Sierra Leone Public Finance Audit Shows $1 Billion Missing

(Bloomberg) -- A probe into state funds in Sierra Leone has shown that the government can’t account for $1 billion, or more than a quarter of its gross domestic product, in state expenses made over a three-year period.

The funds are missing due to graft and mismanagement under the previous administration, Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa said Tuesday on Star Television. He pledged that the government will recover the funds by June, without specifying how it plans to do so.

President Julius Maada Bio commissioned the audit into public spending from 2015 to 2018 after his election last year, following a campaign in which he vowed to root out corruption in the West African country, whose economy measured $3.7 billion in 2017.

Other than chronic corruption, Sierra Leone’s economy is plagued by double-digit inflation and the legacy of a civil war. Inflation was 17.5 percent year-on-year in December and consumer price growth probably won’t decelerate to single digits before 2022, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Economic growth probably stalled at 3.7 percent last year and has persistently failed in recent years to match expansion of as much as 21 percent prior to the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic in 2014. Growth may see a slight improvement to 5.4 percent this year, the IMF estimates.

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