The Head of the main opposition in Parliament, Hon. Chernor Rahmadan Maju Bah commonly known as Chericoco has written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Anthony Y. Brewah noting that there is no regulation before parliament that exclude the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC) or any institution or person from giving account on the management of the Covid-19 public funds entrusted on them.
Hon. Bah noted that he has followed the developments around the ‘Real Time’ Audit of the COVID-19 Funds with keen interest also noted government’s position that it is impossible for government to respond to the Auditor General’s request in order to review figures, facts, findings and recommendations emanating from the audit of the public funds entrusted on NaCOVERC.
He maintained that he was surprised at the argument put forward by the Brewah that the guarantee no to audit the COVID-19 funds is necessitated by the existing State of Emergency and the Extraordinary Powers it confers on the President who is the Chairman of NaCOVERC who is also charged with the responsibility to do whatever he deems expedient in order to prevent and or control the pandemic.
He furthered that it is not the first time the country is experiencing such a State of Emergency, neither such an institution like the NaCOVERC having the President as its Chairman, noting that it is also not the first time that Audit Service Sierra Leone is conducting a real time audit into the management of emergency funds.
He referenced that when the Ebola disease broke out in 2014, the National Ebola Response Center (NERC) was established under a State of Emergency which gave the then President Koroma extraordinary powers to do what he deemed necessary as Chairman, adding that the former president did not prevent the auditing of the Ebola Funds.
That even though former president Koroma used the extraordinary powers conferred on him to ensure that a real time audit was conducted in relation to the management of the Ebola Funds, President Julius Maada Bio then as the Presidential Candidate of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) wrote an open letter to former President Koroma urging that a further audit is carried out on the management of the Ebola Funds.
“One would therefore expect that even from a moral standpoint, this SLPP Government would have been enthusiastic about initiating, rather than forestalling an audit into the management of the COVID-19 Funds,” he affirmed.
He referred the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to Section 119 of the Public Procurement Regulations 2020 under the rubric “Sole Source Procurement for Emergency Needs,” which makes ample provision and procedure for procurement during emergency.
He reiterated that even in an emergency, as long as government continues to receive and expend funds on behalf of the public, its constitutional mandate to give account to the public remains binding.
He called on the Attorney General to support the due process of the law by advising NaCOVERC to respond to the queries of the Audit.