The Non-State Actors Network on Audit Issues on Thursday, 12th September, held a policy dialogue with key stakeholders within the audit cycle on the newly incepted project title: Developing effective partnership between non-state actors and the Public oversight bodies for scaling up the implementation of the recommendations of the Auditor General Report in Sierra Leone.
The meeting held at the Speaker's conference room in parliament brought together oversight bodies, members of PAC, and civil society actors formed into the NSA Network on Audit issues.
Giving the background of the project, the National Coordinator, NSA Secretariat, Amadu Sidi Bah said the project was approved by the World Bank after initial discussions with the bank.
"This is the first policy dialogue meeting with oversight bodies and this shows the seriousness of how we all take this process. We believe oversight is crucial noting the country is faced with series of challenges in this direction.
Mr. Bah said lots of funding has gone into reforms but much is yet to be realized as a result of these reforms.
"We see the Auditor General's Report year in year out with series of recommendations and yet these recommendations are not treated seriously. We also see PAC report and yet nothing seem to be done with the recommendations and yet the problem continues.
We as civil society are concerns and if we want this country to progress there is every need to take these issues seriously and deal with them in the most appropriate manner" he said.
The NSA coordinator noted that civil society in critical in all of these and the need to engage oversight bodies especially the PAC in parliament. There is every need to increase public debate around these issues noting that the network has embarked on a thorough research to bring out findings which will be used to engage MDAs.
He said the start-up phase include a number of stakeholders consultation and deliberation on the content and formation of the different activities to be undertaken and their sequencing in order to ensure that the overriding objective of the project is met as well as effective implementation.
In his presentation the Deputy Auditor General Feldin Bell said the mandate of the Audit Service Sierra Leone stop at reporting. Every year in our report there are recommendations and these same recommendations continue to come up. It is like much is not done and that citizens are not getting the change required from our work.
"We have good outcomes but what is the impact of our work he asked. In financial management internal control is important and until we get it right we still have problem. We have seen in other countries where accountant don't see moneys yet they prepared all the financial statements of their agency. This is not the case in Sierra Leone and the reason we are having these problems.
He said there are agencies in Sierra Leone with strong internal controls and there is virtually nothing to report whenever we go there. There are instances where you know that people have defrauded but nothing is done.
The representative from the Internal Audit SN Lansana expresses happiness for the meeting noting that the unit is new.
He said the unit is challenge in many areas noting that they under resource with funding, structure and personnel. We have internal auditors but they are constraints to do their work but noted that the unit is striving.
The Chief Executive Office of the National Public Procurement Authority (NPPA) Brima Swaray in his statement highlighted series of challenges faced by his agency noting that the NPPA is been stifled.
He said Sierra Leone have laws but it implementation is the challenge. Our law on procurement is robust but there are bottle necks in the implementation. We need to allow institutions to do their work and only by this we will stop bad contracts.
The chairperson of the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, Sengehpor Solomon Thomas reacting to the concerns thanked the NSA for this initiative and the project noting that this type of engagement is what is needed.
He said no one institution will be able to fight corruption and the need to collaborate. We need to collaborate and work together.
The PAC Chairperson expresses disappointment noting Sierra Leone has had independence for the last fifty eight years but there is nothing much to show in terms of development. There is now every need for strong collaboration and only by this we will be able to push our development agenda forward.
"As PAC we are doing our bit and the more we fight corruption, corruption fights back", he said.