By David A. Yates
Following the commissioning of an internal audit of its State Owned Enterprises (SOE) unit recently, the Finance and Development Planning Ministry has again disclosed that the amount of US$47,318 and L$1.9 million were stolen from government coffers.
Minister Kamara, visibly unhappy with developments at the ministry, told journalists at a news conference on Tuesday, March 7, that Mr. Siafa Chowoe, who headed the SOE Unit at the ministry, was behind the disappearance of the money.
“By today, his contract in terms of serving as Director of SOE will be terminated and no longer in the employ of the Ministry,” the Minister said.
The decision, Minister Kamara said, was reached following Chowoe’s indictment based on the findings of the internal audit.
Providing an update on the investigation, Minister Kamara said the former SOE director unilaterally performed illegal transactions that resulted in the missing amounts in question, which showed a complete disregard to all of the procedures set up to ensure accountability.
“So, on his own without any reference to me as Minister of Finance he ran the account through which all these transactions took place since August of last year to February 2017.
“The opening of that account again was done without my knowledge and the former Controller and Accountant General, Sekou Sannoh, proceeded to open that account without consulting me,” Minister Kamara said.
“The findings clearly show that the purpose for which the account was established was not applied. There were withdrawals done from the account without any true purpose.”
“People withdrew money not towards payment of contractors, not towards payment of a single work done or related work, including payments for goods and services, they just went on and withdrew.”
Minister Kamara reiterated that he will do everything within his power to weed out financial malpractices and bring to book perpetrators.
According to him, the financial act that governs the manner in which Public Financial Management Coordinators work should take its course.
However, “we can tell you we are getting ourselves fully involved in the day to day affairs of the ministry. We are becoming fully aware as to how the ministry should run,” he said.
“As long as we remain the Minister of Finance here, and with the help of our directors and other staff here, we will ensure transparency in the management of resources of this country. Let every dollar count, this is the new day that has arrived. Money collected on taxation must be utilized for the benefit of all citizens.
“All those that are liable for the misapplication of funds will be suspended owing to the gravity of the offense and those who willfully decide on their own to abuse the system without authorization from me the Minister of Finance, their contract with the ministry will be terminated.
“What is required of all from my office down to local staff, we make it clear that we’ll commit ourselves to our country and our people, such that nobody should eat at the expense of the other. No zero sum game made here, so when you eat, you deprive another person, so when one dollar is stolen, you deprive another person of their daily livelihood.”
Minister Kamara assured the public that “Mr. Chowoe would be turned over to law enforcement for justice to take its course.”
It may be recalled that two senior employees at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) identified as Emmanuel Togba and Herbert Sorbor, who allegedly stole US$82,000 out of a US$1 million project fund intended for updating the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) one month ago, were asked to restitute the money, or face justice.