Sierra Leone: As Le120 Billion Spentchrdi Says MPs Should Account

Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI) has called on the Sierra Leone Parliament to release documents detailing how lawmakers spend community development funds and expense allowances funded by the Sierra Leonean taxpayer.

"We at the CHRDI have discovered that over 120 billion Leones was spent on Parliamentarians in the last five years, but there is no supporting evidence to show how these monies were spent. There are clear risks of fraud involving taxpayers' money," claimed CHRDI Chief Executive, Abdul M. Fatoma.

According to him, even the country's Auditor General's Office had highlighted in their audit report of management of Ebola funds in 2015 that the audit team confirmed payment of Le110, 460,000 [one hundred and ten million four hundred and sixty thousand Leones] by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation to MPs on 22 August, 2014 shortly after the Constituency Development Fund payment to MPs on 18 August 2014, which was later converted for Ebola sensitisation.

He stated that the second payment to MPs was made three days after Parliament paid them for the same activity, which indicates that due diligence was not conducted by the ministry before the subsequent payment was effected.

"In addition, the relevant retirement details were not made available for verification and therefore the auditors could not eliminate the possibility of a "double dip" by the Honourable Members. Sadly, the matter remains unresolved," he said.

Mr. Fatoma said their researchers have persistently requested for detailed explanation on how the said monies received from Ministry of Finance were spent, but were told that Parliament 'regulates itself'.

He highlighted the inconsistent application of anti-corruption laws and policies, and the weak capacity and lack of independence of key institutions in charge of fighting corruption as critical problems identified by his organization.

"We want to remind MPs that parliamentary privilege is not in the law(s) to prevent operation of the criminal law. Our call is to improve and to ensure the effective implementation of an anti-corruption legislation in respect of parliamentarians and other government officials," he noted.

The CHARDI Chief Executive insisted that MPs are not exempt from culpability under the criminal law and that his organisation was of the firm view that that no new law was needed to effect that, adding that if any was necessary, they are asking for a legislation to remove any ambiguity in the law.

Neither the Speaker, nor the Clerk of Parliament, has responded yet to the accountability and transparency call by the group.

Source: Concord Times.

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