By Omar Bah
The National Audit Office has said the State Intelligence Service, SIS remains the only government institution that has not been audited (in fact never been audited), but plans are underway to end that dilemma. “The NAO is currently discussing how to overcome this challenge and start auditing them,” a deputy auditor general Baba Drammeh told journalists at an orientation workshop yesterday.
The SIS, formerly called NIA, was set up to replace the National Security Service of Dawda Jawara’s government. Initially, its purpose was to combat threats from dissidents within the armed forces itself but its role was quickly expanded to meet both real and perceived challenges from civilian critics and opponents. Despite the transition to a civilian government in 1996, the original military decree was retained, allowing the agency to operate outside the correct legal framework. It has also gained a feared reputation for harassment of the political opposition and news media critics of the Jammeh administration. The agency is also autonomous in terms of its finance.
The agency was allocated D64, 270, 825 in 2019, D80, 000,000 in 2020 and D70, 000, 000 in 2021 as expenditures. These allocations were spent on conferences, workshops and seminars, miscellaneous office expenses, hotel accommodation, consultancy, celebration of events, specialised and technical materials, operating costs, visit of foreign heads of states, medal and insignias, office equipment, furniture and fittings.
According to the 2021 budget estimate, D27, 673, 869 and D56, 635, 697 were allocated for salaries and allowances respectively. This is different from the D70, 000, 000 allocated for expenditure. But according to the NAO, the institution has never been audited.
“The sensitivity of the SIS doesn’t mean that their financial dealings should not be audited. It is just about a matter of holding them accountable. I think this is happening because our accountability architecture is weak. I think the National Assembly should hold them accountable,” a security expert who prefers anonymity told The Standard.
Also addressing journalists at the training, Auditor General Karamba Touray said: “Supreme Audit Institutions make significant contributions to their societies by bringing accountability, integrity, and transparency to government. These contributions are maximised when they are able to communicate the value of their role in government and the results of their work to citizens and other stakeholders.
“The media are an important external oversight player in this, due to their capacity to raise the profile of an issue and reach a broad audience. For many people, the media are their main source of information and news about the functioning of the government,” AG Touray said.