By Victor Jones
The Government of Sierra Leone claims it allocates 20 and 21% of its annual budget to education but the Fourth Estate findings have revealed an opposite. There has been a pattern of sharp inconsistency about the actual figures the Government of Sierra Leone allocates to the education sector. President Bio’s official speeches, financial documents, and verbal utterances are all at loggerheads with the figures contained in the country’s budgets reviewed from 2018 to 2022.
However, after a meticulously patient combing and analysis of all financial transactions, and state budgets from 2019 to 2021, the Fourth Estate was able to unearth a string of inconsistencies that contravene the 20/21 percent quota the President claims he has been giving to the education sector which includes the Free Quality Education scheme.
Our calculations proved that 1.14 trillion Leones which is equivalent to over 142 million USD, as at the average 2019 US dollars to Leones exchange rate which was at Leones 8 to 1US dollars does not amount to 21 percent of the country’s budget for 2019 as the Government claimed in all of their presentations and official documents. “Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, total expenditure and net lending for 2019 will amount to Le7.68 trillion (20.8 percent of GDP),” the former Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa claimed on page 28 of the same document.
Although the total approved budget for 2019 wasn’t clearly stated in the above document, the Government claimed that 21 percent of the net total expenditure of Leones 7.68 trillion which is approximately 959 million US dollars for 2019 was spent on education. The Fourth Estate investigations find that their figures are utterly wrong.
Calculating 21 percent of the net expenditure as referenced above, which was Leones 7.68 trillion i.e (959 million USD) as the former Minister did put it, would have amounted to Leones 1.61 trillion, approximately (112 million USD) and not the acclaimed allocated figure of Le 1.14 trillion (142 million USD)as the Government claimed.
Shockingly, our analyses also prove that Leones 7.68 trillion cannot be estimated as 20.8 percent as the Government claimed in the above document. The 2019 theory states that 21% of the total budget was given to education but in actual sum, as also mentioned in their calculations it’s clear that 20.8% + 10.2% for basic primary and higher education respectively equal to 31% which automatically renders their calculations erroneous, documents misleading and financial claims massively false. Again, 31% of 7.68 trillion Leones does not equal the total sum of Leones 659,660.70 as mentioned if one does the math, adding Leones 442,908.50 and 216,752.20.
We conclude that the actual budget used for education should be 1.61 and not 1.14 (@ 21%) or 1.53 (@ 20%). All things being equal, their calculations are not properly computed except the blunders are being done intentionally geared towards misleading the citizenry.
Furthermore, the same trend covers the 2020 and 2021 financial years. To date, it is unclear if the same budget for 2019 is to be spread across the 2020 and 2021 financial years.
Recent Auditor General’s reports, have it that the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) made some payments without supporting documents which amounted to a frighteningly stunning amount of over (6,488,187,775) Leones, Le 6.488 billion which is equivalent to over 810 thousand US dollars.
Additionally, analysis and payment vouchers retrieved from the Accountant General’s office on the MBSSE revealed that payments totaled(9,040,201,054) Leones 9.40 billion, an equivalent to over 1 million 120 US dollars were paid to institutions and for different purposes without adequate supporting documents like receipts, and voucher forms.
In 2019, the Chinese Government donated a total of 30 thousand bags of rice to the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education as support for the school feeding programme which is a component of the FQE. The delivery notes of the rice to schools in the provinces indicated over 3 thousand out of 10 thousand bags of rice were distributed. Consequently, more than10 thousand bags got missing without reclamation.
Auditor General’s 2019 Graphical Report Summary
Auditor General’s 2020 Graphical Report Summary
Cumulatively, over 234 million USD has been lost between 2019 and 2020 to what appears to be an illegal string of payments all geared toward a tactical form of embezzlement of state resources within the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE) according to the 2019 and 2020 Auditor General’s reports.
Unfortunately, almost all of the Auditor General’s recommendations since 2018 that monies misappropriated or embezzled be investigated and recovered have been treated like a joke being cracked at a comedy show. Not a finger has been raised about some of these issues to date, even with the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission being fully operational.
A Series of verifications by the country’s former Auditor General, Lara Taylor Pierce who had been removed from office, found out that most classrooms in Sierra Leone host much more than 50 pupils in a single classroom, clustered, and sweaty. “The flagship of our strategic priorities will focus on developing the country’s human capitalthrough free education.We believe in giving every child a good educationso that they can develop themselves, support their families and build our nation for the future” page 5 of Mr. Bio’s New Direction manifesto promised.
Page 5 of President Maada Bio’s 2018 Manifesto
That promise as the Fourth Estate has uncovered, lies beyond a yet-to-be-spotted horizon. With such huge sums of monies being misappropriated in Sierra Leone’s education sector, the future of kids in Sierra Leone is not only asphalt but peskily weak.
©️The Calabash Newspaper