2 August 2018

Sierra Leone: Le33.4billion Still in Public Debt Recordsdirector Admits 'Administrative Blunder'

By Jariatu Bangura

Director of Public debts management on the far left

Director of Public Debts Management in the Accountant General's office has admitted that Le33.4 billion BADEA loan which had been cancelled by the bank long ago but still registered in the public accounts was a mere administrative blunder.

Santigie Charles Conteh was speaking yesterday at a meeting with members of the Public Account Committee, Chaired by Deputy Speaker, Hon. Sengepor Solomon Thomas, at the committee room No. 1, on the 2016 Auditor General's report.

Conteh said there was no disparity in what was stated in the Auditor's report, except that the agreement had been written off by the BADEA Bank as there were four different loans given to the government of Sierra Leone.

"Upon several meetings with the bank, it was agreed that the four loans be tied up as one in the name of relief debt, but we fail to remove it from our records of public debt," he explained.

He said the aforementioned issue had been addressed since 2016, and promised to avail the document to the committee before the closure of business on Friday.

Deputy Accountant General, Tamba Momoh, said their auditors discovered that some of the confirmation received from external creditors was not included in the confirmation received.

"For instance, a debt of Le33.4 billion in respect of Research Agreement under HIPC relief-BADEA disclosed in the accounts was confirmed by the Arab Bank of Economic Development in Africa. Also, an IDA (World Bank loan) debt of Le4.4 billion in respect of Smallholder Commercialization and Agric-Business Development project was observed to have been cancelled by IDA but this loan was disclosed in the accounts," he said.

He said there was no reconciliation between books kept by government and those of creditors, and that a significant difference was identified between external debt figures recorded.

"The lack of adequate reconciliation between these three information sources means that it is possible to be sure that the figures presented in the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account is free from material misstatement," he said.

Auditor Momoh also revealed irregularities in payroll records as consultants on open-ended contracts and staff were receiving salaries twice from the Consolidated Revenue Fund Account.

Accountant General Richard Williams said the Public Debt department encounters lot of constraints in accessing documents from creditors, and recommended that a committee be set up to travel to the lending banks, adding that corrections would be made as they are currently working on them.

He promised that before any information is published in future, they would ensure it is authenticated.

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