With His Excellency President Bio having turned transparency and accountability as his New Direction government’s philosophy for ensuring not only good state governance but also prudent public financial management, many Sierra Leoneans at home and in the diaspora have raised eyebrows over the Auditor General’s revelation of massive corruption by the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC).
According to the Auditor General’s report on the management of the Covid-19 Response funds, 47 Laptop computers valued at Le476 Million are missing.
The IHPAU purchased 47 laptop computers and other equipment for and on behalf of NaCOVERC, from the House of Electronics (S.L.) Ltd. for Le475, 113,600.
According to both the supplier and the end-user (i.e. NaCOVERC), all 47 were delivered in accordance with the contract specifications. During physical audit verification, however, it was noted that all 47 laptops were missing”.
Meanwhile, at a press briefing on Monday October 25, 2020, the deputy NaCOVERC Coordinator, Sheku Bangura giving an update on the status of finance of the COVID-19 Response stated that NACOVERC had received the total of about 212, 014,768, 377.62 Billion Leones and disbursed Le171, 133,179,030.27 Billion Leones, leaving a balance of 40,881,589,347.35 Billion Leones in the coffers.
It can be recalled that NaCOVERC from its inception as the lead government agency in the fight against COVID 19 in Sierra Leone was hit by several scandals, including late payment of allowances of doctors, nurses and other frontline workers, to the alleged dubious purchase of a fleet of vehicles and motor bikes for the response whose procurement process the National Public Procurement Agency questioned.
Again, it can be recalled that in October 2020, there was a standoff between the Audit Service and government officials over audit of the Coronavirus funds.
The Attorney General cited the state of emergency regulations as the legal basis for refusal to cooperate with the country’s auditing agency.
However, constitutionally, Section 11 of the Audit Service Act of 2014 empowers the Sierra Leone Audit Service “to audit and report on all public accounts of Sierra Leone and all public offices including the judiciary, the central and local government institutions, universities, public sector institutions, statutory corporations, companies, and other bodies and organizations established by an Act of Parliament or statutory instrument or otherwise set up wholly or in part out of public funds.”
Section 11 (2c) of the 2014 Audit Service Act specifically mandates the Audit Service to undertake specialized audits into any government entity or institution to “ensure that efficiency and effectiveness are achieved in the use of public funds.”