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   |   
 LARA TAYLOR-PEARCE

OPINION: In recent days, Audit Sierra Leone has inspired the wanton generation of grossly irresponsible headlines in our national newspapers that are as bold as they are misleading: “5 billion dollars stolen” (it turns out that is a vile lie: Sierra Leone does not have 5 billion dollars lying anywhere to be stolen by anyone.

“Forty seven computers gone missing” (proven to be another sensational falsehood: not a single computer has gone missing. The ACC just verified that, with marching serial numbers all in sync! This is an essential working tool that continues to be in use. It is a shame- even a tragedy- that work had to be suspended in key areas simply for the ACC to verify the existence of something that has never been out of existence).


“A huge Diesel Generator Disappears” (turns out the generator is standing and beating right inside the station where it should be)

And this is not funny. Unlike what the deliberate harrowing misreadings that have been occasioned by the Audit Report might lead one to believe, those who work at NACOVERC are not insubstantial non-persons “jostling for position and hustling for  money”. These are, in so many respects, the best amongst us who have sacrificed the best of themselves to ensure that we continue to exist on planet earth. They have risked everything, working seven days a week, without a break, for long exhausting months. Is this how we repay our own? With slurs?

The calibre of people working at NACOVERC is solid. These are men and women of proven technical ability and unwavering personal integrity. People (some with enviable international standing) who were recruited into the program based on their varied experiences, vast capabilities and relevant knowledge. They are, quite frankly “the best that we have” for the job at hand. And the results of their efforts speak loudly enough for itself!

Why would anyone want to dirty such a respectable reservoir  of humanity with frivolous political silliness  and freakish comments is honestly way beyond me.

Indeed, the more one looks into the pages of the Audit Report and gets to know the circumstances surrounding its production the more one is appalled at the factual misrepresentations and bizarre miscalculations puncturing almost every page of a copious volume.

This is not to say that everything in that report is false or that all the blunders recorded had been done in earnest. The perennial question over “procurement procedures”, for example,  is a legitimate one. That is a concern that is as old as the procurement process itself and it certainly needs to be addressed with greater firmness (even call that HARSHNESS!).

Beyond that there is so much wrong with this report that it simply puts to shame any notion of a candid workmanship, or an objective end-product.

Everything  that was wrongly stated or erroneously implied could have been easily cleared if only the Audit Team, stationed inside the building for so many months, could have bothered to knock on the very next room, LITERARILY!

What most may not know is that NaCOVERC started work on the 1st of April. On the 15th April (in line with their principle of transparency and accountability) NaCOVERC invited Audit Service Sierra Leone into their physical space where a team took up position inside the NaCOVERC building. This crack ASSL team that produced the eschewed report has been stationed at NaCOVERC ever since. They have been taking part in all deliberations and attending every strategic meeting. So it beats the imagination for this same team to come up with a report that is so frivolous and so very unreflective of the ongoing reality. That is what political shading does to an otherwise beautiful effort.

Most of the untrue statements polluting the reports like protruding teeth decaying in the cavity of an aged crocodile  could have been easily extracted by the simplest of investigations. (This is the only reason why Audit SL runs that office in the NaCOVERC building with their door directly opposite the Internet and Communications unit).
They could have easily verified their own fabricated reports and cleaned up their acts without the need for factoid fanfare.

It is significant to note that when NaCOVERC issued their response to the “initial audit” report that comprehensive response was totally ignored and completely blanked out by the final “audit report”. Not a word! Not even by inference. So much for the principles of objectivity which should be a cardinal consideration for an institution this revered.

Sadly, reading through the AR is like leafing through a badly written fiction littered with foul fantasy written by a very grumpy loser!

But how did those many blunders creep into what should have been a clean-cut presentation of an unprejudiced documentation?

Auditors and Accountants are among those select few who are supposed to be cool-headed professionals noted for their impartiality with impeccable levels of integrity. They are paid, handsomely, to stay above the political  fray and concentrate on crafting an objective product.  But alas, in this case, there is every reason to believe that what should have been a fine production of a great national institution has been poisoned with partisan input to the extent that anyone may be right to call for a probe into the activities of the auditing service.

Who then should monitor the monitors? Are they above scrutiny? Shouldn’t the public have the right to ask questions of those who are asking the questions?

Mrs Lara Taylor-Pearce is a fine Sierra Leonean lady, no doubt. She is very smart, conclusively patriotic and as conscientious as they come.

However, as well-meaning as she may be, Mrs. Pearce cannot conduct the huge task of a national audit single-handedly. She has to depend on a group of other Sierra Leoneans who are paid to do the job. This crew should be capable and non-culpable. And that is where the train has skidded off the rails. Not all the employees at ASSL are nearly like Taylor-Pearce. Not every Sierra Leonean understands the meaning of personal integrity or cares about workplace neutrality. Where decency  and due process are lacking unforgivable blunders or deliberate acts of disruptive behaviour are bound to occur.  And that is when the pursuit of political or personal agendas take precedence.

Little wonder that in spite of our high-sounding goals and our glory-glossed undertakings our systems often wobble and fracture along the lines of political or personal polarisations. That is how our institutions crumble and become mere dust in the darkest ashes of their founding agendas. What should be the fruit for success can easily become the seed of our failure. The rot lies in the actions of a few undermining agents who are just incapable of thinking national and acting rational!

I don’t know whether one should characterise the latest “Audit Report” as a sabotage of the Audit Service institution and what it should represent or whether we should look at it as a calculated attack on the government and what it aims to achieve for the country. Whatever the answers it should be obvious that the assault on the personal intergrity of the hardworking NaCOVERC workers is unforgivable!

Audit Sierra Leone is one of those institutions that should be supported and developed to the level that should make it stand and serve as a source of national pride. However, whenever a revered institution like this becomes infested with chronic partisanship then we are bound to have situations that may at best be embarrassing to the institution and damaging to the nation.

Since a knife cannot sharpen itself, it would need something external to sharpen it. We need those policing the affairs of state to be policed.

We know that at some stage Parliament would come in and take a look at all of this. The ACC is already peering over the books. The people would certainly like to know  what really prompted the production of such a strange volume of  scribbling from such a strong national institution!

@Abdulai Braima

 

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