MINISTER OF PLANNING VISITS GIS LAB AT STATISTICS SIERRA LEONE

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Minister of Planning Visits GIS Lab at Statistics Sierra Leone

The Minister of Planning and Economic Development, Dr. Francis Kai-Kai has paid a visit to the Geographical Information System (GIS) Lab at the Stats-SL Office, where he met with members of the GIS Technical Team to further follow-up and understand the procedures in capturing, managing and analysing the data from the field in the on-going Digital Cartographic Mapping exercise conducted by Stats- SL.

The GIS tool is a more efficient and digitalized procedure and methodology to support the process of conducting the census using vector and raster data and digital statistical division boundaries of the country. This is also a tool for user friendly visualization of statistical results.

During the visit, the Minister was updated on the use of the new technology that demonstrates post-field processes such as on-screen digitizing of all delineated Enumeration Areas (EAs) with their permanent unique coding identifier on the desktop software,  validation to remove data errors, merging of all data into one geo-database, generating locality boundary for the country, saving and securing the geo-database in the cloud and preparing the EAs into printed maps and other readable formats for census taking.

The Minister also witnessed first-hand how the information sent by Mappers on the field was immediately downloaded, via an iCloud account system after vetting from the Quality Assurance Officers.

Dr. Kai-Kai in a short statement commended the process of the 2021 Mid-Term Population and Housing Census; noting that this census would review the last census exercise, look at any of its reported challenges, and try to address them, especially with the use of a Computer-Assisted Data Collection procedure.

He encouraged others to spend time to understand the technology-enabled electronic process of gathering population and housing data for national development.

Dr. Kai-Kai noted that the Ministry of Planning and Economic Development was fully supportive of Stats SL as they roll out the first-ever electronic census taking in Sierra Leone.

Police OfficerIn Jail For Murder

By FeimaSesay

Police Constable 11275 Santigie Moses Kargbo and four others were on Wednesday 7 April 2021 sent to prison by magistrate Mark Ngegba of the Pademba Road Court No1 for the alleged murder of One Mohamed Kamara alias Speedo.

The accused persons Santigie Moses Kargbo, ChernorSesay, IshmailSamuka, MichealKinnyNdanema and AnbdulBombohKanu who made their first appearance in court were arraigned on three counts charges ranging from Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Murder contrary to law and Robbery with Aggravation.

According to the particulars of offence for counts one, the police alleged that the accused persons on Tuesday 12th January 2021 at Rogbere Junction Mafoki Chiefdom North West Region conspired together with other persons unknown to commit murder.

The police further alleged in counts two that the accused persons on the same date at Rogbere Junction murder Mohamed Kamara alias Speedo.

Whiles counts three stated that the accused persons on the same date robbed the deceased Mohamed Kamara of one techno pop3 mobile phone, 1 Nokia phone, one Dell Laptop computer and other assorted items all to the total valued of Le24million immediately before, during and after the act did used personal violent on Mohamed kamara.

The deceased wife MemunatuKamara in her testimony in court said she is a paramedic nurse and a business woman. She further recognized all the accused including the first accused person Santigie Moses Kargbo as a police officer and further recalled date of the incident which was on 12 January 2021.

The witness said on that faithful day, she was at home together with her husband now deceased, their daughter and her sister in-law.

we were sleeping when I heard my daughter and sister in-law shouting that thieves has entered the house, when I heard the voice I  immediately woke my husband up and we rush to see our daughter, she said.

She added that whiles they were trying to check on their child, the thieves were already in their house, noting one of them who are on the run asked her husband to give them the money saying that if the deceased refused they would kill him.

Madam Memunatu said her husband immediately gave them the Le20 million that was with him, adding that as soon as he gave them the money, she said her husband rush at one of them and they started fighting but was later shot on his head with a gun by the suspect that is on the run.

‘’ my husband and I were able to recognized the second accused ChernorSesay who shot my husband three times on his head and further hit him with a stick on his head and then he fell on the ground’’, the witness explained.

She said the first and second accused persons threaten to burn them alive.

At this juncture, the prosecutor ASP Ibrahim Mansaray requested for and adjourned to have proper conference with the witness.

Magistrate Ngegba granted his application and adjourned the matter to the 12th April 2021 whiles the accused persons were remanded in prison.

Fuel Racket Suspected at ONS

Following the release of the Auditor General’s 2019-2020 Report; it appears there is an alleged fuel racket going on at the Office of National Security.

Based on this report, Auditors discovered that there was Inefficient Control in the Processing and Issuance of Fuel to Vehicles and Generators and usage of log books and fuel usage reconciliation with National Petroleum were not submitted for audit inspection.

Official’s Response: The National Security Co-ordinator in his response said: “Though best practice is the use of vehicle and generator log books, the office used fuel log sheets in place of log books. The ONS headquarter vehicles are issued vehicles and fuel checklists. This also helps the office to determine the correct status of vehicles and its fuel usage on a weekly basis. The log sheets are now available for inspection. It is true that fuel reconciliation was not done during the period under review (FY2018 and FY2019) respectively, which is an essential control for its usage. There is a database of all fuel issued and its purchases. Going forward, the office will adhere to the use of log books. Its reconciliation is now available for inspection”.

Auditor’s Comment: The issue was not addressed and therefore remains unresolved.

The Audit Report further noted that there was Non-deduction and Non-payment of Withholding Taxes An amount to the tune of Le366,226,250 was paid to suppliers and contractors during the 2018 financial year without deducting withholding tax which resulted in a tax loss of Le20,142,446. Official’s Response: The National Security Co-ordinator in his response said: “A good number of the transactions involving withholding taxes were withheld and paid to the NRA. The NRA receipt is available for inspection. For the others, withholding taxes were inadvertently not deducted and paid to the NRA. However, an agreement has been reached for its payment”.

Auditor’s Comment: “NRA withholding tax receipts amounting to Le7,667,556 were submitted and verified. The remaining balance of Le12,474,890 is still outstanding. The issue is therefore partly resolved.”

According to the Audit Report, “Requests for Quotations (RFQs) and Local Purchase Orders (LPOs), etc. were not produced to substantiate procurement which totalled Le84,610,050 and Le136,697,990 relating to goods and services in 2018 and 2019 respectively.”

Official’s Response: The National Security Co-ordinator in his response said: “The requisite documents such as request for quotation, local purchase order and or contract are now available for inspection”.

Auditor’s Comment: Requests for quotation and local purchase order amounting to Le35,685,250 and Le58,850,000 were submitted and verified for the period ended 31st December 2018 and 2019 respectively, leaving a balance of RFQ and LPO amounting to Le48,924,800 and Le77,847,990 not submitted for the period ended 31st December, 2018 and 2019 respectively. The issue has therefore been partly resolved.”

According to the Audit Report, there was non-compliance regarding Staff Loan Policy. Staff loan and/or advances amounting to Le90,600,000 and Le58,687,196 for the period 2018 and 2019 respectively have been outstanding for more than one year. 

Official’s Response: The National Security Co-ordinator in his response said: “As new entrants in the job, they were faced with numerous challenges. It consequently led to the failure of not honouring their loans. They had however accepted to pay their loans, but requested that management spread its payment over a specified period. In addition, management has insisted that we go strictly by the recommendation ensuring that in future, all loans given to staff are properly accounted for in line with the Terms and Conditions of Service”.

Auditor’s Comment: “The issue was not addressed and therefore remains unresolved.”

The Auditors also noted that there were internal audit working papers detailing how audit tests were performed and conclusions arrived at were not submitted for audit inspection for the period under review.   There was no evidence to confirm that the institution had set up an Internal Audit Committee charged with the responsibility of ensuring that all internal audit issues raised by the Internal Auditor were addressed by management.

Official’s Response: The National Security Co-ordinator in his response said: The internal audit working papers are now available for review. Management notes your observations. The Office of National Security has set up an Internal Audit Committee which comprises five officers. The Committee is to start work very soon”.

Auditor’s Comment: “There was no evidence of internal audit working papers submitted during the verification. Therefore, the issue remains unresolved. On the issue of the institution establishing an Audit Committee, management’s response noted. Though our recommendation was not implemented, this will be followed up in the subsequent audit.”

Monies Still Unaccounted for at Social Welfare Ministry

Following the release of the 2019-2020 Audit Report, Auditors discovered that Payment and Supporting Documents according to Section 100(1) of the Financial Management Regulations (FMR) 2018 which requires that all disbursements of public money should be supported by an appropriate payment voucher and other relevant documents were absent. A review of the payment vouchers revealed that an amount of Le 41,632,000 which was received from the Government of Sierra Leone, through the Kenema City Council, was not supported by the relevant documentary evidence such as receipts, signatures of participants, delivery notes etc. We recommend that the Regional Finance Officer should, make the relevant supporting documents available for verification or the amount paid back into the Ministry’s Accounts – Kenema District. 

Official’s Response:  The Deputy Director stated that ‘we have gone through the necessary recommendation from the audit queries for the payments for goods, and services directly from the councils and all documents are now in place. The receipts and other documents will be made available during your verification’.

Auditor Comments: “The recommendation was partly implemented as some documents were provided for payments amounting to Le38, 132,000. These documents were reviewed and found adequate. However, no documents were provided for some payments totalling Le3, 500,000.”

Why schools are central to recovery in developing countries

Invest now to protect the vulnerable say Sierra Leone’s schools and finance ministers

By David MoininaSengeh and Jacob JusuSaffa; first published by Financial Times

Just over a year ago, Covid-19 drove the world into lockdown, leaving more than 1bn children and students in developing countries shut out of school. Many countries cut short the academic year, hundreds of thousands of teachers stayed at home, and governments froze education budgets or redirected funds to health programmes. That leaves us needing to take swift action to avoid setting back progress towards access to universal education, and to ensure quality learning for all.

In low and middle-income countries, the dangers of lost learning are particularly high for girls, who face greater risks of early marriage and teenage pregnancy. So, as the world slowly reopens, now is the time to double down on our commitments to equitable education by increasing our budgets.

This is not just prudent; it is just and cost effective — both for our countries’ broader development and to better prepare for future pandemics. In Sierra Leone, President Julius Maada Bio has been pivotal in placing human capital at the centre of the government’s agenda, spreading a vision of inclusive national development through education. He made this a priority for ministers and officials in education and finance through regular, high-level meetings.

This engagement has cemented strong relations with teachers. As someone who grew up in a rural community, he will have seen the importance of schooling and the damage inflicted during the civil war of the 1990s. Conflict undermined the education system, and its heavy legacy today is reflected in low levels of adult literacy, which have constrained the country’s progress. If we delay because we think funding education today is expensive, it will only become more costly.

The governments flagship project is the Free Quality School Education programme, launched in 2018, which has expanded universal access to public education to all pre-primary, primary and secondary school students. The state pays for all exams, and for textbooks, exercise books and other learning materials including sports equipment in government-assisted schools. The government has also expanded school meal programmes in the most vulnerable chiefdoms across the country.

Sierra Leone is a low-income country with a significant debt burden and high needs for funding in every sector. Yet, since 2018, we have increased investment in education, which receives about 22 per cent of the annual discretionary budget. We have expanded the number of approved schools eligible for public financial support to three-fifths of the total, notably in rural areas. We recruited more than 5,000 new teachers in 2019, raised all teaching salaries by 30 per cent in 2020 and, in March this year, completed the promotion and reassessment of more than 4,000 members of the teaching profession.

Support for their wages, coupled with investment in continuing professional development, enhances essential human capital in the education sector. We have already reaped returns, with more permanent classrooms built and enrolment up by a third in the past three years. We have achieved gender parity in primary and junior secondary schools, a greater focus on science and technology and improved outcomes as more students pass exams and progress through secondary and into tertiary education.

Every government should take the lead in funding and strengthening its own national education system. Support from other countries, charities and the private sector has also played an important role by adding resources and has proved invaluable in Sierra Leone.

However, it is essential that — in all countries — these partners align their support with government programmes and priorities. To ensure the best results, they should offer complementary support to fill gaps while avoiding duplication or distraction, and demonstrate flexibility in their projects as our needs evolve. For example, while the state has paid teachers, supported school meals and purchased teaching and learning materials, donors have helped with capital expenditure to build new classrooms and buy furniture.

Local and international non-governmental partners and the private sector have supported community teachers. During the pandemic, Sierra Leone paid the highest sum ever to support more than 400,000 candidates taking transitional exams to continue to the next stage of their education. With our development partners, we have explored the use of technology, such as radio-based teaching, by distributing solar-powered handsets to children — especially girls.

We closed schools in March 2020 when the first case of Covid-19 was recorded. While building our programme to support remote learning, our primary objective was the safe return to school. We provided face masks for all pupils, thermometers for each school and trained teachers in emergency response in preparation for reopening in early October 2020. We have used the lockdown to introduce and promote a policy on radical inclusion in schools for girls, prioritising the poorest, those in rural areas, who are pregnant or who have disabilities. We will invest in girls’ boarding homes and hostels for vulnerable youth in cities.

We highlight these small positive steps to underscore that — now more than ever — we must invest in education and place equity at the centre of our recovery and development. At a time when the entire school year has been cancelled in so many countries, it is important to consider the most vulnerable — for example, the poor rural girl with a disability. When we do this, our economies will be better off, human capacity enhanced and our countries more equipped to fight this scourge.

There are currently many demands on resources. But, if we delay because we think funding education today is expensive, it will only become more costly to tackle in two years’ time and still more so in a decade. Governments must realise that investing in education is the best way to sustain our countries now and better prepare for health and development in the future.

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