Sierra Leone began developing its Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) in 2005 and started implementing the payroll module in April 2006 in line ministries.
The intention of the government is to rollout IFMIS to 54 Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as at December 31, 2016.
More than a decade after the government introduced it, the system is still facing challenges. Even as the Treasury deals with existing challenges in the use of IFMIS within the national government, it is rocked by other storms from issues faced by different agencies regarding the integrated system.
However, review of the Public Financial Management Improvement and Consolidation project (PFMICP) annual report and the physical verification by the Auditor General’s team confirmed that out of the 54 MDAs planned only 30 have been connected.
In its 2016 Annual Report, the Auditor General stated that the remaining 24 MDAs are yet to be connected. “In ascertaining the reasons for the delay in rollout we noted there were hold-ups in procurement especially with international competitive bidding and the World Bank, as it relied on the outcome of the independent assessment of IFMIS conducted by AH Consulting that was to be completed in December 2016” the report says.
Reported items from previous Audit Service Sierra Leone (ASSL) audit reviews reconfirmed and consistent with the most frequently reported issues of poor network connectivity, intermittent power-cuts and ineffective computers
In some instances, operating officers reported that system failures are not addressed on time. This had serious implications for institutions using, or attempting to use, IFMIS on a daily basis.
For example, end-users of IFMIS at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) have not been able to use the system for over a year and nothing has been done to remedy the situation.
Over the years significant sums have been invested by both donor partners and GoSL to reform and improve public financial management. IFMIS is at the centre of these improved arrangements.
Audit review of various documents revealed that at least USD8.9million has been expended to ensure that the government operates under a sound system of public financial management and control.
“However, it is crystal clear that much is yet to be achieved. As of the 30 MDAs to which IFMIS has been connected on-line, only a few are operating to a satisfactory level” the report adds.
On contract management, the auditors reported that they have been auditing and reporting on the weaknesses in contract management for a number of years and their messages have been consistent on the need to pay urgent and focused attention to improving contract management processes and systems across MDAs.
The functionality for contract management is, at the moment, not available in IFMIS, this according to the audit is a major activity in all MDAs. “Not all non-compliance has a financial impact, but some legislative requirements, if not met, may result in the government facing a risk of financial loss through excessive expenditure (uneconomical use of funds), fruitless and wasteful expenditure and lost revenue.”
Still on the audit of IFMIS, the Auditor General states that the government operates a centralized payroll payment process which has been characterised with numerous weaknesses as revealed by their audits over the past years.
Payroll irregularities committed were mainly in respect of salaries paid to staff who have retired and contributions deducted and paid over to the trust for employees without NASSIT numbers within the payroll Civil Service Management system.
These anomalies the audit finds have been made possible because of defects identified in IFMIS. For instance, inclusion of key fields such as the National Social Security Number is not mandatory despite their importance.
The functionality that enables the system to prompt Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) for imminent retirement dates is also lacking, instead HRMO relies on manual systems, which are prone to errors. A typical example is that employee personal identification number (PIN) numbers are assigned manually. An employee pin number is unique to the staff and cannot be given to any other staff even when the staff has retired, died and/or resigned.
There was no evidence of an IT governance structure such as an IT Steering Committee and an IFMIS strategic plan that align the IT goals and objectives with the various MDAs that used the system.
The current structure of the IFMIS does suggest that the Accountant General’s Department (AGD) is not the business owner even though they are the ultimate users of the system.
In Sierra Leone, the outcomes expected have not been fully achieved because of the series of limitations both human and material. Our study showed that financial systems used to record and process transactions installed in key institutions such as the BSL and NRA are not interfaced with IFMIS.