By S. U. Thoronka…………….
The Auditor General’s report on the Accounts of Sierra Leone for the year ended 2014, revealed that revenue collected by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources was not deposited in the consolidated revenue fund. Differences totaling Le15, 589,257,831 were observed between the Ministry records for revenue collected during the period under review, and the revenue banked in the CRF as disclosed in the Public Accounts. A list of signatories to the bank accounts maintained by the Ministry had not been updated as the names of some former senior personnel were still on the list.
Those names according to the report included one of the former Permanent Secretaries and the former Director of Fisheries. The auditors revealed that the signatories to the West Africa Regional Fisheries Program Sierra Leone, and that both Leone and USD account held at the Union Trust Bank and the Joint Maritime Committee account held at the same bank were yet to be updated.
It was observed that, of the total arrears of USD 240, 000 (approximately Le1, 030,000,000), the USD equivalent of Le614, 969,498.27 (60% of total amount) for the year to 31st December 2014 was still outstanding. The Auditors noted that the debt collection system was not robust as the Ministry was not able to collect the total sum due and did not produce a payment plan.
The report revealed that a Local Purchase Order LPO was prepared for the procurement of laboratory equipment and delivery made of those items though the laboratory was still not functioning. The value on the LPO was Le18, 520,000. A review of the expense analysis by the auditors revealed that there was no cheque number against the transaction indicating that payment had not been made by the Accountant General.
The auditors disclosed that salaries were paid to four members of staff who had attained the statutory retirement age and the amount paid was Le10, 307,239 for the year 2014. The auditors also revealed that Le10, 848,588 was paid to two personnel who could not be verified as employees of the Ministry. On the issue of consultancy services for the empowerment of the Fisheries sector, the auditors were of the view that the purpose of the agreement between the Government of Sierra Leone and PRECON was for the latter to provide consultancy services for the empowerment of the fishery sector within the country to comply with international standards, the EU import requirements and to contribute to the World Fish Market. The contract amount according to the report was 2,659,000 Euros, of which 1, 679, 743 Euros (63%) had been paid to date. The agreed completion date of August 2014 according to the report had elapsed and significant milestones embedded in the objectives of the agreement had still not been achieved as at the time of writing the report.
Based on the draft implementation plan, overview report on activities and deliverables by PRECON and the status report from the Ministry, revealed that some of the key milestones not achieved included: Project 3 Implement EU improvement actions with the Competent Authorities, Laboratories and Fishery Private Sector operations on Fishery products, training for laboratory staff for the testing and analyses of fishery products especially with the Environmental Monitoring and Marine Stewardship Council to attain sustainable fishery, had not been done; Project 4 Familiarize competent authorities with EU customs border control; Project 8 Identify market opportunities in Europe for Sierra Leone’s Fishery products and Project11 Develop a portfolio of potential value-added fishery products.
By S. U. Thoronka…………….