Chairman of the parliamentary oversight committee on transparency and accountability has expressed dissatisfaction over the handling of funds amounting to more than Le 1.4 billion meant for Pujehun District, and threatened some civil servants with a sack.
Claude Kamanda, MP, said the amount had not been accounted for by the ministries of agriculture, education, and gender and children’s affairs. The national library board was also named.
Speaking to Politico during a recent visit to Pujehun by the oversight committee, Kamanda said the amounts, as contained in the financial reports for 2014, 2015 and 2016, were given to the named ministries and department with nothing to show for it.
“In 2015, Le 770,000,000 [seven hundred and seventy million leones] was devolved to the Pujehun District Council for the ministry of agriculture and not even 10% was used on the common people,” Kamanda told Politico.
He said no proper or clear account was given on the use of the funds allocated to the agriculture sector in the form of farming activities for market supplies in tons of potatoes, cassava and rice.
“It is unfortunate for the District Agriculture officer because he was not able to defend and articulate the issues bordering on the use of the Le 770,000,000,” he said.
On the ministry of education, the Western Area parliamentarian said they were in the same situation, and that “there was no honesty in the presentation made by the Deputy Director of Education on the use of the funds devolved to them.”
According to the financial reports as read out by the transparency and accountability committee Chairman, in 2014 the ministry of education received Le 82,175,450 from the central government for the first and second quarters, and Le 241,094,790 in 2015. “None of those monies were properly accounted for”, Kamanda said.
Meanwhile the same education ministry received Le 82,382,574 for the first and second quarters of 2015 under the Decentralised Service Delivery Project 2, and the reproductive child health care. In 2016 it also received Le 168,394,421 for the first and second quarters for the same use.
The oversight committee chairman said 100% of the money that was received in 2014 by the social welfare ministry, amounting to Le 106,626,694 was spent on administration. He said it was incomprehensible for the ministry to spend all the amount on administrative business in stead of addressing such issues like sexual abuse against girls which is rife in the district, and on the disabled and the aged.
He also expressed similar concern over the Sierra Leone Library Board in the district and called on its head to retire.
He warned the District Agricultural Officer and the library boss that they should not be surprised if they lost their jobs over the matter.
He said monies sent to district councils across the country were meant for devolved sectors and warned MDAs to use at least 70-80% on the people, adding: “this is the only possible means of taking Sierra Leone to a better level.”
He said ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) must put the people of Pujehun district first in their activities which he said was lacking in their financial running systems.
Kamanda said the money sent to the district must be utilised to benefit and improve the lives of the common people for which it was devolved.
He said the easiest way to improve the country was to add value to agriculture ”and that is the reason why the government and its partners have been pouring a lot of money into the local councils for the use of the ministry of agriculture to improve the lives of the common people.”
The Chairman of the Pujehun District civil society coalition, Ibrahim Swaray condemned the act by the named MDAs for “failing to give account of monies that were meant for the people”.
He called on the parliamentary oversight committee to treat the issue with “every seriousness”. He alleged that such “lack of transparency” had been the “normal behaviour of government workers in the district and must be addressed.”
Chairman of the district council, Sadiq Silla during the meeting said “the problem with the Agriculture sector in the country at large is that all departments report directly to their national bosses leaving out the District Agricultural Officers and as such it will be difficult to defend their operations by their district bosses.”
He said the issue of subject matter specialisation was greatly disturbing the smooth running of the ministry. Silla said he was happy about the way in which the parliamentary committee had “exposed” the MDAs which he said vindicated him.