Having failed to establish a separate Procurement Authority at the Ministry of Finance which should have been in parallel with National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA), Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa also attempted to create a special audit committee at the Ministry of Finance.
This committee has been seen by many as a way of sweeping deals and counter deals of this government under the carpet deals.
Hon. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella, leader of National Grand Coalition in Parliament while contributing to the 2019 Budget highlighted the problems such committee will cause in Sierra Leone.
According to Yumkella, one ways of ensuring fiscal discipline is the protection of the independence and effectiveness of the Office of the Auditor General.
He furthered that Audit Service Sierra Leone has been one of the most important organs in the fight against corruption and waste in government.
“We note that in paragraph 74 of the Budget, the Government plans to set up audit committees in MDAs and establish a “special Government Audit Committee in the Ministry of Finance comprising professionals from outside the civil service,” Hon Yumkella noted.
He stated that they do not want to suspect that this is a subtle way to give short shrift to the Office of the Auditor General if the committees are not made to report to the Auditor General.
“We also entertain some misgivings that setting up of an Audit Committee in the Ministry of Finance could be recipe for gross interference in, duplication of and undermining of the responsibilities of the Auditor General’s Office,” Hon Yumkella maintained.
He added that to ensure the autonomy and independence of the Audit Service Sierra Leone, they note with concern, the inherent conflict of interest between the ASSL’s mandate to audit the Ministry of Finance while at the same time relying on that same entity for timely and adequate subventions in order to carry out its said mandate effectively.
“To this end, as a boost to the fight against corruption and waste of public resources, we recommend special provisions of ringfenced funds for ASSL guaranteed and overseen by parliament,” he asked.
Recently senior officials of the Ministry of Finance have been named in conflict of interest and in influencing contracts for their relatives.