should ensure the maintenance and regular updating of the Revenue and Expenditure Cash Books, Vote Service Ledger and Accountable Documents Register.

2. Revenue from Consular Fees not remitted

An examination of the consular records and receipt books disclosed that amounts, totalling $527,312, were collected as Visa Fees for the period under review, but no transfers were made to the Consolidated Revenue Fund or paid to the Government of Sierra Leone. In addition, no authority or prior approval was sought from the MFAIC for the use of these funds. The balance in the Consular Account as at 31st December, 2010 was $74,553.17.

The following were recommended;

The MOFED should put a mechanism in place whereby Consular Fees must be paid into a separate special Government Foreign Bank Account, outside the control and management of the Mission staff;
In future, the HOC should ensure that Consular Fees must be remitted within a reasonable time; and The HOC should produce substantial evidence of how these monies were utilized; otherwise the amount should be refunded to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

3. Unauthorised Payment of Salary

It was observed that the Mission continued to pay salaries, amounting to Le19,762.77, for the period October to December, 2010 to the former First Secretary who had been transferred, without a letter of authority from the MOFED and MFAIC.

We recommended that the HOC should ensure that whenever staff were recalled, the information should immediately be communicated to the MOFED to regularize the salary voucher or take appropriate action. In addition, we requested an explanation from the HOC for the above anomaly; in the absence of which the amount involved should be recovered.

4. Payment of Children’s and Education Allowances to Diplomatic Staff

It was observed that Children’s Allowances were being paid arbitrarily. In some instances, Children’s Allowances were paid to Diplomatic Staff not entitled to it.
In addition, copies of Birth Certificates of children of Diplomatic Staff were neither on file nor were they produced or made available to the auditor for inspection to support the payments, amounting to US$195,057.81, made to staff for the period under review.

We recommended that the HOC should ensure that Children’s Allowances were only paid to Diplomatic staff entitled to receive such allowances, for a maximum of three children under 18 years. It was also recommended that the HOC should ensure that the officers concerned must produce evidence of their children’s birth certificates; otherwise the amount involved was to be recovered and evidence of recovery forwarded to the Office of the Auditor General for verification.

5. Special remittance for the rehabilitation of Government properties

It was observed that in April, 2010 an amount of US$ 533,704, remitted to the mission for the rehabilitation of Government owned properties, was deposited into the Salary and Other Charges Account. Six (6) months later, the same amount was transferred into a Special Account No. 000000908368293 to cover rehabilitation work.

This amount remained unutilised at the end of the year and the balance as at 31st December, 2010 was US$ 533,704. It was surprising to note that no rehabilitation work had been done in any of the Government properties, even though monies had been remitted for that purpose. It was also observed that the Chancery Building was in a dilapidated state. The basement or lower level of the Chancery building would flood whenever there was a downpour of rain and the condition of the ceiling and heating systems was unsatisfactory, posing Health and Safety hazards to staff.

It was recommended that the HOC should explain why the money was not utilized for its intended purpose and why the implementation of the project was delayed; otherwise the amount involved should be repaid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and evidence of receipt forwarded to the Audit Service Sierra Leone for verification.

6. Duplication of payment in respect of United Nations general assembly meetings

The following were observed:

That MOFED paid twice for accommodation and other incidental allowances in respect of the United Nations General Assembly Meetings in New York-once to the Office of the Secretary to the President and again to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

During the Financial year 2008, the Office of the Secretary to the President received US$57,161 for the 63rd UN General Assembly Meeting; for the same period an amount of US$43,800 was also remitted to the Mission for the same purpose.

In the 2009 Financial Year, the MOFED paid US$46,691.00 in respect of the 64th UN General Assembly Meeting and remitted US$36,596 to the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission for the same purpose.

During the 2010 Financial Year, the Office of the Secretary to the President received US$54,267 to cover accommodation, incidental and imprest in respect of the 65th UN General Assembly meeting and for the same period an amount of US$49,915 was remitted to the Mission.

Of utmost concern to the auditor was the unavailability of the relevant supporting documents and schedules to cover those payments. We therefore recommended that the Financial Secretary should explain, with substantial evidence, why duplicate payments were made in respect of the UN General Assembly Meetings; in the absence of which the amounts involved should be refunded by the officers concerned.

7. Fixed Assets/ Inventory Register

The following were observed:

Assets, at both the Chancery and Residences, were not marked with a durable identification label or mark;
The Inventory Register was not properly maintained. Details of acquisition, description and other relevant information were not recorded;
Most of the assets at the Mission/office were obsolete;

There was no evidence on file to indicate that the HOC periodically checked/visited the residences to ascertain the state and condition of the assets and buildings; and a physical inspection of the assets at the residences was not carried out because of restrictions from Diplomatic Staff.

It was therefore recommended that:

All assets must receive an effective and durable identification label or mark to indicate ownership and the ordering number assigned to them recorded; With immediate effect, the Mission’s Inventory/Assets Register should be updated to give details of date of acquisition, cost, description, serial number, additions and other relevant information; and

The HOC should ensure that assets belonging to the Mission must have their existence checked periodically, as well as their state and condition and must be matched with the Assets and Inventory Registers which should be kept updated at all times.

8. Loans Register not maintained

It was observed that the Mission did not have a policy for its loans. A Loans Register/record which should include the name of the borrower, the authority for the amount so authorized, the due dates and amounts of repayment was not maintained by the Mission for the period under review.

It was recommended that a Loans Policy should be developed and implemented in order to enhance the management and control of loans.

9. General issues

During the period under review, it was observed that amounts, totalling US$19,010.00, were paid out as Cash payments to cover salaries and other expenses.

It was also observed that a high percentage of mortgage payments related to interest charges and it was considered doubtful whether the principal amount would be paid off at the end of the mortgage period.

Internal Communication in the Mission was far from satisfactory and this has had a negative effect on their work culture and performance.

A rent allowance of US$2,300.00 continued to be paid to the HOC, even though she was occupying an official residence. This amounted to US$43,700.00 for the period under review.

Undue delays were observed in the processing of the Air passage of the Deputy Permanent Representative (DPR) even though a memo had been sent by MFAIC to facilitate return. In addition, the recalled DPR continued to receive salaries and other claims/benefits, which resulted in the loss of monies to the Government.

We therefore recommended that the Director General, MFAIC should investigate the anomalies and have the report of the investigation forwarded to my office for verification. We recommended further that the Head of Chancery should refund the rent allowance received since the date of occupancy of the residence and forward receipt details to my office for verification.

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