Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Hon. Cornelius Deveaux, has on Monday 2nd March, 2016 reacted to a publication on the Daily Mail, which on Sunday May 1st, 2016 claimed Sierra Leone officials are suspected of stealing £12 million of British taxpayers’ money intended to fight the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
Hon. Deveaux said “the disclosure is lagging behind time and therefore becomes no news.” He furthered that portions of the article however reinforces call for international NGOs to give a clear account of how much money was received on behalf of the country and how it was spent.
Deputy Minister Deveaux told a cross section of pressmen at his Youyi Building office that it is indeed true that an audit report did indentify lapses in the use of Ebola money but that these lapses have been rectified with the provision of supporting documents where necessary to substantiate expenditure and refund of unsubstantiated expenditure.
Hon. Deveaux recalled that it was President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, whom in May 2014, at the height of the fight against the dreadful disease, first sounded the clarion for a transparent and accountable use of Ebola funds.
Deputy Minister of Information and Communications noted “the audit exercise which was done in November 2014, almost 18 months ago, remains a testimony of government’s commitment to maintaining prudency and efficiency in the management of public funds”, but sadly noting also that funds received by the international NGOs are yet to be properly accounted for.
Reacting to claims made in the article that “while payments were made to hospitals there was no proof the money was going to help fight the disease”, Hon. Cornelius Deveaux explained that in such an emergency, bureaucratic red tapes prescribed by the country’s procurement laws would have delayed the delivery of essential services needed to save the lives of compatriots. He said procurement laws were bypassed to meet the then rising demand for services but that the scenario offers an opportunity for a review of the country’s procurement laws to make provision as to what should be done in cases of an emergency such as the Ebola outbreak.
“The EVD outbreak claimed the lives of about 3589 compatriots, and not 11,300 as was wrongly reported in the article,” said Hon. Deveaux.He maintained that deaths were caused as a result of the vicious transmission cycle of the deadly virus, while pointing out that as a result of an efficient service delivery, notwithstanding the challenges posed by the outbreak, government was able to ensure more people survived the disease than those who died, out of the total number of people who contracted the disease.
Appreciating the role the UK and other international partners played in bringing the outbreak to an end, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications said article in the London-based Daily Mail reinforces the need for international NGOs who received funds for and on behalf of the people of Sierra Leone to be audited, noting that accountability and transparency should not only be seen in government but also in the activities of international donor partners.
The Government of Sierra Leone, he concluded, is very committed to the fight against graft, saying the number of audit investigations is a clear justification.