The Parliament of Sierra Leone says it has referred a controversial audit report to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for expert opinion.
The Technical Audit report, which was released earlier this year and investigated the last three years of the administration of former President Ernest Bai Koroma, provoked a heated public debate after a public spat ensued between Parliament and the Ministry of Finance on the one hand, and Parliament and the ACC, on the other hand.
The audit, conducted by a team of local and international auditors, found that over 1 billion dollars was unaccounted for by officials who served in the former regime.
The issue became acrimonious after Parliament condemned the Audit Service Commission for releasing the report to the Ministry of Finance before presenting it to the House, in line with the relevant constitutional provisions.
According to the country’s constitution, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is mandated to conduct investigations into documents submitted to it by the Audit Service Sierra Leone.
MPs were also opposed to the ACC’s attempt to take action against officials mentioned in the report before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) took a look at it.
Solomon Sengepoh Thomas, Deputy Speaker of Parliament and Chairman of the PAC, said the same law did not limit the parliamentary oversight committee in its mode of investigation, hence the decision to seek help.
“The committee is at liberty to invite experts to help us in the investigation and submit recommendations to the plenary,” he told journalists on Wednesday, 22 May 2019.
“It is in this direction that the committee allowed other agencies to come on board and help to investigate the issues raised in the report,” he added.
Thomas was responding to public criticism over the decision to refer the document to the ACC. He noted that, given the widely expressed criticism over the authenticity of the report, it required thorough investigation.
Accordingly, at the end of the ACC’s investigation, it is expected to submit to the PAC its findings which we will be translated into a comprehensive report for the plenary committee in parliament.
Thomas also assured that Parliament would no longer use its authority to silence other agencies of the state on issues of public importance.