Concord Times (Freetown)

25 February 2014

Sierra Leone: AG and Audit Service in War of Figures! 'Gov't Owes World Bank Le980 Billion, Not Le1.5 Trillion' - Accountant-General Insists

The Accountant-General's Department and Audit Service Serra Leone (ASSL) tend to disagree with each other on the exact amount of money the government of Sierra Leone owes the World Bank, with the former accusing the ASSL auditors of asking for documents that were not in the Auditor General's report of 2012 when they visited his office for verification of the books.

According to the Deputy Auditor-General, Tamba Momoh, under the basic of preparing the public account, they discovered that IPSAS standards were not adhered to and no basic therein for partial compliance with the standards.

He told members of the Public Accounts Committee in Parliament yesterday that accounting for external public debt contains many inaccuracies, and that confirmation received from the World Bank/IDA Bank was that an amount of Le1.5 trillion was understated in the accounts by Le11.5 billion.

"Accrued interest on loans amounting to Le42 billion was not recorded in the financial statement," he revealed. "Exchange gains and losses in respect of external public debt recorded in the financial statements were incorrect as there were inconsistencies in the manner in which the amount disclosed in the public accounts was arrived at. I was unable to estimate a potential amount of the misstatement because of the insufficient information presented for audit inspection."

The Deputy Auditor-General further explained that their initial review of confirmation received from the Public Debt Management Division in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development revealed that an amount of Le236 billion recorded in the financial statements was not confirmed by the creditors, namely China Line of Credit, BADEA and IDB.

He added that when they attempted an alternative audit procedure to ascertain the existence of the above debts, only Le139 billion was substantiated by these procedures, leaving an amount of Le96 billion unaccounted for.

"When the Adjust Financial Statement, schedules and relevant supporting documents were reviewed, an amount of Le583 billion recorded as loan disbursement to project implementation unit was understated by Le846 million," he explained, pointing out that four debts totalling Le8.5 billion recorded in the Public Debt Management System were not disclosed in the financial statements.

In his response, Accountant-General, Kebbe Koroma, told the Committee that when auditors visited his office, they asked for documents that were not in the Auditor General's report of 2012.

"If the auditors want us to regress from credit to cash accounting system, we will wholeheartedly accept it," he said. "We owe World Bank Le980 billion and not Le1.5 trillion as stated in the Auditor General's report of 2012."

Members of the Committee asked the two institutions to go and reconcile their documents and report back with the correct figures that the government owes the World Bank.

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