SIERRA LEONE HIGH COMMISSION, NIGERIA FOR THE PERIOD 1ST JUNE, 2003 – 31ST DECEMBER,2009
1. Consular fees not remitted to the Consolidated Revenue Fund
A review of the Consular Fees records disclosed that over the years not all moneys collected and deposited into the bank accounts were remitted to the Consolidated Fund. It was thus observed that as at 31st December, 2009, there was an accumulated sum of $3,551.68 in the Consular Account that was not remitted to the Consolidated Fund.
We therefore recommended that the HOC should ensure that all monies collected on behalf of government should be remitted to the Consolidated Fund within a reasonable time and that the amount of $3,551.68 be transferred to the Consolidated Fund immediately.
In his reply the HOC stated that there was a directive from Headquarters that only sums collected from the sale of visas should be remitted to the Consolidated revenue Fund while the balance i.e. from the ETC’s and Passports be kept in the account until further directives were received from Headquarters. He further said that the Commission incurred US$50 on the 3rd of every calendar month as bank charges to remit Consular funds. This has spread over a four year period effective 1st July 2006.
2. Cash withdrawn from the Consular Fees Account
The sum of US$3,300 was withdrawn from the Account on the 27/9/2007 without any prior approval from the Accountant General, and there were no supporting documents to substantiate the use of this amount.
It was recommended that the HOC should explain why the sum was withdrawn from the Consular Fees Account. Also all supporting documents should be produced for verification failing which the full amount should be refunded to the Consolidated Fund without further delay.
The HOC informed the ASSL that the sum of $3,300 was withdrawn and spent on fuel and vehicle maintenance within the period when that Mission was not in receipt of Other Charges for the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2007, and up to the reply date the monies were yet to be sent from Headquarters. This, he said was a general phenomenon which affected the country’s Missions abroad.
3. Cash withdrawn from Admin. Bank Account not brought to account
The sum of US$65,234.93 withdrawn from the Admin Bank Account was not brought to account. It was also revealed that cash withdrawn in selected months was greater than cash paid out as Salaries and Other charges. The resulting differences were not brought to account.
We recommended that the differences should be accounted for and all original supporting documents forwarded to my office for verification. Otherwise, the full amount should be refunded immediately to the consolidated account and the paying-in-slips forwarded to this office for verification.
In his reply the HOC stated that, the amount of $65,234.93 was received on behalf of Sierra Leonean students studying in Nigeria to address issues relating to tuition and other expenses and over the period was remitted to the High Commission’s Account by the Ministry of Education in Freetown. The amount, he said, was directly paid to the deserving students without treating it through a voucher system. He added that the High Commission could hereby enclose the list of the students with their signatories verifying receipt of such payments.
4. Closure of Bank Account No. Eq1110133727
On the 9th of October 2003, Account Number EQ1119133727 was closed with a credit balance of US$14,725.92. However there was no evidence that this amount was transferred to the new bank account.
Our recommendation was that the Head of Chancery should account for this amount without any further delay and all supporting documents should be forwarded to our office for verification.
The HOC informed the ASSL that the management was unaware of the closure of the fore-gone account and its stated amount. He also said that it was possible that the account under consideration was operated in Lagos prior to the date of assumption of duty in Abuja in September 2003 and that this account may have been operated by the then Defence Section of the High Commission which was independent from the Main Stream of the High commission in terms of operational activities.
5. Refund of expenses
Claims, amounting to $57,927, were made by the Diplomatic staff for the refund of domestic expenses such as cooking gases, medical etc. However, some of these expenses were not refundable according to their Letters of Appointment or the Conditions of Service for Commonwealth or Assigned Staff on Foreign Missions. It was further observed that all the Diplomats assigned to the mission were claiming refunds of medical expenses for themselves and their entire family members at the end of almost every month. However no authentic medical reports or prescriptions were attached to substantiate the various illnesses and to justify the reimbursements as stated in their Conditions of Appointment. Only lists of drugs and receipts which did not have the names and logo of a registered Clinic/Hospital or Pharmacy were attached to the Payment Vouchers. A sample of such payment vouchers amounted to US$9,628.
The following were recommended;
Refunds should only be made to Diplomatic staff for reimbursable expenses, according to their letters of appointment or any other documented authority;
Prior authority should be sought in writing from the HOC, before personal monies expected to be reimbursed from public funds were spent; and
The HOC should ensure that future reimbursements should only be made in respect of medical expenses up-on submission of a medical report from a recognized Hospital/Medical Practitioner with an authentic bill/invoice and receipt.
In his reply the HOC stated that management had noted the recommendations under the sub-head adding that they would be adhered to accordingly.
6. Vehicle repairs
The sum of US$39,493 was spent on repairs to vehicles. However these vehicles were still in a deplorable state and condition. This forced the current High Commissioner to use his private vehicle for official purposes.
It was recommended that mechanisms should be put in place for these old vehicles to be disposed of and the proceeds used to purchase a brand new car. In addition, government should try as best as possible to provide at lease one new additional vehicle for the High commission.
In his reply the HOC stated that management was happy to note the recommendation under that sub-head and promised to follow it up to its logical conclusion.
7. Fuel utilisation
Huge quantities of fuel were bought during the period. However there was no Fuel Register maintained by the High Commission to record the usage of the fuel. It was also observed that there were no records available to ascertain the quantity of anticipated fuel with which comparison could be made for control purposes.
We recommended that, without any further delay, the mission should maintain a Fuel Register to record all fuel purchases.
In his reply the HOC stated that management had noted the recommendation and was happy to inform the ASSL that Log Books had been assigned to all operational vehicles of the High Commission detailing all issues pertaining to each and every vehicle and that the mission was hopeful that the outcome would be appreciated by the authorities in Freetown.
8. Staff were not signing for their salaries
Some staff were not signing the payroll to acknowledge receipt of their salaries for several months.
It was recommended that without prejudice to the above regulation, the HOC should ensure that all employees sign for their salaries. A third party could only be permitted to sign for and collect salaries on behalf of employees if that person had a written certified and authentic authority from the beneficiaries. Also he/she must produce the employment ID card of the beneficiaries as well as his/her identification card.
The HOC stated that while management was pleased to note the recommendation it should explain that the Sierra Leone High Commission Nigeria was the only Mission that operated from Two (2) locations. Therefore, often and again the monthly local staff vouchers were usually sent to headquarters from the Abuja office directly and was usually without the original signature of the local staff at the Lagos office. He however said that photocopies of their names and signatures against the amount collected were routinely submitted to the Abuja office.
9. Unclaimed salaries not brought to account
An analysis of the Payroll and Attendance Registers revealed that some staff were not collecting their salaries for some months. Further scrutiny revealed that their personal records such as Applications and Appointment Letters were not available. There was no evidence of their signing the Attendance Register.
It was recommended that the HOC should ensure that all unclaimed salaries were paid back into the Consolidated Fund within a reasonable period of time and all supporting documents forwarded to the ASSL for verification. Furthermore, only employees who had gone through the required recruitment procedures and were approved by both the Ministry of Finance and Foreign Affairs should be included in the payroll of the High commission.
In his reply the HOC stated that management had noted the ASSL’s recommendation and promised to implement the directives to the fullest.
10. Inventory Register not maintained
An Inventory Register was not maintained. In addition, it was difficult to determine the cost, date of purchase and movements of equipment and furniture. Also, assets were not given unique inscriptions to easily identify them.
We recommended that without further delay, an Inventory Register should be maintained and all existing assets taken on charge. Also in future, all items bought should be taken on charge with the following details as required by the regulation.
The HOC informed the ASSL that management noted the concerns of the auditors, i.e., not maintaining an Inventory Register. He however said that the Mission had endeavored to keep an Inventory Register over the period though not with the above details.
11. Properties worth thousands of dollars in ruins at the Lagos Residence
Properties worth thousands of US Dollars have been left dilapidated at the Lagos Station. This included the building, a 250 KVA generator and furniture. There were no records available to reasonably determine their value.
We recommended that a mechanism should be put in place to cause the refurbishment of the unoccupied building and consideration given for leasing it if no immediate use was foreseen.
The other equipment could be disposed of so that the proceeds would be put into other developmental use.
In his reply the HOC stated that the recommendations under that subhead were well noted and that the Management of the Mission wished to inform the ASSL that the leasing process of the second apartment was ongoing .He also said that the 250 KVA generator and other obsolete furniture had been placed on auction for interested buyers.
12. Information Technology
There were insufficient Computers in the Mission. Some personnel were using personal Laptop Computers to carry out official functions. These included the High Commissioner, the Information Attaché, Special Assistant to the High Commissioner and the First Secretary at Lagos. Also it was observed that the computers were not protected with Anti-virus software and no password protections were used to prevent unauthorized users. It was further observed that the Secretary’s Computer at the Lagos Station was exposed to hazards as there was inadequate ventilation to cool the equipment.
As a recommendation, the HOC was advised to make adequate provision for the acquisition of laptop computers so that the work of the High Commission will not be hampered in a situation where officers cease to use their personal computers for official assignments. Also, adequate provision should be made to safeguard the computers from hazards and unauthorized users.
13. Non Compliance with procurement regulations
Procurement procedures were not followed in respect of various items worth US$50,700.
It was recommended that, without any prejudice to the above regulations, all subsequent procurement should be done in accordance with the Public Procurement Act and other regulations.
In his reply the HOC stated that Management carried out that exercise in good faith and with all sincerity. However, he said the recommendation of the ASSL was well noted for any future procurement.
14. Supporting documentation
Several payments, totalling $74,550.50, were made, for which adequate supporting documents were not attached to the Payment Vouchers to justify the payments.
It was recommended that the HOC should produce all relevant supporting documents to substantiate all the payments, totalling $74,550.50; otherwise a refund of the sum for the outstanding documents should be made without prejudice to the above regulation.
The HOC replied that most expenditure in the Payment Vouchers related to travelling and were incurred as a result of the many areas of accreditation under the jurisdiction of the Sierra Leone High Commission – Nigeria. It was believed that these areas should be visited with prior approval from Headquarters, more-so, in pursuit of establishing a good relationship between Sierra Leone and the accredited areas. He added that, in the area of public relations, receipts were very hard to come by since most dealings were concluded in trying to promote the good images of the High Commission and Sierra Leone in general. Furthermore, he said, fuel allocation for diplomats was done on a monthly basis wherein procedures must have been inadvertently flouted. Concluding, the HOC noted that it was indeed a lesson learnt and that corrective measures would in future be put in place for the acquisition of receipts for any privilege(s) accorded a diplomat.
15. Purchase of Representational Car
The sum of $44,550 was paid for the purchase of a brand new Representational Car for the High Commission. The former High Commissioner eventually went to Germany and procured two Mercedes Benz cars. An additional sum of $4,671 was spent to ship the two Mercedes Benz (E 320) cars from Germany to Lagos.
Records relating to the procurement of the cars (such as invoice, receipt, bill of laden, manual, etc.) were not submitted for review. As a result the actual purchase price of the cars could not be ascertained. Only one of the cars was handed over to the HOC by the High Commissioner when he was recalled to Freetown.
Further investigations revealed that several repairs had been done to the Mercedes Benz that was handed over to the High Commissioner and it was not roadworthy. Due to the poor condition of the car, the current High Commissioner has opted to be using his private car on official assignments.
We recommended that the former High Commissioner should submit to this office all original documents including invoices, receipts, manuals, shipment records, initial insurance document, etc. In the event of failing to submit these documents, he should return the second car to the Mission or refund the full cost of the vehicle.
In his reply the HOC stated that management was in receipt of a Mercedes Benz No. 320, 2000 model which was purchased prior to his assumption of duty as HOC in September, 2003. He however said that management would endeavour to get in touch with the former High Commissioner as to the concerns raised relating to the second vehicle.