Mega Corruption At Agriculture Ministry in Sierra Leone

AgricultureMembers of the Public Accounts Committee yesterday ordered senior officials in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security to pay withholding taxes to NASSIT, NRA and refund special imprests with immediate effect, and submit the receipt by Wednesday (tomorrow).

The Permanent Secretary, Chief Accountant, Procurement Officer, Director of Forestry and Livestock and Agricultural Engineer were among officials summoned by the committee to answer queries raised in the 2014 Auditor-General’s report.

According to Principal Auditor, Sinneh Kargbo, special and standing imprests were not retired in respect of Le3, 685,559,740 and Le62,000,000 respectively.

He said auditor’s commented that during the verification exercise supporting documents for the balance sum of Le1, 689,220,240 and Le62, 000,000 were not submitted in respect of special and standing imprests.

“For the special imprests, Director of Sierra Leone Chamber of Agriculture and Business Centre received an amount of Le349, 270,240, Director of Livestock Division received Le 39,985,000, the Permanent Secretary received Le95, 412, 000, Director Agricultural Extension Service received Le148,993,000 and Le108,000,000 respectively, Chief Agriculture Officer received Le50,891,000 which the Director said was never received, Director of Forestry received Le306,000,000, Chief Agriculture Officer Le12,000,000 in three folds as standing imprests, which they yet to be retired,” explained the senior audit official.

Auditor Kargbo further revealed that withholding taxes were not deducted and paid by the ministry officials, who also could not produce evidence to confirm that withholding taxes of staff for the period under review, amounting to Le9,464,425, were deducted and paid to NRA, while social security contributions amounting Le28,393,276 was were not deducted.

However, Director of Agricultural Extension Services, Sheku Kamara, said he had retired money attributed to him to the Internal Audit department, although the Internal Auditors denied that any such amounts were received from him.

Mr. Kamara though promised to pay back the money.

Deputy Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Komba Koedoyoma was adamant that he refund the money on or before Wednesday, 13 April, 2016.

He said NASSIT and NRA contributions should not be withheld after they have been deducted as they are compulsory taxes, adding “make sure you pay it by Wednesday and bring us the receipts and bank statements; failing to do so, serious actions will be taken this time round.”

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Source: Concord Times (Freetown)

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