The Africanist Press have published a report showing bank records of the country’s Petroleum Directorate paying over Le6.664 billion ineligible rent allowances to consultants and new political appointees recruited by the institution between July 2018 and November 2020.

This revelation comes as President Bio wages political war against the Mayor of Freetown – Mrs. Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, for allegedly paying consultants working for the Freetown City Council.

Whilst the Parliamentary Accountability Committee and the Anti-Corruption Commission are sharping their knives to cut the Mayor into pieces for alleged abuse of office, in the meantime the President is busy covering up the stench coming from the massive corruption taking place on the corridors of State House.

Records reviewed by the Africanist Press show that some of the Petroleum Directorate’s rent allowances were paid to newly appointed staff and consultants in direct violation of Sierra Leone’s public finance laws and the Petroleum Directorate’s employment regulations.

Of particular interest in the transactions were rent allowances paid to three political appointees who joined the Petroleum Directorate between January and July 2019.

They included David Alpha Kawa (recruited in January 2019 as Compliance Analyst), Mohamed A.S. Mustapha (recruited in February 2019 as head of procurement and logistics), and Michaela E.B. Swallow (also recruited in July 2019 as Legal Counsel).

An internal audit noted in 2019 that there was no evidence showing that the three staff – Kawa, Mustapha, and Swallow – were recruited through an open and transparent process as required by Section 9(1) of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act (PEPA) of 2011.

For instance, evidence of advertisements, application letters, interview scoresheets, and selection reports showing how these staff were recruited were not available in the personal files for staff at the Petroleum Directorate.

Section 9(1) of the Petroleum Exploration and Production Act of 2011 provides that “the Directorate shall also have such other staff as shall be required for the efficient performance of the functions of the Directorate and who shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Public Service Commission,” says the Africanist Press report.

However, the Petroleum Directorate’s administrative records provide no evidence that the required consultation or advice from the Public Service Commission (PSC) for the recruitment of these staff in 2019 ever occurred. In spite of this, Africanist Press found that rent allowances were paid to the three listed staff even though an internal audit in 2019 had already questioned the process of their recruitment.

The report found that ineligible rent allowances paid to all consultants and political appointees at the Petroleum Directorate between July 2018 and November 2020 amounted to Le6,664,973,892.00 (about 11% of the total disbursements to the agency between FY2018 and FY2020).

These transactions include the specific rent allowance payments of Le94,864,000 to Michaela E.B. Swallow on 28 January 2020, and Le86,240,000 paid to Mohamed Mustapha on 28 February 2019 respectively.

These rent allowances do not include the salaries, per diems, and leave allowances also paid to these consultants and political appointees in the Petroleum Directorate, according to Africanist Press which also discovered that more than 80% of the Le60,386,770,705.30 disbursed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to the Petroleum Directorate between 4 July 2018 and 27 November 2020 were all used on ineligible rent allowances, travel per diems, and frivolous procurement activities.

“Thus, using the Petroleum Directorate as an example, Africanist Press discovered that payments of ineligible allowances alone (rent and leave allowances inclusive) to political appointees and consultants across all MDAs contribute to more than 50% increase in the national wage bill.

“It is important to also emphasize that these allowances do not include the exorbitant salaries and huge travel per diems usually paid to the same consultants and political appointees across MDAs.

“We provide below transaction details of the rent allowances paid to consultants and political appointees at the Petroleum Directorate from 04 July 2018 and 27 November 2020,” says Africanist Press.