The Chairman recalled “the re-introduction of local council administration in 2004 with the view of delivering needed services including health and education to their communities, whilst noting under-performance as a primary reason for which the councils were closed”. He also said that “GoSL has a lot on its plate, and the only way councils could complement the activities of central Government was to mobilize the needed resources to run their affairs through robust tax collection to undertake visible development programmes”. “Government is stretched with other development programmes and cannot continue to subsidize the councils” he said, whilst urging them to “device innovative ways and means of raising their revenue profiles to enhance effective development in their localities”.
The PAC had also informed the Chief Administrator (CA) for Kambia District Council, that “it had received a copy of a letter which Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) had written to the Accountant General to withhold his salaries for failing to respond to audit queries within 15-days, as it was previously 30-days”. The Committee also urged the core staff of Councils and the sector heads to perform their respective duties professionally in respect of proper and accountable fiscal management or risk transfers or dismissals to avoid failures in the decentralization and the devolution process in the country.
The PAC has also encouraged core staff of councils to buy, read, understand, and share knowledge on recent laws passed by Parliament such as the Public Financial Management Act 2016, the new Public Procurement Act, and the Audit Service Act of 2014 to enhance their work.
In view of the need for prudent fiscal management, the PAC had asked the Bo District Council to put on hold and submit relevant documents in respect of a bad contract they had entered into with a company outsourced to collect revenue, to whom they had made an initial payment of Le10 Million for an “Assessment Fee” to the tune of Le600 Million, and subsequently 22% of revenue collected.
Regarding some of the queries that had been cleared such as withholding taxes and variances in their financial statements, the PAC had instructed ASSL to verify and report to the Committee accordingly.
Most of the queries raised cut across the councils including limited access to PETRA, withholding taxes, ineffective internal audit, lack of guidelines for sitting fees and transport allowances, committees in councils not operational, receipt books not made available during audits, frequent reversals of entries, and variances in cash books and financial statements.
Meanwhile, during the deliberations, the PAC had promised to do follow-up with the Ministry of Finance regarding the PETRA, finalization of the audit charter and IT accessories to promote the work of councils, thus facilitating and enhancing development in our localities.