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Cablegate: Sierra Leone: Fiscal Transparency Update

VZCZCXRO0577
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHFN #0105 0701653
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101653Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY FREETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1763
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS FREETOWN 000105

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EEB/IFD/OMA ANDREW SNOW AND RICHARD FIGUEROA
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR AF/W

E.O. 12958 N/A
TAGS: PREL EAID ECON SL
SUBJECT: SIERRA LEONE: FISCAL TRANSPARENCY UPDATE

REF: STATE 16737

1. (SBU) Pursuant to reftel, please find the following responses:

2. The budget is published, but is not available on the internet. A
copy of the budget can be purchased for 2000 Leones (less than $1).
Given the standard of living in the country for the vast majority of
the population, even this seemingly small amount is an impediment to
dissemination. Further, the level of education for most Sierra
Leoneans is such that their understanding of the budget would be
limited. It is unclear whether or not the Ministry of Finance
conducts outreach for the general population on the budget.

3. It is very difficult to ascertain if all revenues and
expenditures are included in the budget, and if what is reported is
meaningful or accurate. The new administration inherited a cash-poor
government in a country rife with corruption. Accountability for
funds has been, and continues to be, a significant issue in Sierra
Leone, especially since 60% of the budget is donor-funded (Note: The
U.S. provides no budget support. End note.).

4. The country is weak on lack of fiscal transparency, likely for a
combination of reasons. The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) at
large has severely limited capacity to effectively perform its
duties, which has a tremendous impact on its ability to manage and
account for funds. It is a possibility that lack of will has played
a role in the past, given that corruption is known to be a
significant issue here. During his successful pursuit of the
Presidency, which he won in September 2007, President Koroma made
anti-corruption a large part of his platform as a candidate. In the
first months of his administration he has supported the ongoing
reform of the Anti-Corruption Commission and has declared "zero
tolerance" on corruption as a cornerstone of his administration.
Despite these efforts, rumblings in the press and comments made by
businessmen continue to suggest that corrupt officials are taking
advantage of their official position by siphoning funds and
requesting and/or accepting bribes. It is too soon in the
President's tenure to know if his anti-corruption stance will parlay
into concrete ameliorative action.

5. There are USG programs to strengthen capacity on a number of
issues. DoD supports anti-corruption training targeted at law
enforcement and civil servants. USAID funds various
corruption-related programs, as well as good governance projects
that stress accountability, transparency, and fair electoral and
government processes. Other donors, notably the World Bank, UK's
DFID, the African Development Bank, and the European Commission,
support complementary programs. The World Bank, for example, funds
technical advisors who sit in the Ministry of Finance.

6. GoSL has not volunteered to report on compliance with standards
and codes covering fiscal transparency.

PERRY

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