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Sierra Leone News: IFRC’s Ebola money not missing – ACC

On 27 March 2019, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) released a statement indicating the $2 million USD financial loss, reported by Auditors Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) on behalf of International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), is speculative and unsubstantiated since there is no evidence of fraud. According to the ACC their investigation of documents included the audit report of PWC, statements taken from persons of interest including officials of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL), the First Bank of Nigeria (SL) Limited (FBN), and the Sierra Leone Red Cross Society. Apparently, the ACC also sought clarifications from the IFRC. According to the ACC $21 million ($25,155,552 USD) was remitted by IFRC to the SLRCS through the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN). However, contrary to the PWC report, which claimed that some transactions were initiated by FBN without any proper authority to do so, this was not corroborated by ACC investigations. “We were able to establish that all transactions pertaining to funds in respect of the Ebola scourge were each initiated by IFRC Foreign Finance Delegates sent to Sierra Leone by IFRC,” the ACC press release stated. The ACC added the assertion made by IFRC on standardized exchange rates, verified and confirmed Bank of Sierra Leone regulations stipulate that commercial banks are free to set their own foreign exchange rates based on the market forces of demand and supply; and also have the latitude to negotiate exchange rates with their customers on a case-by-case basis (otherwise known as “floating rates”). Without seeking any clarification from the BSL, and though they banked with FBN, the PWC auditors proceeded to erroneously use the BSL and Standard Chartered Bank daily average rates culled from online sources as benchmarks to quantify the extent of their loss; which they believe, arose from foreign exchange manipulation, in the area of $2 million USD. Six foreign exchange transactions were inaccurately reported by FBN to the Bank of Sierra Leone, the ACC said, which according to the Banking Act 2011, warrants a cumulative penal fine of over Le4 billion on the Bank; but lax banking supervision made the BSL not to detect or even take any action at all for over three years. “We have therefore opened Investigations into why the Bank of Sierra Leone failed to identify and penalize this anomaly though they had all the records. We believe, with cogent proof, that forex under-reporting or non-reporting by commercial banks is a tool for economic sabotage within the banking sector that is systemic and is being done with the connivance and acquiescence of the BSL banking supervisors,” the ACC stated. According to the Commission, the perceived fraudulent forex negotiations should fall wholly on the IFRC’s Foreign Finance Delegates who authorized all the transactions. “The Commission believes that the financial delegates of the IFRC are very crucial to the investigation based on their dealings with FBN; however, all, but one, had been laid off by the IFRC and none is within Sierra Leone to assist us with the investigation,” the press release stated.

SV/27/3/19

By Sylvia Villa

Thursday March 29, 2019.

 

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