Following a thorough scrutiny of the Permanent Secretary and other officials at the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security on the 2014 Audit Report masterminded by the Public Account Committee of the House of Parliament, it was exposed that they have to account for billions.
The Public Account Committee which is charged with a constitutional responsibility of looking into THE annual Auditor General’s Report on Ministries Departments and Agencies on Monday revealed that, according to the 2014 Audit Report, a total withdrawals of one hundred and sixty three million seven hundred and fifty four thousand one hundred and sixty Leones (Le 163,754,160) were made from the Forestry Development Account at First International Bank for which supporting documents of utilisation were not presented for audit inspection.
Also, payment in respect of Special and Standing Imprests during the verification by the Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL), supporting documents for the balance of one billion six hundred and eighty nine million two hundred and twenty thousand two hundred and forty Leones (Le 1,689,220,240) and thirty two million Leones (Le 32,000,000) were still not submitted.
According to the report, it was also observed that supporting documents such as receipts, recipient signature, back to office report, invitation letters, local purchase orders, among others, for an amount of Le2,o69,889,883 and Le 35,065,000 in respect of the Ministry and the Linking Farmers Project respectively was not submitted, commenting that a balance of Le899,740,092 and Le11,465,000 for the Ministry and Linking Farmers Project has not been accounted for.
The Deputy Chairman of the Public Account Committee, Hon Komba Koedoyoma while he was questioning the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Edward Kargbo, noted that procurement documents for an amount of Le202,574,636 relating to the redesigning of the website and provision of internet facility were provided and verified, but however highlighted that document for the sum of Le 385,939,500 were not submitted.
The 2014 Audit Report also stated that 12,175 bags of fertilizers were sold to Service Providers for Le 1,313,120,000 for which bank statement of the Account held at Rokel Commercial Bank was not made available to verify the deposits.
There was also another issue of Payroll that revealed a lot of inadequacies: 22 personnel received salaries from the Ministry totalling Le235,927,039 while they were also receiving salaries from various projects for which there was no evidence of letters to them being on secondment from the Human Resources Management Office (HRMO).
It was also revealed that 30 staff of the ministry had attained the statutory age of retirement, yet receiving salaries which totalled Le 174,470,988 without any letter of extension from the HRMO.
Many other issues relating to mismanagement, non-availability of supporting documents were brought to the attention of the committee.
The Permanent Secretary and other top public servants at the Ministry have been asked to provide documents relating to the audit queries, especially when they accepted that most of the documents are available but were absent during the audit exercise.
The Deputy Chairman of the Committee gave then up to the 13th April 2016 for them to submit those documents, stating that “or else we will send you to the Correctional Centre for safe keeping”.