Chairman of the Media regulatory body in Sierra Leone has assured a Parliamentary Committee that if his Commission fails to address queries raised by the supreme auditing body in the country, heads will roll (people will lose their jobs).
Ambassador Alieu Ibrahim Kanu, Chairman Independent Media Commission (IMC) made this statement on Monday 20th June 2016 at a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing held at Committee Room Number One, Parliament Building Tower Hill while responding to the Auditor General’s 2014 report.
However, it was resolved by the PAC that the IMC is to appear before them today (Wednesday 23rd June 2016) with; ‘full report of minutes of Board meeting which instructed the expenditure of over Thirty Two million Leones’, and also that the IMC ‘to appear with purported State House Auditors who they claimed performed auditing but did not produce a single report.’
The ASSL’s 2014 audit however exposed that:
“Long outstanding receivables: There was no evidence of reminders being sent by the Commission in respect of long outstanding receivables. It was recommended that the Chief Accountant developed and implemented a Receivable’s Management Policy which should clearly state actions to be taken in cases of overdue debts.
The Chairman said that they noted the anomaly and would send out chasers through our legal retainer to facilitate repayment.
No evidence of reminders being sent by the Commission was provided for audit inspection during the verification exercise. Therefore the issue was still outstanding.
Payments to staff without board approval:
Payment of Le32, 794, 600 in respect of honoraria was made to staff in 2012 without the approval of the Board. It was recommended that the Chief Accountant should refund the monies into the Commission’s account within 30 days upon receipt of the management letter.
The Chairman referred to the Board minutes dated 4th December, 2012.
There were no documents of board minutes dated 4th December, 2012 provided as evidence that the said amount was approved by the board. Therefore, the issue was still outstanding.
Outstanding issues from previous audit inspection
The Commission did not have a receivable ageing listings and a Debtor Management Policy.
The Commission did not have a Fixed Asset Policy.
It was observed that the value placed on a motor vehicle donated by UNDP was an arbitrarily value.
Refer to the Table of Common Issues (Page 257) for further observations.”
However, the IMC was represented by its Chairman Ambassador Kanu, Executive Secretary Rev. Terrence Knox-Goba and Finance Officer Ibrahim Sorie Sillah.
In their grilling by the PAC and ASSL technical team headed by Tamba Momoh Deputy Auditor General, it was evident that there were administrative lapses within the IMC as the issues have overdue but it was distinguished that the Chairman was not in office when the audit was carried out, although that was not an excuse for ignorance.
It was an issue that the IMC had not submitted financial statement for years (2012/13/14 and 2015) and the auditors said without this they cannot undertake the audit exercise.
The IMC Executive Secretary said they did 2012 audit and was submitted 2014 while the other financial statements are being processed and asked for an ‘unreasonable duration’ for the presentation of the documents which almost enraged the MPs and Auditors who accused the IMC administration of wasting their time and resources.
Ambassador Kanu, IMC Chairman in a contrite tone said that his leadership will improve on the outlined issues and assured the Committee of being on top of things.
The PAC however enquired from the IMC what measures are being taken to retrieved debts.
The IMC Chairman replied that they have written letters of remainders adding that they have powers to levy fines and suspension as penalties but, “unfortunately when we take these actions we are taking to court which ordered that we review penalties,” Ambassador Kanu explained.
He added that: “We are handicap, we don’t have enforcement power. When we suspended thirteen media houses; some went to us to negotiate while others made threatening remarks against us.
Legal action involves money for which we don’t have provision for, these are making my hair to get whiter,” revealing that for six months now they have not received subvention.
Apparently, members of the PAC were hugely unimpressed at the administration of the IMC, particularly the Executive Secretary and were vexed that the IMC made demands for more time to submit simple documents like minutes of meeting.
Hon Hassan Sheriff, PAC Member expressed dismay and warned the IMC that: “we will withhold your budget if you do not provide the requested documents.”
Hon. Erick Komba Koedoyoma, PAC Chairman in his resolution said that they will ‘bend a bit backward’ by given some time to the IMC for them to present all necessary documents to the auditors.
It was abundantly clear that the IMC is to resolve prolonged outstanding issues and was an embarrassment for the IMC Chairman.
In his closing comments, IMC Chairman Ambassador Alieu Ibrahim Kanu thanked the PAC for “accommodating their lapses. It has been like a seminar for me to be here as I am just taking officer over a year now. I assure you that we will do what is to be done, if not heads will roll.”