By S. U. Thoronka…………..
Prior to the disclosure of findings in the audit report, the Auditor General Mrs. Laura Taylor Pearce, in her brief statement, said she was enthused by the level of awareness raised by the public in relation to the Ebola Audit Report submitted to Parliament few weeks ago.
She informed MPs that the burden of proof now lies with the institutions and individuals mentioned in the audit report and not the auditors. The Auditor General read out portions of the Audit Act that gives autonomy to the institution to carry out audit exercises of all MDAs.
The Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee PAC who doubles as Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Chernor Bah of Constituency 110 in the Western Urban, reiterated that the burden of proof lies with the institutions and individuals mentioned in the audit report adding that the Auditor General did not cast aspersions on anybody or group of individuals.
Hon. Chernor Bah quoted Section 93(1) of the 1991 Constitution which states that “at the beginning of each session of Parliament, but in any case not later than twenty-one days thereafter, there shall be Committees appointed from among its members” and according to him the PAC is just one of such committees. He said Section 119(5) states that “Parliament shall debate the report of the Auditor General and appoint where necessary in the public interest a committee to deal with any matters arising there from”.
The PAC Chairman said he is not an expert in an institution in which he is neither a member nor has any knowledge of how such institutions operate. He said Parliament is in total compliance with Section 93 of the 1991 Constitution, adding that people who don’t have the opportunity to read the Standing Order made statements subjectively.
He affirmed that the Ebola audit report is a public document and that Parliament has the right to debate the report. Hon. Bah noted that Sierra Leone being a member of the Commonwealth, Parliament is bound by international best practice. He said the rules of natural justice must be adhered to by giving audience to the other side.
Hon. Chernor Bah informed that there is a very good working relationship between Parliament and Audit Sierra Leone, while acknowledging that no institution is above Parliament and that the only instrument that is above Parliament is the Constitution. He informed that as members of Parliament they are not absolute and that the only person that has immunity from prosecution is the President citing Section 44 of the Constitution.
Honourable Bah paid tribute to all those who have contributed financially to help in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease in the country. He emphasized that people have the right to know how their tax money was being expended.
According to the audit report, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation operated two accounts that, the Miscellaneous Account and a Response Account. and that the bank statement could not state where some of the donations came from. The Committee was informed that a total of 1.6Billion Leones which was earlier declared uncredited have been credited to the Ministry’s account by the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank.
By S. U. Thoronka…………..