The 2016 Audit Report has revealed that the country’s overseas Missions have been failing to account for proceeds generated from the sale of visa stickers to foreign passport holders wishing to visit Sierra Leone.
According to the report, the issuance of visas to foreigners is very important in many ways including for economic, security and diplomacy, to name but a few, adding that it has economic benefits because some of those visitors may be tourist’s wishing to visits and explore the beauty of the country’s beaches and touristic sites.
As a result of the above reasons, the report stressed that it is important that the country’s visa issuance process is up to date and modern, transparent, passenger friendly, accountable and fit for purpose.
Based on their findings, the report notes that the Missions did not have a good visa sticker stock management, accounting internal control systems in place, which has led to the Missions in London and Brussels not being able to account for 114,787 pounds sterling and 41,965 Euros respectively.
It further notes that the sum of $USD2,387,402 also generated by five Missions was not transferred to the Consolidated Revenue Account at the Bank of Sierra Leone as required by law.
That the Sierra Leone Consuls General to Spain and Denmark generated estimated visa fees revenue of 10,900 pounds and $US 86,372 respectively, but failed to transfer same to the CRFA at the Bank of Sierra Leone.
Also observed was that the basis for requiring foreigners to obtain visa to enter Sierra Leone was not evidenced; value for money was not obtained in the procurement of visa stickers, adding that the quality procured had no bearing on the quantity required by the Missions, and therefore there was a shortage of visa stickers in the Missions.
“The Immigration Department did not have a good stock record system in place unnecessary delays in responding to requests for visa stickers by the Missions through Ministry of Foreign Affairs were also observed. As a result of these delays most of the Missions visited were completely out of stock,” notes the report.
Also observed was that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs delayed in playing their role as a “middleman” between the Missions and the Immigration Department and failed to monitor the Missions in their management of visa stickers.
It concluded by noting that there is widespread use of unidentical Inks Stamps as visa, largely because of the shortage of visa stickers, adding there have been instances in London, in March 2016, when Ink Stamps were used even though there were stocks of stickers in the Mission.
ACC Declares Former Immigration Boss Wanted
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has declared the former Immigration Department boss, Kolifa Koroma wanted for alleged corruption involving passport deals.
According to the ACC, they have sent out a national and international warrant of arrest for him in connection to the issuance of service and diplomatic passports to people who are not entitled to it.
The Commission says it is also investigating other staff of the Department for similar offenses, saying that is also the more reason why they need Kolifa Koroma to answer to some questions in relation to the said deals that took place under his watchful eyes as Immigration boss at the time.
Other issues that might not be unconnected to the ACC’s investigations of the Department are: that according to the 2016 Audit Report, proper records were not maintained on the production of passports as was evidenced in the request made for the under-mentioned records which were not submitted:
Request to BSL for issuing of blank passport for 2016; list of blank passport taken on charge at the CIO’s office for 2016; list of blank passports submitted to the production room for the printing of passport for the period under review; list of unused blank passport from the production room for 2016; monthly production list of passports for 2016 and reconciliation of the production list with the CIO’s list of applicants for 2016.
Meanwhile, the ACC has assured that the ongoing arrests and investigations of alleged corrupt officials is not a witch-hunt but that they are merely doing their job of going after corrupt officials.