The 2022 Auditor General’s report for Sierra Leone has expressed apprehensions regarding financial management practices at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Specifically, the report addresses concerns related to domestic bill payments for diplomatic staff. In response to the allegations, the embassy stated that the cited sections from the Code of Conduct are self-explanatory and do not seem to violate the current practices of the Mission concerning the payment of the mentioned bills. The embassy clarified that the referenced amount of US$73,343 in the report does not represent the personal domestic bills of the Ambassador, as asserted in the findings, but rather signifies the total payments made to all eight home-based staff members.
The Auditor General, in the final comments, recommended that the Head of Mission cease paying domestic bills for all staff until clear provisions in the laws are established regarding the payment of utility bills. The issue remains unresolved, with the Auditor General emphasizing that domestic bill payments for all staff should discontinue until clear legal provisions are put in place. The report also brought to light various financial irregularities, including the absence of serial numbers on payment vouchers, cash payments for staff salaries instead of bank transfers or cheques, delays in quarterly allocations for Other Charges, challenges in tracking documents processed by former workers, and a lack of provisions for medical insurance and leave allowances for local staff.
Furthermore, the Auditor General disclosed that the Finance Clerk extended loans to staff without a formal loan policy and a loan register. According to auditors, the absence of these essential documents hampers the establishment of clear guidelines on loan acquisition, proper record-keeping, and safeguards against abuse, fraud, and bad debts.
The Annual Report underscores the immediate need for attention to these financial management shortcomings at the Sierra Leone Embassy in Saudi Arabia to ensure transparency, accountability, and adherence to established guidelines.