sharing in governance of extractive industries
The Republic of Sierra Leone has been suspended from the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) implementation process, following the country’s woeful failure to meet the requirements for successful validation.
The country failed two consecutive validations in 2007 and 2012, recording an alarming discrepancy of over $8M (Eight Million United States Dollars) between what mining companies say they have paid to the government and what government says it has received from the companies by way of taxes, royalties and other related payments.
Fingers of blame are currently being pointed at the National Revenue Authority (NRA), the Ministry of Mineral Resources, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and some local authorities, as being responsible for the discrepancies, due mainly to their failure to produce matching receipts for monies received from companies.
On its part, the government is pointing fingers at the companies, saying some of them displayed unwillingness to allow the process to be implemented smoothly while other refused to produce relevant receipts for payments they claimed to have made. Under the terms of the EITI requirements, countries are expected to be %100 compliant before being successfully validated. Out of the 21 requirements set as condition for graduation into a complaint state, Sierra Leone barely fulfilled 10 as at the end of the second validation.
It was on this note that the country missed the distinct opportunity of being in a position of becoming an EITI compliant state by the December 2012 deadline. Not being certified as an EITI Complaint State is not only embarrassing, but an indication that the country is yet to brace up itself for positive change. The huge discrepancies of over Two Million Dollars discovered in the first validation report remains unaccounted for, and till date, nobody has been held responsible.
Because impunity has become a pattern in this regard, it goes without saying that no effort will be made by the authorities concerned to investigate the Six Million United States Dollars discrepancy in the final validation report, so as to bring to light what went wrong and who should be held culpable.
Three things that have featured clearly as reasons for the country not being successfully validated include lack of political will, financial indiscipline and a malfunctioning SLEITI secretariat.
The Champion of the Sierra Leone Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (SLEITI), Dr. Keifala Marrah, who happened to be the Chief of Staff in the Office of the President of the Republic of Sierra Leone until recently when he was appointed to the position of Minister of Finance and Economic Development, at a meeting with civil society actors at State House in 2011, promised to do everything in his power to ensure that the country attains a complaint status within the required timeframe.
As a way of demonstrating his commitment in that direction, Dr. Keifala Marrah pledged to resign if the country fails the final validation examination. Whether Dr. Marrah will keep to his pledge remains to be seen, but what is clear is that he failed rather woefully in taking the country to the expected height insofar as the EITI implementation is concerned.
The consequences for Sierra Leone not attaining a compliant status range from huge revenue lose to an outright embarrassment. Accordingly, a whooping sum of Eight Million Dollars has been wasted by donors, just trying to help the country reach validation. Liberia for instance, was far behind Sierra Leone in the EITI implementation. As a matter of fact, Liberia counted heavily on experts from Sierra Leone to help see them through the process. Today, Liberia has a complaint status, while Sierra Leone has been disgracefully suspended.
The country has a grace period of twelve months to put its books clean, or face the risk of being delisted.
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